Dear Swara Bhaskar,
I read your rant against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, which despite so many obstacles, finally saw the light of the day. I understand your anger against ‘glorifying jauhar’, i.e. committing suicide rather than get yourselves raped by barbaric invaders who want to keep you as sex slave and force religious conversions on you, because of course women are more than their societal conditioning of ‘honour’.
Having said that, you being a Sociology graduate from one of the most prestigious universities of India, let me remind you of your views on cinematic depiction of a love-obsessed man who fell in love with an unattainable girl, who does not give in to his advances. You glorified stalking, a crime numerous women are victim of, and called it an ‘unapologetic celebration of crazy love’. You dismissed the criticism for the film Raanjhanaa, which brought stalking alive on the celluloid and you justified it by saying he was ‘rendered endearing in his naïve innocence’. If stalking can be dismissed so casually by you because of creative freedom director of a movie has taken, what makes you so ‘woke’ about women’s rights now?
One could argue that people grow, and your views from 2013 may have matured. That as an alumnus of JNU and daughter of Ira Bhaskar, who teaches cinema studies in JNU and was also on the Censor Board (I am sure you have achieved all that you have in the film industry on your own and your Censor Board member mother had absolutely nothing to do with it), your thoughts would evolve. But when you invoke your inner feminist while saying Bhansali glorified jauhar and that women have a right to live, you also forget that women have a right not to be raped. The right to not spend the life as a sex slave of a barbaric invader who was also violently forcing religious conversions.
Choosing death over ‘honour’ is nothing to be proud of. But if only in the 13th century, there were Internet Feminists who would run hashtags. If only people took to Jantar Mantar or Parliament Street and stood with placards asking barbaric Mughal invaders to go back because #NotOurInvader. If only the Islamic invaders didn’t think women are slaves and raping them, constantly, repeatedly, brutally, is their right because they have ‘conquered’ them. If only in the 13th century, women had known that in the 21st century, their ‘cinematic depiction’ would lead to a fifth wave of feminism where open letters would try to imply how the fact that they would rather die than spend life as sex slave is a bigger ‘crime’ than beastly Islamic invaders who destroyed civilizations and murdered people along the way.
While there is no pride in choosing death over ‘honour’, a period film based on the 13th century, you cannot deny these things did exist. Such films will have problematic, politically incorrect portrayal of society because a practice like Jauhar existed not because Hindus were patriarchal, but because Islamic invaders took interest in raping and treating enemy women as sex slaves and conquests. Depicting them is not glorifying. Glorifying is when open letters downplay the brutality of Islamic invaders under the veil of feminism.
So, next time you sit on high pedestal and go about virtue signalling everyone with your feminist-than-thou views, try not to compare 13th century practices with 21st century evils. And while you are at it, try not to justify 21st century crimes like stalking as per your convenience.
And since you felt reduced to a vagina, here’s a way to redeem yourself. While Padmaavat may be based on a 13th century Islamic invasion, there are some brutes even in 21st century who believe in maintaining sex slaves. You may want to talk to the Yazidi sex slaves who were raped by ISIS predators. Yes, they have a life beyond rapes, but the focal point should be the fact that the brutal rapes are happening. That these women are kept as sex slaves. And that some of these women, chose not to be enslaved and violated in the most brutal manner over and over again, but perhaps, would choose death.
Perhaps the film Padmaavat made you feel reduced to a vagina because that’s what the barbaric invaders like Khilji thought of women. In which case, I think Bhansali did a phenomenal job in bringing out the cinematic depiction of history.
I hope you rise above your hypocrisy and perceived political correctness.
Desirous of truth