कह दीजिये अपने करणी सेना के बेरोज़गार उग्रवादियों से, उनके लाठी, पत्थर, और लाइटर से ज्यादा लोहा हम भंसाली प्रोडक्शंस वालों की सीने में है

When one of the top directors of $ 4 billion Hindi movie industry sends this message to a fringe, violent, and unprincipled political group, other citizens sit up, take notice, and start digging deep. And with the wishy-washy biased Indian media, the complexity of the problem takes a shape-shifting opinion-altering perspective when the goons vandalise sets, torch public buses, and stone school buses carrying children and women teachers. After initial hesitation with all the media frenzy, I decided to watch Padmaavat.

I wanted to know why a political faction created in 2005 with a central aim to demand caste-based reservation for Rajputs in government jobs and education was creating such nuisance all over the place with wide-spread vandalism and violence.

अपनी भव्य इतिहास की जो बलि चढ़ाके सरकारी नौकरी के लिए आरक्षण मांगे, वह राजपूत ?

रेत की नाव लेकर दूसरों की आँखों में धूल झोंके, वह राजपूत ?

निहत्ते बच्चों और शिक्षकों पर मुर्ख सा आक्रमण करे, वह राजपूत ?

I wanted to know how the glorious Rajput pride has been treated in the movie. If the antagonist is strong enough to evoke hatred and anger and the protagonist stands tall, the protagonist steals the glory in the end. I wanted to know if a Ranvir Singh (who normally outshines and towers over all his colleagues in a movie) has been cast as Allauddin Khilji, will the villain be glorified or if the titular character of the movie, queen Padmavati’s character will snatch the glory in the end. The mischievous Sanjay Leela Bhansali had named his previous debacle “Ram Leela”. I was uncertain if the director will do justice to the character of queen Padmavati.

Padmaavat opened with a dark grey high definition resolution set in Afghanistan. It looked as if it were some distant star-wars planet or a la  Riddick. A dirty Alauddin Khilji enters with an ostrich. The movie started with the antagonist of the movie.

If one were to summarise Alauddin in a few words- he had destroyed temples, raped and pillaged with gay abandon, abducted and castrated slaves and made them part of royal harem, beheaded children on the arms of their mothers, his army had raped corpses of women and pregnant women to defile them completely, destroyed countless Jain and Hindu temples to build masjids on them. I wasn’t expecting all the gore to be showed in the movie. I was sure most of them will be trivialised or made simpler to cater to the tastes of movie-going audience. But then, the worrisome part was the more the director trivialises the antagonist Khilji, more the protagonist queen Padmavati diminishes in stature. I decided to flow with the movie.

As expected, director showed Alauddin’s adultery in the next room on the day of engagement to his first cousin and murder of a friend. This was a soft opening to Khilji. Layers of the beast kept opening like peels of onion- a hyper-sexual megalomaniac’s degenerate debauchery started forming scene after scene. With his gay murderous aide Malik Kafur, the peels were becoming stronger. I wanted to hate Khilji more and Ranbir Singh was playing the part well- rakshasa incarnate- monstrous, power-hungry, and decadent. I held my breath and sat up straight at the edge of my seat. I agree Bhansali could have taken the character to the next level rather than cutting it and quickly shifting to the charming locales of Singhala and very restrained and principled Rawal Ratan Singh and Padmavati. This back and forth between the good and the bad, soft and hard, sinful and virtuous kept on switching seamlessly through the movie.

As a thoughtful leader of the Rajputs, Rawal Ratan Singh’s character is treated well. The valour, principles, and pride is demonstrated well. The respect he commands through trust and respect from his subjects is shown well and corresponding sense of respect commanded by Khilji through fear is pitted against each other. In the moral tussle, Rawal Ratan singh places the interests of his subjects high. In contrast, Khiilji is shown to exploit his people and subjugate them. With stinging dialogues and wide sets laced with warm colours, all elements of luxurious and rich Rajput cornucopia run across the scenes. Scene after scene, dialogue after dialogue, set by set, Rajput brilliance shone through.

Now, coming to the protagonist- Rani Padmavati is grace personified. Deepika Padukone lights up the scenes in every frame. Rani Padmavati’s acumen, fortitude, forbearance is highlighted in almost every scene she is part of. The respect she commands from her people is shown with such grace, I couldn’t think of anyone else who could have played the role better. To showcase her sense of war strategy and courage, the plotting for the daring escape from Delhi could have involved Rani Padmavati more to push her character higher. Her final resolute march to the Jauhar brought out my tears. She came about as the epitome of grace in peace and courage on fire. That she and all her subjects embraced death by self-immolating themselves to ashes is one of the most painful thoughts that remained with me.

And shame on you Karni sena for jumping the gun so soon.

At least learn from the movie:

चिंता को तलवार की नोक पे रखे, वह राजपूत

रेत की नाव लेकर समंदर से शर्त लगाए, वह राजपूत

और जिसका सर कटे फ़िर भी धड़ दुष्मन से लढ़ता रहे, वह राजपूत