The film Padmaavat provoked me into action, a rare one at that. It made me go back and rummage through my Class 6 history textbook and read up all about Alauddin Khilji. He was not really a good man! Such was the impact of the stunning movie where everything seemed ‘BIG’. With beautiful period costumes, energetic songs and amazing acting, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s newest film makes for an interesting watch. As most people know by now, the film is an ode to the Rajput queen, Rani Padmavati.
I, like many others, was aware of the controversies about the movie and was curious to see what the fuss was all about. I think the protesters have nothing to worry about as the film shows the Rajputs in a positive and flattering light. Apparently, the talk about a dream sequence between Khilji and Padmavati, which was what offended the Karni Sena in Rajasthan, was never there in the first place. Frankly, I think even the change of the movie’s name from Padmaavati to Padmaavat served no purpose whatsoever.
The Tale of a Conquest
The story is set in medieval India. Padmaavati (Deepika Padukone) is the wife of Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor), the king of Chittor, a kingdom in Rajasthan. She is known for her legendary beauty and intelligence. The stories of her beauty reaches Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh), the ruler of Delhi Sultanate. The pleasure-loving, egotistical Sultan wants to have har nayaab cheez -- 'all things beautiful and unique’ -- for himself and now wants to go after Padmaavati. This results in a failed attempt to lay siege to the fort. After six months of what I assume to be depressing camping (Diwali to Holi), Alauddin returns without Chittor or Padmavati. But this only makes him angrier and he returns with a larger army. He attacks the fort with full force and a gruesome battle takes place between Alauddin and Ratan Singh. Alauddin wins the battle, but all that effort goes waste as Padmaavati and the Rajput women make the ultimate sacrifice to save their kingdom’s honour and the fort.
My favourite parts of the movie are where they use strategy to fight. For example, using the evening namaz time to barge into Khilji’s place and run away with Ratan Singh. In the climax, the Rajput women use burning coals to attack Khilji, thus making the most out of their limited resources. They fight till the last moment unfazed. The one-on-one sword fight between Khilji and Ratan is nail-biting.
The climax, where thousands of Rajput women dressed in vermilion finery, walk around to offer their last prayers and ulimately die for their kingdom, gave me goose bumps. The wanderer in me wanted me to go back to Chittorgarh that very moment to check out the Mewar palace and perhaps relive history right there. Most of the dialogues were in chaste Hindi and Urdu and at times, a little difficult to comprehend.
Stunning to Watch
Ranveer Singh portrayal of the antagonist really makes you hate Khilji. His kohl-lined eyes, wounds on his face, his evil grin and his aggressive body language were all a treat to watch. He slays the scene where he suspects the king to have poisoned his food. Rani Padmaavati is portrayed as a brave queen with a strong head for strategy. Deepika Padukone has the grace and looks of a royal queen who knows what she is doing. I have been a fan of her and this is one of the best roles she has played.
Other than that, the set designs, the colours and costumes were truly breath-taking. I love how Bhansali creates his frames. The CGI work was good, and every scene had just the right amount of saturation. I watched the 3D version and everything seemed closer, bigger and better.
The costumes were amazing. I wonder how heavy Deepika’s earrings alone would have weighed. They looked like chandeliers on earlobes. The colourful outfits of the Rajputs were a contrast to the dark outfits worn by Khilji’s army. Every scene was a burst of colours, just like Bhansali's previous film, Bajirao Mastani (which I saw). The much-talked about Ghoomar song is lively, well-choreographed and has a nice beat. I am sure it will be a hit at Indian weddings during welcome of the baraat.
Overall, Padmaavat is an engaging movie which did not deserve the criticism or controversies it got. A nice weekend movie to watch.
Some facts I gathered
- The film is a work of fiction. Queen Padmavati does not exist and is a creation of the poet Malik Mohammed Jayasi.
- It is set in the 13th century, when patriarchy was prevalent and where practices such as Jauhar were extolled.
- Khilji did wage a war on Chittor but it may have been to expand his kingdom and not really to win Padmaavati.
Here are a few take-aways from the movie
- Don’t just presume before watching a film. It is obvious that the protesters had nothing to fear, as the movie portrays the Rajputs in a good light.
- Strategy counts if you have to win. Use your brain, not heart, to defeat the enemy.
- Many times, a battle can be unfair. Not everyone plays by the rules.
- You can beat the enemy, however strong, if you can inspire your kin. Use your voice to influence your teammates and you are assured of a victory.
- Women can be symbols of strength, integrity and play the role of decision makers when presented with the right opportunity.
The author is a writer/blogger who blogs at www.vanshikadevuni.blogspot.com
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