Padmaavat – How It Reflects Our Society Today

Warning : Spoilers Ahead + Reader Discretion Advised. Movie age viewership recommended by Aditi 13+. All views belong to the author.

Padmavati, Oops, Padmavat (I still don’t have my head wrapped around the name change) is one of the MOST controversial Indian movies in Hindi there has been in the past decade. So much so, even BBC covered it. It was a sad state of affairs when it was being judged even before birth.

That is something woefully sad, but I won’t get into because I prefer that people be allowed to make informed choices.

Then it released. And received rave reviews. And then, I read Swara Bhaskar’s open letter to Sanjay Leela Bansali about how she felt the movie and I’m paraphrasing here so you do not have to read the whole letter – It wrongfully glorifies Sati (women self sacrificing to fire to avoid rape at the hands of plunderers). That women have a right to live even if they are raped etc. That since this movie based in ‘old’ times has been released in the 21st century there has to be in the context of today’s society. 

It is with this baggage that I saw the movie. 

Movie Synopsis

Set in 1303 AD medieval India, Queen Padmavati is known for her exceptional beauty along with a strong sense of justice and is the wife of Maharawal Ratan Singh and pride of the Kingdom of Chittor, a prosperous kingdom in the north west of India.
The legend of her beauty reaches the reigning sultan of Hindustan – Allaudin Khilji. The sultan who is a tyrant, is fixated with wanting anything that is of exceptional beauty for himself. He lays siege on the impregnable fortress of Chittorgarh. After a grueling 6 months, he returns empty handed. He becomes obsessed and now wants to capture Chittor and its Queen at any cost. He returns with a bigger army and ranging fury.
He attacks Chittor with brutal force and a bloody and fearsome battle takes places between the righteous Maharawal Ratan Singh defending his kingdom and the honor of his queen and Sultan Allaudin Khilji. Khilji manages to breach the fortress but in vain as the Queen chooses to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect her dignity
ps – The movie is inspired by a poem of the same name Padmavat. 
I found the movie in fact very relevant to today’s times with the subtle nuances it shows towards today’s society.  

Few movies in Indian cinema provide an opportunity for parents to talk about history and society with kids. Click To Tweet

Narcissism & Materialism is Self Damaging

In the day and age of selfies and trending gadgets, this came off as most prominent.

With Allauidin Khilji constantly desiring every single thing that he considers is a “priceless  beauty” it is important to note how it reflects how greedy today’s society is. With every person lusting after the latest gadget it is a testament to the fact that wanting the best is a timeless human emotion and one when not controlled is harmful in various ways.

We Are Better Together 

The King of Mewar requests all the Kings around his own to help him. He tells his second in command confidently, that if we all get together then Allaudin will be destroyed instantly. But Alas! In the self interest of their own kingdoms none of the kingdoms come forward to help.

The problem is similar with our current society that we don’t do enough good. For the most part, we just talk behind closed doors about all that is wrong but when it comes to standing up for what is right, we fear for our self interest. And that is where time and again societies have been destroyed.

Love Transcends All

Padmaavati falls in love with another woman’s husband. Allaundin Khilji falls in love with the “idea” of Queen Padmavati who is another man’s wife.  Even Khilji’s slave is often referred to as his wife showing the undertones that he is in love with him but can never hope to take his place for the taboo in pace. It is interesting to note that Allaundin is never repelled by his subtle advances.

The heart wants what the heart wants. There is often not a single thing one can do about who you end up loving but how one approaches it is of immense importance. When love is meant to conquer, it will never win. Love has to be pure and quiet and has to ask permission often and worked hard upon.

You Have To Stand Up To Bullies In Their Way

Time and again Allaudin Khilji tricks the King of Mewar into falling into a trap eventually killing him even. Which begs the question. When rules are put into place, are you supposed to follow them blindly?

No matter what your ‘culture’ has been, if what is being asked of you or if you see the person in front of you is doing wrong, you have to put your foot down at some point and retaliate in the similar manner so that they understand what is happening.

I thought, it was a great tip of hat to current Bullying scenario that is rampant among kids. When faced with a bully, being good should not be a major concern.

People Need To Stop The Back Biting Already

Most girls (many men) do it at different stages in life. And it is down right malicious and needless. This is brilliantly shown by King of Mewar’s first wife. When her husband is taken away, she tries to manipulate the second wife into a situation where she is gone forever. Trying to prove to everyone that ‘she was the problem’. And when proven wrong, refuses to accept.

It is a sad state even today that many people are not above manipulating each other for no good reason other than self interest, which eventually does back fire. And manipulations are often under the drape of friendship.

Let’s empower each other. Let’s be mature and converse, even if it means not talking with issues known.

Women Can and Should Stand Up For Themselves

Now coming back to what Swara Bhaskar said. Johar or Self emulation I’m sure is a trigger for many women who feel strongly about it. And that totally depends on the person watching. In the movie’s time period context, she knew she was at the end of the road. And that was just something women did at the time. The movie is not about Sati. It is just about good people trying to maintain their dignity despite repeated trials and failures.

Not everyone chooses to sacrifice in times of desperation. Not everyone chooses to “live now and fight later”. Not everyone accepts that concept of ” sacrificing the one over the many’. Not everyone chooses to “follow their fearless leader to the end of time. ” It is a matter of choice. And there is no debating that. Flight or fight is a very personal response.

The ending for me in fact, was too drawn out. I didn’t find it dramatizing or even glorifying Sati. Just a factual representation of the times. Unfortunate as it was. I found the ending anticlimactic. What I wanted to see instead was Allaudin Khilji’s disappointment devastating him. That would have made a bigger impact and honestly, maybe even satisfied the women who were disturbed by the end since the actual sacrifice would have had a visual consequence.

What I did enjoy however was in the end, where all the women attack him before he can get to the place where they are doing Sati. They have a strategy. They have a plan. They band together to take on this enemy. And it is that what I wish our girls of tomorrow learn from us women today.

That they are equal to every man. What they may lack in strength they may make up in strategy and bravery.

About The Movie Watching Experience

Being bad is fun …. till it isn’t !

“Nice guys finish last.” ” These are the ways of the world.” Quotes like this have always irked me. . are all just things people say to not participate in standing up to what is right. If anything this movie glorifies Ranveer Singh’s portrayal of Allaudin’s Khilji which is so totally on point that you are left aghast at what phenomenal acting he has done. It is rare to see a real good bad guy.

The movie is certainly poetry in motion and one is mesmerized by the grandeur of each scene. Every actor plays their part well. It is a movie that one has to have watched once in their life time in 3D in the theater to appreciate the subtle intricacies of every scene and dialogue. 

So all in all, I would say, like 13 Reasons Why was a Hard watch for parents and families, I think if watched with parents, this movie too provides an opportunity for conversation about many relevant things.

And if you are a history buff like me, you will enjoy learning the real history behind the poem of Padmavat –  Queen Padmaavati. Careful! One read on a historical figure is never enough.

Have you seen Padmaavat ? What is your take on the movie ? 

Not unlike 13 reasons why, Padmaavat gives an oppurtunity to discuss with your older kids what is wrong with society | Family conversation

  Aditi Wardhan Singh is a mom of two, living it up in Richmond Virginia in USA. Raised in Kuwait, being Indian by birth she has often felt out of place. A computer engineer by profession, she is now a freelance writer and entrepreneur having founded Raising World Children. Impromptu dance parties with her little one are her ultimate picker upper. She provides tools to open minded parents to empower their children to raise positive, gracious, global thought leaders. She currently writes for the HuffingtonPost, Thrive Global, RMB and is author in “When You Are Done Expecting ”

 

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13 Replies to “Padmaavat – How It Reflects Our Society Today”

  1. Beautifully written,each and every aspect taken care of and very well interpreted..

    Thank u for the wonderful write up..

  2. I have not heard of this movie, and it sounds truly fascinating! I thoroughly enjoyed the breakdown that you provided, and how it correlates with today’s societal issues.

  3. The other angle is ,it is about choices,in this case some strong and very difficult choices..
    I don’t see the queen as repressed, she had the authority to take command of what happens once the king is abducted!! The “permission” to jauhar might be seen as something regressive, but this “permission” seemed more like a unified decision being taken between partners!! I came out of the movie believing good might suffer momentary set backs but ultimately it triumphs !! Women have been,are and will be strong !!

  4. Your interpretation of the nuances of the movie vis-a-vis current life is interesting to note and for me thats what made this review worth reading.
    At the outset I would like to declare my utter disdain at the SLB’s knacj for drama and glamour vs story and character sketches. I disliked Bajirao and was let down by the narration / acting and character sketches in that movie. If puting up sets is whats a movie is all about- he should be awarded everytime.
    I too wish that instead of glorifying Sati, the defeat of the villian in acquiring his vainful dreams would have made more sense!!

  5. Aditi this is a post to read and re-read. I liked the way you described each and every phase of the movie with your own opinions. Looking ahead to read more from your side.

  6. Loved the writeup and your take on the movie that has taken the country by storm. So much hullabaloo over it that lie many parents, I too was in two minds about whether or not to watch it along with my 13-year-old. But, after reading this post, I think It wouldn’t have been a bad idea to take him along. I think you’ve raised some very valid points. Couldn’t agree more.

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