Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Padmavati. Creating a newer myth or distorting history ?

Setting apart politics, the controversy surrounding the release of Padmavati opens up conflicting views. Does a creative expression violate the collective imagination of the society or is artistic freedom beyond the realms of social sensitivity. This article tries to ponder over this issue and tries to give a balanced view on how such issues need to be dealt with both politically and socially

History and Myth are two intermingling elements which come into our thoughts if we cherish into the life and times of individuals from yesteryears.  History as a scientific discipline and looks into proven documentary evidence like manuscripts, numismatic and ethnographic sources. Myth, on the other hand, has evolved from the successive and collective narration of generations with their imagination, fantasies, and aspirations woven together. The complexity in Historiography is in removing the chaff from the grain and finding out where the truth lies. The case of Padmavati is such an instant where historical narratives clash with the popular consciousness.

As far as the story of  Padmavati goes the primary source is the book by Malik Muhamad Jayasi written in the sixteenth century named as  ‘’ Padmavat” . Jayasi was a sufi poet who wrote his magnum opus in Awadhi , centered around a  character called Padmavati the beautiful princess of Chittorgarh.  The story mentions about the Delhi Sultan Alludeen Khilji's, siege of  Chittorgarh fort  for his desire on the princess, leading to her and her consort’s mass suicide -Jauhar

Classical historians argue that Padmavati was an imaginative character,  for the reason that,  Amir Khusroo the court chronicler of Khilji does not even mention of this episode. They label Padmavati as a characterization of Sufi symbolism on female chastity and pride,  a theme which got into the collective consciousness of   Rajputs of Rajasthan.  However, the authenticity of Padmavati as per the locals are from the oral narratives of the region with no documentary proofs. If not Padmavati the practice of mass suicides among the warrior class women of Rajasthan on the face of defeat have  been documented and in that context, it needs to be assumed that these hardened beliefs have strong emotional overtones beyond the realm of any historical evidence.

It is in this context that we need to comment and opine on what constitutes the boundary of creative expression. For a society which values their believes and myths, creative expression may sound objectionable. It may be recalled that the book Da Vinci Code written by Dan Brown caricatured the companionship of Jesus with Mary , provoking the roman catholic church to call it heretic.  Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie attracted a fatwa on his head as it portrayed Prophet Mohammad in a different light. In Kerala the celebrated author MT Vasudevan Nair had written a Novel Randaamoozam  a retake on Mahabharata,  highlighting the lascivious nature of mother Kundi which gave her five sons from five different men. In a blockbuster Malayalam movie ‘’ Oru Vadakan Veera Gadha’’  (A movie which portrays a ballad of heroic deeds of north Kerala’s  martial artists ) MT Vasudevan Nair swaps the popular villain ‘’Chandu’’ into a hero which indeed created murmurs in Malabar, but not the kind of uproar as seen today. A version of Ramayana which portrayed  Sita as the daughter of Ravana was found offensive  by some people.  In all these cases creativity conflicted with the collective consciousness of the society. The question is where the limit is.

Whether Padmavati lived or not as long as she remains iconic in a group mindset,  then those sentiments need to be taken care in a creative expression, is one line of thought. However that does not justify the hooliganism being witnessed, which is more of an off take due to economic reasons. Unemployment is creeping the grass root rural youth and such sentiments with political overturn give dividends.

At the same time, It is imagination and creativity that has created myths. Making creativity mundane with restriction and fear can only restrict the making of a newer myth. As Pablo Picasso had said ‘’ the chief enemy of creativity is good sense’’ and should we show the good sense to our artists?

It is for you to decide………..

Monday, 14 August 2017

Lip Stick Under my Burka: A potrayal of the female underbelly:


‘’Lipstick under my  Burka ‘’ a thought provoking movie by Alankrita Srivastawa was made controversial by the CBFC by a ban calling it ‘’lady oriented’’. To see this ‘’orientation’’, I lurked into a nearby movie hall today afternoon and watched it in full. Any right thinking person who sees the movie will be convinced that it is the same misogynist mind-set that the film tries to expose was in itself the cause of its ban. Thanks to the appellate board, which overruled the CBFC  , the film is now available for public viewing .

Coming to the movie , the protagonist are four women representing four age groups .

A teenaged Muslim girl who is in her traditional burka at home clandestinely turns herself up into a lipstick - jeans clad girl at college by stealing her western wardrobe from the nearby store. She aspires to become a rock star and in that effort she  dreams ,  drinks ,smokes and once even slept with her  boyfriend,  only to be caught by police for stealing. Finally her father bales her off from police station as well as from her aspiration , back into her burka clad life. 

The second protagonist is a young adult lady who dreams of making big in her life. She manipulates the relationship with her fiancĂ© who was forced upon her. Her   passionate sex drives with a photographer friend turns sour when he dumps her  .

A midlife Muslim married woman with three kids skilled in door to door selling is the third character. Her Saudi returned male chauvinist husband resorts to continuous marital rapes forcing her to resort to multiple abortions. She too dreams of being employed and independent only to be raped back to the four walls of her house.

The forth protagonist is a 50 plus old woman who reads soft porn literature in religious tomes.  She explores her sexuality by buying and wearing a sexy swim suit and learns swimming from a stud guy with whom she engages in telephonic sex for her late night moaning. The men in her claustrophobic locality who revered her as a respectable and religious woman,   find the truth out and throw her into the street

The movie ends with all the Lip stick  ladies  smoking out their failure together in a room over a lost dream  . The lipstick gets exhausted by that time and so also my patience.

The movie tries to explore a wonderful theme of female sexuality, hidden under a patriarchal and misogynist social fabric and is a good attempt in caricaturing the larger issue of female desire. The teen aged girl’s fantasy of experimentation and the young girl’s rebellious sexual expression are aptly portrayed. The mental trauma from the painful, anti –orgasmic shudders of an abusive husband on a middle aged woman is vividly portrayed in the movie. Same is the case of the post-menopausal fantasy of the old lady .

While the theme hold good what is amiss is the scripting of a traditional climax where  the female succumbing to the male order, may be a ‘’Sanskriti theme’’  borrowed from Gauri Shinde’’s  ‘’English Vinglish’’ .  I expected all the protagonist to be like Mansi the character played by Rekha in Basu Bhatacharyas , 1997 block buster Aastha  or like Mahesh Manjrekar’s Astitva  where the character played by  Tabu challenges her  male chauvinist  husband 

Themes on female sexuality have been tested by  many movie makers but at a time when females of today have indeed become expressive and experimental why not the theme of  women taking the lip stick and saying  thumps down to men. 

Unless women are shown as a winner against the challenges they face from men and marriage, I will not give thumps up to this movie