KARACHI: The Bollywood movie that created much hype before its release owing to the backlash from the Rajput community in India, Padmaavat has finally been released worldwide. Even in Pakistan it opened its first show to a house-full cinema hall on Jan 25th. While there has been much debate over its controversial release and the unfair call for censoring art, there has been little discussion on the movie’s regressive content itself.
The fictitious story is about Rani Padmaavati who is the second wife of a Rajput King, who had only married her because he had heard of how beautiful she was. While we can excuse kings of that era of making some profoundly weak decisions, the real issue of the story is that it glorifies Jauhar — self-immolation.
When the Muslim king Alauddin Khilji falls in love with the Rani’s extraordinary beauty and gets ready to wage a war with the Rajput kingdom to ‘get’ her, he kills their king. In a bid to save the ‘honour’ of the Rajput community and avoid being ‘taken’ by Khilji, Rani Padmaavati along with hundreds of other women perform self-immolation. She burns herself alive, practising Sati — ‘an obsolete funeral custom where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre or takes her own life in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death’.
As bizarre as this concept sounds, it’s equally shocking to realise that a movie glorifying ‘honour killing’ is being upheld as the epitome of cinematic experience. When such a movie is being received by house-full cinema halls, it is less surprising that our societies — be it India or Pakistan — have a rampant rape culture. And then we imprudently ask where we went wrong when we hear stories of Qandeels and Mukhtars.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2018.
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