‘At The End of Your Magnum Opus… I Felt Reduced to a Vagina – Only’

In an open letter to Padmaavat director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, actor Swara Bhaskar decries glorification of  Sati and Jauhar which deny women the right to live

Deepika Padukone in a still from Padmaavat. Credit: YouTube

Dear Mr. Bhansali,

At the outset Sir, congratulations on finally being able to release your magnum opus ‘Padmaavat’ – minus the ‘i’, minus the gorgeous Deepika Padukone’s uncovered slender waist, minus 70 shots you apparently had to cut out.. but heyyyy! You managed to have it released with everyone’s heads still on their shoulders and noses still intact. And in this ‘tolerant’ India of today, where people are being murdered over meat, and school children are targets for avenging some archaic notion of male pride, that your film even managed a release – that is I guess commendable, and so again, congratulations.

Congratulations also on the stunning performances all around by your entire cast — primary and supporting.  And, of course, the film was a stunning visual treat. But then all of this is to be expected from a brilliant auteur like yourself, a man who leaves his stamp on everything he touches.

By the way Sir, we know each other, after a fashion. I don’t know if you remember, but I played a tiny role in your film Guzaarish. A two-scene -long role, to be precise.  I remember having a brief chat with you about my lines, and you asking me what I thought about the lines. I remember feeling proud for a whole month that Sanjay Leela Bhansali had asked me my opinion. I watched you agitatedly explaining to junior artists in one scene, and to the jimmy jib operator in the second scene; some minutiae of the particular shot you were taking. And I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! This man really cares about every little detail in his film.” I was impressed with you Sir.

An avid watcher of your films, I marveled at how you pushed boundaries with every film you made and how stars turned into fierce and deep performers under your able direction. You moulded my idea of what epic love must be like and I fantasised about the day I will be directed by you in a protagonist part. I was and remain a fan.

And I want you to know, I really fought for your film when it was still called Padmavati. I grant you, I fought on Twitter timelines –not on the battlefield, and I sparred with trolls not raving manic Muslims; but still I fought for you. I said to TV cameras the things I thought you were not being able to say because your Rs 185 crore were on the line.

Here’s proof:

And I genuinely believed what I said. I genuinely believed and still believe that you and every other person in this country has the right to say the story they want to say, the way they want to say it, showing how much ever stomach of the protagonist they want to show; without having their sets burnt, their selves assaulted, their limbs severed or their lives lost.

Also, in general, people should be able to make and release films and children should be able to get to school safely.  And I want you to know that I really wished that your film turn out to be a stupendous success, a blockbuster breaking box office records, whose collections itself would be a slap in the faces of the Karni Sena terrorists and their ilk. And so it was with great excitement and the zeal of a believer that I booked first day, first show tickets for Padmaavat, and took my whole family and our cook to watch the film.

Perhaps it is because of this attachment and concern that I had for the film that I am SO stunned having watched it. And perhaps that is why I take the liberty and have the temerity to write to you. I will try and be concise and direct though there is much to say.

  • Women have the right to live, despite being raped sir.
  • Women have the right to live, despite the death of their husbands, male ‘protectors’, ‘owners’, ‘controllers of their sexuality’.. whatever you understand the men to be.
  • Women have the right to live — independent of whether men are living or not.
  • Women have the right to live. Period.

It’s actually pretty basic.

Some more basic points:

  • Women are not only walking talking vaginas.
  • Yes, women have vaginas, but they have more to them as well. So their whole life need not be focused on the vagina, and controlling it, protecting it, maintaining it’s purity. (Maybe in the 13th century that was the case, but in the 21st century we do not need to subscribe to these limiting ideas. We certainly do not need to glorify them. )
  • It would be nice if the vaginas are respected; but in the unfortunate case that they are not, a woman can continue to live. She need not be punished with death, because another person disrespected her vagina without her consent.
  • There is life outside the vagina, and so there can be life after rape. (I know I repeat, but this point can never be stressed enough.)
  • In general there is more to life than the vagina.

You may be wondering why the hell I am going on and on thus about vaginas. Because Sir, that’s what I felt like at the end of your magnum opus. I felt like a vagina. I felt reduced to a vagina–only. I felt like all the ‘minor’ achievements that women and women’s movements have made over the years– like the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to education, equal pay for equal work, maternity leave, the Vishakha judgement, the right to adopt children…… all of it was pointless; because we were back to basics.

We were back to the basic question — of right to life. Your film, it felt, had brought us back to that question from the Dark Ages – do women – widowed, raped, young, old, pregnant, pre-pubescent… do they have the right to live?

I understand that Jauhar and Sati are a part of our social history. These happened. I understand that they are sensational, shocking dramatic occurrences that lend themselves to splendid, stark and stunning visual representation; especially in the hands of a consummate maker like yourself — but then so were the lynchings of blacks by murderous white mobs in the 19th century in the US – sensational, shocking dramatic social occurrences. Does that mean one should make a film about it with no perspective on racism? Or, without a comment on racial hatred? Worse, should one make a film glorifying lynchings as a sign of some warped notion of hot-bloodedness, purity, bravery – I don’t know, I have no idea how possibly one could glorify such a heinous hate crime.

Surely Sir, you agree that Sati, and Jauhar are not practices to be glorified. Surely, you agree that notwithstanding whatever archaic idea of honour, sacrifice, purity propels women and men to participate in and condone such practices; that basically Sati and Jauhar, like the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Honour Killings, are steeped in deeply patriarchal, misogynist and problematic ideas.  A mentality that believes that the worth of women lies in their vaginas, that female lives are worthless if the women are no longer controlled by male owners or if their bodies have been ‘desecrated’ by the touch of ; or even the gaze of a male who doesn’t by social sanction ‘own’ or ‘control’ the female.

Practices like Sati, Jauhar, FGM, Honour Killings should not be glorified because they don’t merely deny women equality, they deny women personhood. They deny women humanity. They deny women the right to life. And that is wrong. One would have assumed that in 2018, this is not a point that even needs to be made; but apparently, it does. Surely, you wouldn’t consider making a film glorifying FGM or Honour Killings!

Sir, you will say to me that I am over-reacting and that I must see the film in its context. That it’s a story about people in the 13th Century. And in the 13th century that’s what life was– polygamy was accepted,  Muslims were beasts who devoured meat and women alike, and honourable Hindu women happily jumped into their husbands funeral pyre, and if they couldn’t make it to the funeral, they built a pyre and rushed into it — in fact, they liked the idea of collective suicide so much that they gleefully discussed it over their daily beautification rituals. “Verisimilitude” you will say to me.

No Sir; Rajasthan in the 13th century with its cruel practices is merely the historical setting of the ballad you have adapted into the film Padmaavat. The context of your film is India in the 21st century; where five years ago, a girl was gang-raped brutally in the country’s capital inside a moving bus. She didn’t commit suicide because her honour had been desecrated, Sir. She fought her six rapists. She fought them so hard that one of those monsters shoved an iron rod up her vagina. She was found on the road with her intestines spilling out. Apologies for the graphic details, Sir, but this is the real ‘context’ of your film.

A week before your film released, a 15-year-old Dalit girl was brutally gang-raped in Jind in Haryana; a crime bearing sinister similarities to the rape of Nirbhaya.

You do know that acts like Sati and raping women are two sides of the same mindset. A rapist attempts to violate and attack a woman in her genital area, penetrate it forcibly, mutilate it in an effort to control the woman, dominate her or annihilate her. A Sati- Jauhar apologist or supporter attempts to annihilate  the woman altogether if the genitals have been violated or if her genitals are no longer in the control of a ‘rightful’ male owner. In both cases the attempt and idea is to reduce women to a sum total of their genitals.

The context of art, any art is the time and place when it was created and consumed. And that’s why this gang-rape infested India, this rape condoning mindset, this victim blaming society is the actual context of your film, Sir. Surely in this context, you could have offered some sort of a critique of Sati and Jauhar in your film?

You will say that you put out a disclaimer at the beginning of the film claiming that the film did not support Sati or Jauhar. Sure Sir, but you followed that up with a two-hour-45-minute-long paean on Rajput honour, and the bravery of honourable Rajput women who chose happily to sacrifice their lives in raging flames, than to be touched by enemy men who were not their husbands but were incidentally Muslim.

Swara Bhasker. Courtesy: Swara Bhasker

Swara Bhasker. Courtesy: Swara Bhasker

There were more than three instances of the ‘good’ characters of your story speaking of Sati/Jauhar as the honourable choice, your female protagonist – epitome of both beauty, brains and virtue sought permission from her husband to commit Jauhar, because she could not even die without his permission; soon after she delivered a long speech about the war between Satya and Asatya, Dharm and Adharm and presented collective Sati to be the path of Truth and Dharm.

 Then in the climax, breathtakingly shot of course – hundreds of women bedecked in red like Goddess Durga as bride rushed into the Jauhar fire while a raving Muslim psychopathic villain loomed over them and a pulsating musical track – that had the power of an anthem; seduced the audience into being awestruck and admiring of this act. Sir, if this is not glorification and support of Sati and Jauhar, I really do not know what is.

I felt very uncomfortable watching your climax, watching that pregnant woman and little girl walk into the fire. I felt my existence was illegitimate because God forbid anything untoward happened to me, I would do everything in my power to sneak out of that fiery pit– even if that meant being enslaved to a monster like Khilji forever. I felt in that moment that it was wrong of me to choose life over death. It was wrong to have the desire to live. This Sir, is the power of cinema.

Your cinema particularly is inspiring, evocative and powerful. It can move audiences to emotional highs and lows. It can influence thinking and that, Sir, is why you must be responsible as to what it is you are doing and saying in your film.

It was with great difficulty that a group of reform-minded Indians, and the provincial British Colonial governments and Princely States in India abolished and criminalised Sati in a series of judgments between 1829 and 1861. In independent India, The Indian Sati Prevention Act (1988) further criminalised any type of aiding, abetting, and glorifying of Sati. Your act of thoughtlessly glorifying this misogynistic criminal practice is something you ought to answer for, Sir. As your ticket- buying audience, I have the right to ask you how and why you did this.

You must be aware that modern Indian history has recorded some more recent Jauhar– like acts. During India and Pakistan’s bloody Partition some 75,000 women were raped, kidnapped, abducted, forcibly impregnated by men of the ‘other’ religion. There were numerous instances of voluntary and assisted suicides by women, in some cases husbands and fathers themselves beheaded their wives and daughters before men of the ‘other’ religion could touch them.

Bir Bahadur Singh, survivor of the riots in Thoa Khalsa in Punjab, described a scene of women jumping into the village well to commit suicide. In about half an hour, he recalled, the well was full. The women on top survived. His mother was a survivor. Singh, recalls author Urvashi Butalia in her 1998 book The Other Side Of Silence, was ashamed of his mother for living for the remainder of her life. This is among the darkest periods of Indian history and ought to be remembered with shame, horror, sadness, reflection, empathy, nuance; not with thoughtless sensational glorification. These sad tales of the Partition, too, are a less obvious context of your film Padmaavat.

Mr. Bhansali, I will end in peace; wishing that you make many more films the way you want to, and are allowed to shoot and release them in peace; that you, your actors, your producers, your studio and your audiences remain safe from threats and vandalism. I promise to fight trolls and television commentators for your freedom to express; but I also promise to ask you questions about the art you make for public consumption. Meanwhile, let’s hope that no zealot member of any Karni Sena or some Marni Sena gets the idea to demand decriminalisation of the practice of Sati!


Swara Bhasker
Desirous of Life

Swara Bhasker is an award winning actress in the Hindi film industry whose filmography includes the critically acclaimed Anaarkali Of Aarah (2017), the critical-commercial success Nil Battey Sannata (2016);  superhit blockbuster films Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo (2015),  Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015), Raanjhanaa (2013) and Tanu Weds Manu (2011).

She is also an occasional writer and columnist and her short stories and articles have appeared in The Little Magazine, Seminar, The Himal Southasian, The Hindu and the Indian Express.

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  • Anjan Basu

    Magnificently written! Upon reading Swara Bhaskar’s spirited missive to Bhansali, one is struck by the humongous irony underlying the anti-Padmavat protests. The crazed Karni Sena foot-soldiers don’t seem to know that they are scoring same-side goals by demonstrating against a film that upholds every absurd ( and vulgar) notion of moral purity that they themselves entertain.

    • subhasis ghosh

      So you would like to deny a woman her choice, whether to die or live the life of a sex slave?

      • V Suresh

        Mr Anjan Basu didn’t say that women should have no coice – although you wish to misconstrue it.

  • Faceless Man

    An amazing piece

  • Smiti Mehrotra

    Even though I agree with most of her opinion, I do disagree at some points. You are a woman, not yet a rape victim, but you are going to be. A man is going to violate you every fucking minute of his life, you know there is no way out of the situation. You can’t fight him, he will still have you , what do you do? Live forever as his slave, get raped every day and every night? Or in future die by the hands of your enemy. Rani Lakshmi Bai gave her life, she jumped off the cliff, because she did not want the britishers to win. If it actually was sati, as in Padmavat, it was wrong. But if it was Jauhar, I really don’t think we have the right to even judge a woman for ending her life, than have a life of suferring, rape, and assault. That is just my opinion.

    • Roopal Srivastava

      Rani Laxmi Bai jumped on her horse with her baby strapped to her back (off a high fort wall) because she was trapped in the fort. She met the Britishers in battlefield and died fighting. Who told you she jumped off a cliff??? Feel ashamed of being ignorant of one of bravest woman of this land!

  • GitaSahgal

    Your link doesn’t work. Could you please post it again?

  • Harender Singh Happý

    Hindi translation please.

  • ashok759

    Showing Muslims in an exceedingly poor light is hardly a sensible or helpful thing to do in today’s troubled times, whatever may be the truth of Allauddin Khilji.

    • pleasant jahan

      What does your comment mean??

    • Adarsh singh

      yup only singhanias,thakurs and upper castes and babas can be shown in bad light in bollywood..

      • subhasis ghosh

        Well said. That would be oh so secular.

    • akaash

      Your argument suggests Allauddin Khilji was a representative Muslim, which he clearly was NOT. If Khilji (or 2-3 other characters) is portrayed badly in the film, does it mean Muslims in general have been portrayed in “poor lights”? By that logic, if the villain of a movie is Hindu who is utterly brutal, will it mean all Hindus are savages? Also, asking a film maker to change historical realities because we live in troubled times is, in effect, asking him to shut up. This doesn’t help anyone but fundamentalists across the spectrum.

  • sahil_mehta

    To summarize the letter – Being raped by men and enslaved by the victors is way better than committing suicide to avoid that life

  • Himayush Chopda

    The maker’s point and intention was to show how those women felt about it when they committed the act. They obviously thought of it as a proud moment when they did it and he had to depict it in that way. How else could he show the story? This is the problem with the feminism of today.

  • Shiva Prasad

    Well said, Highly disappointed movie!!!

  • Prasanth Akki

    Wonderful. The author invoked the rightfully sensitive argument that equating a woman’s honour to her genitals is a very regressive idea. But the vision of a rape victim leading a happy life becomes a reality when her family and society stop treating her as impure.

  • Ashutosh Dalal

    The appeal seems convincing if we focus more over the adjectives used there. Indeed, such a heinous practice of ‘honour suicide’ need not to be justified and glorified by any means. Movie is the most easy way to convey the thoughts and ideas to the masses. The responsibility hence, lies in the Script as well as the Direction.
    But, one wonders about the Movie(Pamaavat); What it wants to portray; What one infers out of it, depends on the maturity and the wit of an individual.
    Maybe the Director wanted the audience to witness the cruelty of the act rather than glorifying or maybe the scene(Jauhar) was deliberately shown as a sarcasm for those(male counterparts) who derive pride out of such cruel act(s).

    A mere expectation from a movie director won’t suffice the problem, there are lots of other issues too. You might be better aware of them.
    As an actor, as a narrator in historic documentaries, as a scholar and as a writer you have impressed many and earned huge respect, including mine.
    But, I would rather be more impressed if you right against portraying women as objects in dance numbers, advertisements and such movies where the actress are just portrayed as objects, nothing to infer from.
    Just a humble appeal, as your writing is legit, you have many followers.

  • Sunielprabu

    Hi Swara, Really good article. You are spot on when you say , Sati was
    glorified in Padmaavat. By the way , can you also think about how women
    impact lives of men? Is harassment done only by men? Can you speak to
    few men about how they were treated by women..

    How to ensure peace in the society

  • krupasindhu parhi

    I think she did not read / listen to the disclaimer of the movie. That’s why she had a lot of time to write all this

  • Abhishek Chhillar

    Amazing piece of writing, highly impressed.

  • Meera Vigraham

    Lot of valid points. However I’m confused, she says she was “excited” to see the film and booked the first day first show, the story is well known, and promos are on air. So she goes excitedly to see a film about Jauhar and then gets outraged that it shows Jauhar! What the heck, Bansali didn’t write the damn thing! Maybe she expected him to rewrite the ending to modern day sensibilities. Paddy riding off into the sunset with Khilji!! Or is she angry he chose this subject? (A subject that she was excited to watch) maybe she prefers an approved list of subjects that one is allowed to make films on!!

    • Rajat Bandopadhyay

      Excatly! Don’t understand what she is expecting

    • Let’s not be naive. Bhansali had no intention of remaining true to the original material and that is not his fault but his strength. It is good that he took creative freedom with the ballad of Jaysi. But the story of Padamavat is the story of her jauhar. And it is here that the creative energies were needed most. By choosing to present her jauhar as it was written he wins the point for honesty but fails to win any point for relevance. It was a choice he made but a choice which can nevertheless be criticized.

      Padmavat’s story is relevant to us because every time a rape happens such stories from the past reverberates with us as we attempt to make sense of our present. To that end movie fails to make any contribution.

  • akaash

    Dear Ms Swara Bhasker
    Your very own magnum opus—this 2,400-odd-word letter—is, at best, a dangerous reflection of your confused state of mind. You denounced Bhansali’s alleged attempt to “glorify” Jauhar and concluded by saying: “Meanwhile, let’s hope that no zealot member of any Karni Sena or some Marni Sena gets the idea to demand decriminalisation of the practice of Sati!.” Ironically, this is what the Karni Sena is also telling Bhansali—“Don’t you dare make films that don’t suit our sense of morality, decency, honour blah blah blah.” The Karni Sena resorts to coarse threat because it comprises goons who lack sophistry; you are doing it in a subtle way– mis/using feminism to bully a film-maker through a letter for presenting a world view different than yours. Worse, your conclusion also suggests a movie can potentially influence people to indulge in impropriety. Again, this is an argument often made by the moral brigade who claims many of today’s films are promoting vulgarity and violence etc and must, therefore, be banned. This is a dangerous proposition. Why can’t a film-maker present the reality of the day as he/she deems fit, without having to meet the moral standards everybody sets out for him/her? If you don’t like the portrayal of Jauhar in Padmavat, you make your own movie, condemning it. Trust me, I will defend your right to such a portrayal, as I am defending Bhansali’s now. But you can’t just play moral police and seek to constrict a film maker’s freedom of expression, and yet claim a higher pedestal for yourself than the Karni Sena.

    • Here is the difference between Swara and Karni Sena. Swara is criticizing Bhansali’s film. Not him or his right to make movies and distribute it. Karni is threatening Bhansali et al personally and they are questioning his right to make movies.

      Criticism of a regressive movie like Padmavat is well meaning and they are an integral part of healthy democracy.

      • akaash

        Isn’t the difference way too obvious in my post as well? But as an artist herself, is Swara Bhasker supposed to be just about a tad better than the Karni Sena? Unfortunately, I found the letter stuffed with generalisations and rant instead of cogent arguments on why a movie shouldn’t reflect the reality of an age. Her insinuation that Padmaavat could stoke impropriety among some goes beyond the realm of constructive criticism and, in effect, calls for the censorship of a work of art just because it doesn’t conform to her ideals. And, that, to my mind, is dangerous for democracy.

      • ex_secular

        How exactly is Padmavat regressive ? Rani padmini chose death over sex slavery. Guru tegbahadur maharaj also chose death over religious slavery, rani of jahnsi and chandrashekar azad also chose death over slavery and it is their right.

        You are a nobody to go about moral policing and decide for the rest of us about what is regressive.

      • Disruptive Indian


  • Samir Shah

    Her comments are relevant but not in the context of the movie in question! Movies can be historically correct even if they go against the current mindset. Under these circumstances, one can’t fault the director of the movie! However, had she commented on the ability of the director, or lack of it, the article would have been relevant!

  • Rahul Ojha

    Jauhar Mela is the biggest Rajput festival held and hosted in the fort city of Chittorgarh. It is an Annual Fair held during February – March. It commemorates Rani Padmini’s jauhar, the most famous of all Jauhar in the Chittorgarh. Many such celebrations that glorify the ill practices of past. I would appreciate if you fight for stopping such celebrations Ms Swara!!!

  • Rajat Bandopadhyay

    I personally feel bad for Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he shouldn’t have made this film. He is being bashed by everyone including women organizations, critics, fringe elements, politicians, fans and so on. He just made a film based on a epic poem written way back in 1500s. The concept of slavery back then was way different than it is now. The concept of warfare and conquest was very different from what is now. The movie does not intent to try and glorify jauhar or mass suicide but it is actually showcasing an era which is long gone and the school of thought of that era, which is incompatible to our current era. It is simply explaining their motive and philosophy to do so. I do not understand why are people writing open letters to him unnecessarily and bashing him left and right. Feel bad for him. Every human soul has the right to live and suicide is the most condemn able act in the world and there simply is no doubt about it. It really doesn’t matter whether the concept of honour and pride were more predominant back then or their popular culture, or maybe those people were fools according to us today. Even if some individual takes any drastic step to avoid a bitter inevitable circumstance, then that is their personal choice and must be respected accordingly, it is like choosing to die instead of living a life of endless pain and suffering. Though the movie has showcased a distorted history and that needs to be debated well. We shouldn’t judge the present based on something that is long gone and dead. Besides the character of Rani Padmini may be real or not even that is a debatable topic. Don’t see any reason to break so much head over it, its just a movie after all, leave it in the theater itself

  • Adcritic_In

    Swara has it easy

    Swara cannot be criticised!

    Unlike Bhansali who has had to face death threats, and every tom dick and harry (and then, Swara too!!) who can freely express their disgust through open letters.

    in real life, if you cant stand the heat you should get out of the kitchen,
    or better still not enter it at all !!!

  • Amit Aroskar

    Such a passionate piece of communication. Hats off !!!. History should be used a lesson for future and no way practices like Sati can be glorified. Jauhar on the other hand is a slightly different story, women are giving up their life so as they are not vandalized, raped and forced into things which they would not do. You can’t obviously call them cowards, but no way their action can be glorified as valor to set an example. Rani Padmini was forced to sacrifice her life. Women have been always considered as possessions not just in India but all the medieval civilizations of that time. A possession which even a dead husband can carry with him as in Sati, glorify it with some mythology and bingo. These instances have come into practice at a much later date in Indian civilization. Wars also had some rules, raping and looting as a practice came in as a gift from foreign invasions, which our great rulers (men) happily incorporated in their warfare. On an another note, if Jauhar is not to be glorified then our Indian Independence struggle (so called) based on non violence should also not be glorified, Valour is to fight for your rights and take in gloriously.

  • Abhijit Ray

    Ms Swara Bhaskar has confused jauhar with sati. Every individual should have right to end his or life at a point when it is felt death is better than living a life of dishonor. A similar debate also happened to free Ms Aruna Shanbhag from her body. Indian laws do not permit mercy killing, but a few mature democracies in it he world are allowing mercy killing. In ancient India people at a certain stage in life will renounce society and live a life of ascetic and wait for death. Even today members of Jain community embrace death voluntarily. At the end of the day it is my life, I should have some say how I live and if I do not want to live. Rajput women in 14th century and later in 17th century chose to end their lives instead of being used as sex slave in harems of their conqueror. It may be difficult to understand psychology of people in medieval India using standards of 21st century.

  • Ankur Sharma

    You have made your point . But let it be a historical fiction film which is it.

  • Krishnamurti Venkataraman

    Mere artistic enchanting words will not do. Raja Rammohan Rai fought against Sati though not supported by Bengali public.
    Raping even young girls of even five year old girl is horrific. A huge army of honorable men and woman must organise public awareness against such crimes. Nirbhaya could have been saved if passersby have rushed to her help.

  • Abhijit Ray

    Ms Swara Bhaskar has confused jauhar with sati. Every individual should have right to end his or life at a point when it is felt death is better than living a life of dishonor. A similar debate also happened to free Ms Aruna Shanbhag from her body. Indian laws do not permit mercy killing, but a few mature democracies in it he world are allowing mercy killing. In ancient India people at a certain stage in life will renounce society and live a life of ascetic and wait for death. Even today members of Jain community embrace death voluntarily. At the end of the day it is my life, I should have some say how I live and if I do not want to live. Rajput women in 14th century and later in 17th century chose to end their lives instead of being used as sex slave in harems of their conqueror. It may be difficult to understand psychology of people in medieval India using standards of 21st century.

    • Vineeta Agarwal


  • Gaurav Thakur

    The film is about a different era where human lives were not valued. While it was normal for men to wage war or face it at the dispense of their lives, in order to save their land, children and wives, it was another normal for aggressors to rape, loot and destroy the other clans. If we look from modern perspective the human rights were rather low whether we talk about men, women, or children. However, the author of the article being a feminist has to look at things from her crooked little feminist aperture that would say that women were treated as disposable objects, but if you put things in perspective so were men, children and other sentient beings. We don’t need to become feminists when it comes to anything or everything. One of the reasons why the author felt objectified maybe is because during her stint as an actress she might have felt the same, and this article is a mere reflection of what she feels as a person in a male chauvinist society. It has nothing to do with film at all.

    • > The film is about a different era where human lives were not valued.

      First of all movies or any literary piece is always about present. No body goes theater to attend the call of intellect or to gather some fact but to always attend the call of soul.

  • Isaac N

    Very impressed with the way u hv expressed ur thoughts,feelings and opinions. Beautifully written. I, honestly, didn’t expect such intelligence, depth and comprehensive write-up from Indian Bollywood stars. Have never seen or heard of such a highest level of quality writing from our bollywood stars.

    You have very aptly put across your thoughts which are valid, thought provoking and needs to be argued, discussed and acted upon.

  • Adcritic_In

    I found the usage of vagina unnecessary, more exploitative – a provocative sensationalism, and quite contrary to the cause of feminism, a crutch to be bandied about lazily when the author cannot make compelling arguments or finds the need to stand out.

    • If you cared enough about the issue then you would have bothered to read beyond few words which manged to discomfort you so much.

    • PK

      So vagina is provocative and a whole movie of glorifying Jauhar is not! The mentally lazy is you who could not find the arguments compelling enough.

  • subhasis ghosh

    Kindly read the history of Allauddin Khalji fully. He was a Sunni Muslim who prosecuted Shia Muslims. His army desecrated Hindu temples including the Somnath temple. He instituted the practice of torturing and killing the wives’ and children of suspected mutineers. I can go on.

  • subhasis ghosh

    Well articulated.

  • Sanjay Tirdiya

    Swara Bhasker mght actually be suggesting that all the captured Yazidi women who were treated as sex slaves and raped ….and raped…..and raped….should all forget it and go along their lives…..!!!!!

    And the world should clap hands at the achievement of the ISIS barbarians and move ahead in life for there is life after ‘rape’…..

    And history should move on, everywhere, everytime………as the ‘extreme resistance’ put forth by women under grave threat to their honourable existence in the form of ‘jauhar’ in those times as depicted in the legend of ‘Padmavati’, is all foolishness and only about the ‘vagina’…..

    • PK

      What she is suggesting is that males not judge these women for going through it and not choosing death instead. But Karni Sena and Bhansaali’s movie preaches that these women should die and that they are cowards to choose life instead.

      • Pradeep

        A 1000 things are preached daily in India to millions of Indians, we are inherently resistant to become convinced of something. Best example is the christian population. a couple of centuries of attempts, but christians numerb just 2% of 1 billion lol . Just coz a movie preaches, not even 1% of all indian males are gonna order their wives or daughters to commit sati after they die or their daughter’s husbands die. Affection of men towards towards their wives and daughters will definitely convince and overcome their wish that sati should bbe practices and then those few who you fear will revert back to sati practice will also abandon the idea of sati. After all the only Indian idea that safeguards us all from these things is “Why should we do that, let the neighbors do that” or “why should we suffer, let the neighbors suffer”. So obviously even if sati is revived , it will die out 😛

  • subhasis ghosh

    Kindly don’t overdo the Mongol threat to India. Please read an article in The Swarajya Magazine today, which has debunked much of the argument put forth in piece in The Wire that credited the rule of Khalji as being better to that of the Mongols.

  • Tas P

    As per
    “Just as it’s a soldier’s choice whether to be captured, tortured or to take cyanide, it’s a woman’s choice whether to be taken by a marauder, raped, ravaged or to end her life. Rajput women did it, Yazidi women did it. How can we, who have no clue of that horror, judge them?”

    • PK

      Exactly, but Bhansaali and Karni sena has already decided which kind of women is ‘honorable’ and sticking it down our throat.

    • Vivek Bhardvaj

      don’t judge if you don’t have capacity, others got it. People like you will consider just all kind of suicide as acts depending on will of people committing it…no! certain acts are wrong and people have that much of capacity to recognize them. All are not indifferent and idiot.

      • ex_secular

        And you are the Queen of India who gets to decide for all Indians as to ” what acts are right and wrong ” ? and call us indifferent or idiots if we don’t agree with you ?

  • Abhijit Ray

    Thank you.

  • Mukesh Parmar

    Wow ~ a superb write up ~ freedom of expression ~ superb comments ~ Love it all. Each one has the right to express and each one has right to action. It is individual. No doubt choice is ones own property.

    Action is what this world is made up of. No action the world dies. Like and dislike are your choices ~ at the same time action is also your choice. Let us for a while think of something different, out of the way. Can we………………. comment the other way.

  • Dabangghindu

    The Indian Sati Prevention Act (1988) further criminalised any type of aiding, abetting, and glorifying of Sati.
    Your act of thoughtlessly glorifying this misogynistic criminal
    practice is something you ought to answer for, Sir. As your ticket-
    buying audience, I have the right to ask you how and why you did this.SATI PREVENTION ACT IMPOSED ON 1888

  • Dabangghindu

    Women are not only walking talking vaginas.
    Yes, women have vaginas, but they have more to them as well. So
    their whole life need not be focused on the vagina, and controlling it,
    protecting it, maintaining it’s purity. (Maybe in the 13th century that
    was the case, but in the 21st century we do not need to subscribe to
    these limiting ideas. We certainly do not need to glorify them. )
    It would be nice if the vaginas are respected; but in the
    unfortunate case that they are not, a woman can continue to live. She
    need not be punished with death, because another person disrespected her
    vagina without her consent.
    There is life outside the vagina, and so there can be life after
    rape. (I know I repeat, but this point can never be stressed enough.)
    In general there is more to life than the vagina.

  • If he asked your opinion on the climax, how would you have done it? He’s also glorifying Rajput ideals over practicality that makes more sense in today’s world. Would you also change that to make the movie relevant to today’s audiences?

  • Bharat Dayaramani

    Young Lady he is just reproducing the history.The story doesn’t belong to him.This is what supposedly happened a few centuries ago. Why you are so much perturbed. Why you are after his bread and butter.

  • sonata ms

    I am just stunned with the facts about the movie(Padmavaat).Bhansali must be knowing about the “sati” done on Rup Kanwar in Rajasthan in the year 1989 which was severely criticized.May be he would be making a movie on that later.Thanks Swara for this magnificent letter to the film director.

  • PK

    Aren’t you shaming a women for choosing to live even after facing rape and enslavement? This is the attitude that she was speaking against. Even after the Nirbhaya rape, our own ministers said if she was alive it would be worse than death. Why should she and the society get a say about that?
    Aren’t we pushing rape-survivors to their death? A woman is a person, not an object of desire whose value gets reduced becuse of rape or such. But that is the prevalant attitude even today.

  • PK

    Hats off to you mam for such a bold and honest write up. You put my thoughts to writing. This is the reason I and many others were secretly happy that Padmavat was being opposed till the violence. It’s movie

  • PK

    She is right. She has already explained in her write-up how the main characters espouse moral superiority of the women who commits Jauhar than those who submit to rape and live. Look around. Even today the Karni Sena is up in arms for Rajput honor which is based on protecting their women’s vaginas! Not to mention the butt-hurt males commenting here! If this is not pressure to women to remain ‘pure’ and kill self if somehow they become ‘impure’, then what is?

  • DariyaSophia

    Incredible. While I agree with you, Swara, and like your filmmaking, surely the villianisation and sub-humanization of Muslims is ALSO a context of 21st century-India? But that doesn’t seem to bother you. Why, in the vein of dissenting with one kind of violence, do you fail to note the other? Because that is just so prevalent in society, it’s passable for you also? That is the ultimate point of Bhansali’s films, isn’t it – that Muslims across time and space are basically sub-human disgusting creatures deserving of no sympathy. There is a global context to this too, with what Trump and right wing European leaders are saying. None of that touches you?
    Bhansali is if course an uneducated man who has no sense of history. But you’re supposed to be what he is not!

  • alok asthana

    What a tight slap to Bhansali, Nice.

  • Pawan Maheshwari

    Swara, it was good to see u fighting the right cause with the wrong tool. You acted in TWM where your filmy hubby question marks on ur purity but still your character persists with the man. It looks more like your child in the film need father. You shouldn’t have done that scene where you put ur child in front of father to win him back. Why did ur character require a male to take care of child ? Didn’t ur character show too much dependence on a male ?

    I am also against sati aur jauhar but when you are a woman who is in captivity of ISIS just for the sake of sexual pleasure , make u perform at their will with n number of person, what’s the option lies ahead with u. Choice is urs to fight them, loose life to save ur dignity, psychological wellbeing ( many woman who have gone through rape have experienced it).

    Choice is always upon woman. Movie shows same that Padmavati chose what she thought right at that time. Doesn’t that character has freedom to express or choose like ur character in TWM?

    Why did u right this letter after release of Padmavati ? Why don’t u right a letter everyday when a woman is raped in any part of country ? Take up the cause, make a force against this govt and society who is not ready to accept individuality of a woman. Everyday I see 4-5 news of rape. In last 8-10 days , Haryana has seen almost 15-20 rape cases. Why didn’t you write a letter to Haryana and Modi govt asking to take stringest action against person objectifying “vagina”.

    Hope you would take open stand on daily basis against these crimes, feel what u felt after watching Padmavati and take up the cause for justice and not only for a movie.


    • PK

      Do you mean to say the female victims of ISIS are somehow less ‘pure’ and less brave than Padmavati for not committing suicide? That they should die now that they are defiled? This is what Swara meant by being reduced to a vagina. You are ignoring the bravery and grit required to survive such ordeal.

  • Vivek Bhardvaj

    there is a academic discipline called History…read it before writing ur cerebral fantasies. It was a patriarchal construct…the Sati pratha. And a man of Raja Ram Mohan caliber stood against it. Don’t pour out your common ‘nonsensical’ sense.

    • mahak

      History keeps on evolving with new discoveries about it…[email protected] NO it wasn’t a patriarchal construct, it was women’s own wish …..who r u to put questions over their choice ?? 2nd Sati & Jauhar were 2 different practices, so better learn the difference between two before bringing raja ram mohan roy & other irrelevent things into it

  • Pawan Maheshwari

    Ohh.. I didn’t notice it..thanks for pointing to objectivity and rationality

  • Narasingha Sil

    A truly sincere post in words that display verve as well as gravitas. However, your piece also, inadvertently, contains a gratuitous jab at the Muslims, thereby undermining the sincerity of your arguments. Also, there lurk some naivete and irony in your claim about seeing and regarding women beyond being the possessor of vagina in a culture that deifies both yoni and lingam. Just pay a visit to Kamakhya, heartland of vagina worship. And if you look for the ubiquitous ithyphallic deity, just look around: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice!!!

  • Nanduri Hanuman

    I feel very proud of Swara Bhasker, expressing her views so candidly and her question as to the right to life of a woman after she was raped or other wise as actress Swara asks in her article. Now a days, especially after Bahubali, and now Padmavati, I feel, dangerous attempts are being made to inject the minds of masses through glorification of feudalism and the inhuman practices during those periods. The makers of the filims may have a democratic right but these pictures are undoubtedly anti progressive.

  • Kunal Mhapankar

    I so so liked your comment! So well thought and well said too.

  • ex_secular

    And Swara and yourself are “glorifying Sex slavery ” . Binary logic works both ways but more importantly young women can decide for themselves unless you believe that freedom of expression is only acceptable when it is acceptable to high priests and priestesses of pseudo liberalism.

  • Haneef

    Why is this movie a glorification and propagation of Sati but Raanjhaana wasn’t a glorification and propagation of stalking? The same open letter writing lady was part of Raanjhaana in a major role. Fairly strong views with no regards to the fact that it is not as black and white an issue as she makes it out to be.
    It is not about being raped by “men of other religion”, post war rapes or enslaving can very well be worse than death, may be she hasn’t seen enough hardships in life to understand that. 13th century times were not times of such emancipation.

    • Matty

      Raanjhanaa did not glorify stalking. It showed that stalking was wrong and stupid. And Sonam even had Dhanush killed for having ruined her life!
      I see you support Sati & Jauhar, but that doesn’t mean that you should make false accusations against Swara in order to shut her up!!!

  • vinsin

    What this has to do with Hindu mindset?

    • PK

      He meant the notion of honor that is rooted in protecting the vaginas of their women(!) which masquerades as Rajput pride among others.

  • Bhaskar

    Dear Ms Bhasker

    Congratulations on a writing a well articulated opinion piece. I am a fan of your work. You bring alive your characters with outstanding vigour and humanity be that in Raanjhana, zero bate sannata or in Tanu weds manu.

    I congratulate you in possessing such remarkable talent.
    I congratulate you for being opinionated and courageous enough to freely express them in public space despite being from a field where traditional wisdom dictates avoiding controversies when you don’t have a release coming soon. We need more people like you.

    Now I must get to the point of writing this reply.

    Women (and men)have a right to live with dignity, despite being raped or handicapped or any other way challenged.
    Women (and men) have a right to choose what this ‘Dignity’ means. It might mean conforming to patriarchal ideas and pressures of a culture or rebelling against it.
    Women (and men) have a right to die if they choose to.
    Everyone has a right to go through the motion of human emotions and if this endeavor brings them to hopelessness and despair and a threat to the human dignity , then they have a right to suicide if they choose to.

    Women are not walking talking vaginas. They can’t be. The concept doesn’t exist unless you were trying to exaggerate, the very tool you accuse Mr. Bhansali of using. It is not Mr. Bhansali who has reduced these women to vaginas, it’s you. You refuse to acknowledge women other than who fits your ideal feminine and you demean them by disembodiment.

    You say of art that it is everything and then immediately capture it in your own personal meaning. You sing for freedom of expression and then retch a rhetoric about the moral boundaries of expression for public consumption.

    You ask what is the point of showing the culture of 13th century today when glorification of jauhar or sati can inspire the audience in wrong ways when the women’s movement have come a long way. I say stop projecting your views of what art should be or shouldn’t be. That is tunnel vision open mindedness. And as far as women’s movement is concerned then isn’t it an amazing opportunity to discuss and debate the issues in public sphere as you did. Also, you are overestimating the effect a movie has on common working people.

    Essentially your view of precious life, one should live no matter what, is authoritative. Life is common. There are plenty of microbes and plants for whom we don’t care. I suppose you were talking about human lives. And it’s the ego, consciousness and our tapestry of emotions that make us special. The whole dignity of it. That dignity as one sees oneself becomes paramount for living. And when that dignity is threatened, and clouds of hopelessness settle in the hearts and minds of people, sometimes death comes as the most dignified way. If one chooses in that bleak moment to voluntarily die, that could be the most humane reaction, the most lively one.

    I hope you never lose your dignity and give you my warm regards.

    Desirous of choice and dignity.

  • vinsin

    The movie is about Jauhar not Sati.

  • vinsin

    Not true, many women committed suicide because of ISIS and refused to be slave.

    • PK

      And many women also survived enslavement by them and managed to run away. Should we not glorify their grit to survive such ordeal? Why only mention the women who committed suicide as morally superior?

  • vinsin

    Do this – ask all the women whom you know – what they would prefer slavery or death/suicide? Let me know your statistics. Also what would you prefer a torturous life or a death?

    • PK

      Why do you think they will or they should chose suicide in the face of rape and enslavement. Will men be encouraged to do the same? Won’t they be encouraged to fight or run away or survive torture and fight back? – This is the mentality the movie glorifies and Swara is protesting against.

  • vinsin

    True but her article is about glorification of matriarchy which impacts men.

  • vinsin

    Exactly not all women are same. Even during ISIS many non-Muslims women prefer death over slavery. Many soldiers and spies prefer death over torture. There are all different kinds of people. Some women will fight, some would prefer to die and some will become sex slaves also.

  • vinsin

    Even the soldiers who die in war are gloried including many freedom fighters.

    • PK

      And so are the soldiers who go through torture and survive – but are women who survive rape and enslavement similarly glorified?

  • akaash

    Oh really? I thought most commentators here were endorsing the fact that the woman concerned should have the sole prerogative of deciding if she wanted commit suicide to avoid the life of sex slave. If a woman is making a choice of her free will, what right do we (including Swara Bhaskar)–who are completely unaware of the battles of their lives–have to tell them what to do? Does feminism give a special right to the likes of Swara Bhaskar to decide what is good and ideal for the rest of the women on the planet?

  • PK

    You should. That you are made to feel that as a man you are somehow less if you chose life, is due to the toxic masculinity we have here that masquerades as ‘Rajput Pride’.

  • Vasundhara Dubey

    It is about the woman’s right to free choice. If padmavati wanted to die than being raped whats your problem?

    • Kumar Aishwarya

      Precisely..overall I saw swara bhaskar’s post a bit out of place..she made some genuine points..but after reading it all, couldn’t impress me much..even she could have chosen a better title for her write up..

  • PK

    So, by that logic if we made a movie on slavery today, we should glorify the slave owners since historically in that period they were glorified?

  • Vasundhara Dubey

    If faced with rape and sexual slavery I will kill myself and my daughter too. Others may not be brave enough to enter pyre. I will choose poison. It is my free choice and I cannot be forced to accept rape dishonor pain slavery hopelessness by anyone.

  • Vasundhara Dubey

    It isnt about fighting one or two or six or ten rapists which I could try. It was an army of thousands faced by padmavati. What is wrong with women who cannot see why she did what she did.

  • rob

    Padmaavati wouldn’t have cared less for being a vagina in a patriarchal society at the moment of facing lifelong sex-slavery to a lunatic. Maybe that’s why she CHOSE to burn herself and die as not so free woman than live as a complete sex-slave. Totally rational and dare I say, “honorable” choice in my opinion.

  • PK

    The problem is men in India think women will or they should chose suicide in the face of rape and enslavement. Will men be encouraged to do the same? Won’t they be encouraged to fight or run away or survive torture and fight back? – This is the mentality the movie glorifies and Swara is protesting against.
    Women should be encouraged to fight back or survive rape and get even with their rapist. We deserve movies like ‘I spit on your grave’ or ‘The girl with the dragon tattoos’, not Padmavaat.

    • smanu

      “Women should be encouraged to fight back or survive rape and get even with their rapist.”

      Let me tell you, given a choice, no woman would want to get “even” with her rapist.

      But what is this that you are preaching here…you mean that bunch of women should have welcomed rape…(and probably life long sex-slavery)? Damn, that’s the last thing they wanted man! How are you deciding for women belonging to ALL time settings in the past, present and future.

      If they were equipped enough to fight back the Khilji army, ofcourse they would leave no stone unturned to do that. But alas, they were not equipped enough. And they didn’t want to subject to Khilji’s will, so they chose to fight his will in the way they could!

      “We deserve movies like ‘I spit on your grave’ or ‘The girl with the dragon tattoos’, not Padmavaat.”

      I think these are two different circumstances. I feel you are missing the thin line between them…

      Survival after rape: The woman understands the gravity of the situation AFTER the rape. It is indeed the right choice to survive overcoming the odds on that path (societal, familial and personal odds… basically any sort of adds).

      Choosing between death and submission without their will (interest/liking and love) to lunatics: This is something BEFORE the violation even happens.

      In that situation where there is no other help possible, any woman would want to PREVENT it from happening. Of course, no woman would want to submit herself to a man who she is not interested in. (Are you by any means suggesting through each of your comment, that women must be ready to submit themselves to men even against their own will?)

      And to prevent such violation of their “self” (not mere vagina being violated here…their will is being violated here) YES, some women might want to kill the rapist or even kill themselves, if the situation so demands. Padmavati is one of those women, that’s all!

      You may want to watch the Telugu movie “Arundhati” (it’s hindi dubbed too) which has a mix of all these possibilities…a man, a demon who is bent on violating a woman…and the woman who is desperate to fight him…fight his encroachment upon her self, her will…and in the process ready to kill him or even kill herself. In the end, she happens to kill the person who wanted to violate her.

  • Abhijit Ray

    Men were dead fighting invading army. Once defeat is confirmed women gave up their lives rather than giving in.

  • Abhijit Ray

    It takes a lot of courage to jump into fire and embrace death. They chose death over dishonour. A practice may be difficult to understand in this day and age.

    • PK

      That you think that victims of rape somehow lose their ‘honor’ is the attitude Swara was protesting against. Make no mistake if any honor was lost, it’s of the rapsist’s and victim-shamers’, not the victim’s.

      • V Suresh

        Brilliant observation !

        Thperverse ideology being espoused and perpetrated by these men is that a woman loses her honour because she is raped. And extrapolating forward, these wise men will nbow assert that a dishonoured woman has no right to live and should kill herself.

        And these worthies are the men of India, 2018 AD !!!

  • Whether US, India or elsewhere… the classic debate on what is right, what is contextual right, what is absolute right…; if freedom, how and to what extent?
    In the context of this article, I simply believe it is healthy for Swara to evaluate something she feels strongly about and for commentators to critically analyse her writing. BUT only as long as it stays at that! People make mistakes. Me, you, Swara, Bhansali, people of Karni sena make these on a daily basis… intentionally or unintentionally.
    AGAIN, as long as strong views are confined to spaces like this and do not spill out on streets in ugly form- encroaching and imposing our version of truth/history/fiction/context on others, we must be happy. Our society should be able to tide over all these eventually.

  • Abhijit Ray

    I think your argument is equally confused and jumbled. Let us restrict to Jauhar, Padmavati and article of Ms. Swara Bhaskar. Women who committed Jauhar did so voluntarily. What has that to do with present day Hindu Muslim Christians. Government of India has made a law that prevents sati. Jauhar is not practiced today. Khilji could become sultan after killing a lot of people, including his father in law. Many were killed brutally by gouging their eyes. By the way, Khilji was not a slave when he became king. He was governor of one province. Females won in conquest used to be raped and then traded. So some people thought the practice abhorrent and chose to end their lives. Is it so difficult to fathom?

  • Atheist Revnant

    Lol “Could not protect her”? men committed Saka-fight to death.So all the army men who lost their life while fighting an already lost war like 1962 were fools?

  • Antara

    Just a couple of things. Considering this movie was based in the 13th century, the ideas presented must be from that century. The historical truth can’t possibly be influenced by the feminist ideas of the 21st century however much we want it to. Another, wasn’t sati the choice of the Rajput women? While it may be unimaginable now for women to jump into a giant pit of fire to avoid being violated, at that time it was the only recourse to avoid a very ugly fate involving horrific abuse and lifelong sex slavery. Back then women were not armed with the arguments of Simone de beauvoir and a legal system.

  • Kumar Aishwarya

    There could have for sure, a better meaning and analogy in this letter( if such a news portal publishes it), to a movie(which I have neither watched nor keen to watch, like almost all of the bambaiiyya movies that we have today) which was about a tragic fictional story of a real strong and dignified(and one doesn’t need to read a ‘moral’ angle in this phrase ‘dignified’ at all) woman in her own sense.

  • Surinder Singh

    it is a good point…………well done………

  • PK

    “Your argument is completely immoral” – if that is the best argument you come up with against women speaking out about oppression, then that is the problem actually she is speaking against.

  • PK

    Apparently, the writers of this bore-fest movie has come out with a ‘stinging reply’-
    “It was Padmavati’s choice and free will to not give herself up to Khilji…….It was a matter of choice and not forced upon them by their husbands! “-
    They do realize that they themselves have announced countless times that Padmavati did not even exist! So what do they mean by ‘her’ choice?
    So this poem and legend basically was an attempt by men to prop up a made-up character Padmavati as a bastion of moral for their women and slut shame them into killing themselves than taking men outside the caste or religion. Oh, doesn’t it sound familiar? And the movie is similar glorification of male fantasy about what ideal courageous women should be like!

  • akshay

    i think you are missing the whole point swara.. Here you are going back 700 years in time where the whole society was different .
    Honourable proud peace loving men and women are faced by a lustful beast bent upon taking away one’s honor, religion and way of life. What is shown is a fiery resistance to uphold the ancestral way of life of this great land called “Bharat Varsha”….This is what this movie says… That’s all t….. I fail to understand how vagina comes into all this… We have to watch it as a NORMAL Indian proud of his culture.

  • PK

    This privilege of women in Titanic that you talk about is fictional. The real criteria that was followed at that time was not ‘women first’, but ‘wealthy first’ – read about that.

  • PK


  • A woman

    In story telling, what would be the point of depicting doubt or fear? And what would she be conflicted about? Death or raped-until-death ? Whether you are a man or woman Mr/Ms PK, can you begin to fathom what rape would feel like to any gender ? From your post, I think you are trivialising rape.
    Yes, rape survivors are also brave, but who is anybody to choose for them ?

    • PK

      Yet you are choosing for them. You are promoting this drivel that young girls should choose death than be raped. That they are “zinda lash” and ruined after they are raped. Does that mean their value is as good as the purity of their vagina?
      P.S – we don’t even know if you are ‘a woman’. If you are, we feel sorry for the women in your household. Surely you will be the first to victim-shame them in case of rape since you believe they are better off dead!

  • Bv

    movie is just a fiction , and the ultimate aim is to gain money . and this so called juhar performed by deepika , why cant she neglect the role if the script exemplifies sati and juhar ? gender discrimination is a true , but rather then blaming director ,changes must start from u actreses . and i dont understand why the moral responsibility only for director ?
    u felt uncomfortable to watch the climax ? huh story of padmavti is not alien to us , and everyone knows even before the movie that padmavati commits juhar.


    With this approach,it would have been ok that Ratan singh would have agreed to give his wife to Khilji. There was no reason for so many men to die for the honor of a queen who actually meant no personal gain to them. Let Padmini fight for herself. It is an issue between Padmini n khilji.

  • Idli Mind

    So the Rajputs should have the final say about what an independent filmmaker makes ? And even when the filmmaker complies with the laws of the land, you wish to give Rajputs the veto? Are you out of your bloody mind ?

    And your other preposterous claim “.. Jauhar gives nightmares to Rajputs and it opens the scars of 1000s of years of witnessing the horrors of war ..”begs the question: Which wars have modern day Rajputs witnessed? And in my humble view, the only smell of burning flesh would probably have been the smell of the odd Rajasthani woman coerced or cajoled into doing a sati.

    And more importantly, most Rajputs distance themselves from the Karni Sena, particularly educated Rajputs. They regard these yokels with a predilection to scratch their private parts in public as a lumpen, illiterate bunch of unemployed goons. But then I do duly note that you Sir seem to venerate the Karni Sena and its twisted take on Rajput history.

  • Idli Mind

    Padmavati never existed !!

  • Krishna

    The movie was well done. I don’t know if some of rumored things were not done because of public out cry or they were just rumors and were never considered at all. Thanks to all of you who were involved in making this a beautiful movie.
    I do not understand the lady criticizing the director. He never opined that women should commit Jauhar. Those things have happened before and the movie tells that very well.

  • rob

    She chose while she was alive and she chose what SHE considered a death of dignity over a life of enslavement. It’s HER choice munna. Is an AntiNazi dictating what a woman should choose? If you are so concerned about the failure of society to give her opportunity to live, maybe you should enquire into the sick mind of the invaders.

  • Manish Sharma

    really? you find that daring? so by that logic, women should not be protected at all, Ratan singh should’ve handed over to khilji because, she can protect herself, and what he showed was what happened, nothing glorifying in it.

  • PK

    She is critiquing the movie – pointing out how the movie fell short, not demanding what be shown. How that is same as the Sena?
    Also, should we not question someone who made a movie glorifying Slavery just because it is historical facts? Would you make a movie glorifying untouchability and caste crimes?
    While dealing with historical evil practices the movie must have a critique of that practice rather than glorify it. Why can’t we question that?

  • PK

    We are not speaking out against her ‘choice’, but the glorification of her choice and slut-shaming of other women’s choices who decided to live even after rape and enslavement.
    Also the movie makers were quite vocal about how Padmavati was not even real! In that case, her choice is really the male fantasy(of the author of the poem as well as the movie) of what a so called courageous and honorable woman’s choice should be! Padmavati was the prop that the Rajputs glorified to shame their women into committing suicide rather than take men outside the caste or religion.

  • PK

    As another comment already pointed out, a little bit of dialogue about how this was unfair on women, a little bit of fear or doubt from the women going towards Self immolation would have been natural rather than this espousing of moral superiority of women committing Jauhar! Even the struggles of women in Khilji’s harem would have shown that even in the cruel world of 13th century women were bravely surviving.
    We deserve movies like ‘I spit on your grave’ or ‘the girl with the dragon tattoos’ that teach girls to fight and get even with their rapist rather than feeling like their life ended because of rape.
    Padmavati is anyway fictional as the film-makers have claimed multiple times. It was the fantasy of medieval men about how the ideal woman should behave. It was not how real women of 13th century behaved anyway – the real women facing the fire must have been afraid, must have cursed everybody including their husbands for their fate.
    So why not embellish it further for modern men and women and show how women can fight. If not, if we are looking for reality, why not show this real rage and fear of the real women?

  • PK

    What do you mean by distortion of history anyway? The makers of Padmavaat have claimed multiple times that Padmavaati did not exist, it’s based on a poem- a fictional character.
    So what is ‘her choice’ anyway? The poet’s choice? The movie makers’ choice? Or the male fantasy of what an ‘honorable’ woman’s choice should be?
    Real women do not espouse morality when faced with such choice – they are afraid, desperate and full of rage at the society, invaders, protectors – everyone. The movie failed to portray this.
    It also did not show the struggle of women making the other choice – the choice to live and face torture and enslavement, and how even they were brave. Thus they glorified Jauhar and slut-shamed other women victims who chose to live. Thus women’s value is reduced to only her honor- the purity of the vagina!


    Yes I did observe that, which made me express my view.. to rather explain what Swara wanted to say…
    At one side we are trying to take the freedom .. and on the other.. its this ‘ patriarchal bargain’ by women which raises the expectations on others…. Im sure 1000 husbands would have already asked their wives.. ” Would you do this for me?? ” and that’s where Bhansali went wrong in glorifying and romanticising the act..

  • V Suresh

    But the lumpen underbelly of the BJP i.e. elements like the Karni Sena, VHP etc. give short shrift to facts and harness any and every fictitious story to serve their bigoted ends.

  • V Suresh

    He didn’t say that !

  • Deepak

    You started the letter by saying “I genuinely believed and still believe that you and every other person in this country has the right to say the story they want to say, the way they want to say it …. ” and then you spent the rest of the letter explaining why his way of telling the story is “WRONG” .. isnt that hypocritical ?

    • Santosh Dhital

      he has every right to say his story in the way he wants and in the same way she has right to say either she thinks his way of saying his story is right or wrong…:D

  • smanu

    Dear Swara,

    I’ve read through your letter and you did touch upon some really important points relevant for today’s society.

    But, BUT, prior to reading your letter, I’ve seen the movie too and I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed it. As you rightly said, it is truly a magnum-opus.

    First and foremost, I don’t see that Jauhar was glorified in this movie in any which way. It was merely depicted as part of the plot. What was glorified, was the valiance with which Rani Padmavati and other women did not allow themselves to fall prey to the lust of Alauddin Khilji and his army.

    By doing that they prevented themselves from being treated as mere vaginas forever and live a dead life and die a bloody death. That was how “they” chose to fight “their” battle against Alauddin. And they did win that battle even after their men lost it, technically speaking.

    That said, even women who survive rape and lead their lives unperturbed by that baggage ARE valiant.

    But the right to life of a woman after rape -which you are trying to emphasize – is irrelevant for this movie, because clearly Padmavati (as part of the plot, if not as a real character who lived in the history) had complete awareness of the impending disaster (rape or sexual slavery, we donno) and she had scope to deal with that disaster in a preventive way and NOT in a curative way. And that’s what she chose to do. She might have chosen to do otherwise, but clearly that’s not what she did.

    Is it right to get judgemental about the choice of:
    1. A fictitious character in a movie (if we were to assume Padmavati is a mere fiction arising out of a poem)?
    2. A real person who already lived her life and made that choice in the past (if we were to assume she is real!)?

  • V Suresh

    Not exactly a short post that one !

    And despite the copious amounts of space you take up and despite having read your post in its entirety, I still fail to fathom what you were trying get across. But then, I am a simpleton with a very limited understanding of English …

  • Prateek Gupta

    Swara Bhasker , you are bang on target.
    god bless u and your thought process.

    there was song by a famous musician … sounds of silence… after reading your article , it reminded me of the words of the song…

  • PK

    I was just pointing out the lack of creativity and imagination that Bollywood directors seem to have and the endemic misogyny rooted in Bollywood. We need not discuss the male gaze, since it is the default pov in movies here. The other day lipstick under the Burkha was banned because it was female-centric! I guess even the censor board agrees we can’t have movies that are gratuitous to the female audience. So we can have rape fantasy in movies and male hero avenging female relative’s rape, but not rape-revenge by women. It’s the general trend I was pointing out.

  • Dr. Insaaniyat

    “Lastly, when their motive is making a money-minting ‘Blockbuster’ why should you expect any social concern to be addressed by a film maker ? How many such film makers are there ?”
    well said and reality check for all of us

  • V Suresh

    Mr Saurav Tyagi: When you suggest that Ms Bhasker look at

    “.. Indian history, and not the history that was written by
    plunderers, looters and invaders who had only one motive, to destroy
    the soul and character of this ancient civilization ..”

    may I ask you whether you were referring to the RSS and Hindutva version of history?

  • V Suresh

    But they fought the British didn’t they ? And escape the shackles of slavery they did.

    According to you, the whole of India – men and women should have committed “jauhar” because they had been conquered. Preposterous !

  • Amitabha Basu

    An uncommonly bold and blunt statement of her opinion about ‘Padmavat’, which should make us all reflect upon our own societal attitudes …. but unfortunately too many of us in this age-old male-dominated patriarchal society, including most of Bollywood personalities, are shocked and outraged by Swara’s words, rather than endorsing and encouraging her … Hats off, Swara ! May your tribe increase !

    • V Suresh

      Very well said Sir !

  • V Suresh

    In the civil wars in Congo, report show that men are also raped and used as sex slaves. Similar practices using boys and young men as sex slaves is fairly rife in Afghanistan.

    Should these men have killed themselves to preserve their honour? Would men have done that in the first place?

  • PK

    No one is preaching, only criticizing a movie. Do you mean to say movies should not be criticized for falling short? That so many people mainly men are burned about the fact that a woman is criticizing a movie glorifying male fantasy(Padmavati is a fictional character as claimed by the movie-makers!) about what ‘honorable’ women should do faced with rape, is proof enough that men in India connect women’s value only to the purity of her vagina – the point Swara was trying to make.

  • PK

    Bulls eye! You hit the target right, sir.

  • V Suresh

    Mr Nandhan Jha: Nope, I did not brand him anything or indulge in any name-calling. But the version and take on history that Mr Tyagi presents is uncannily similar to the ones touted by the facsists of the RSS. And Mr Tyagi does not refute my claims does he Mr Jha?

  • V Suresh

    Men generally have not done that thing. At least, taht did not take place in the wars in Congo and Afghanistan that I refer to. Indeed, such things are rife in many prison, Indian and foreign.