Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Perplexing Paradox of Padmaavat

Perplexing Paradox of Padmaavat - Kartik Dayanand Boddapati - Mind u Read

"Oh no…one more Padmaavat article. That too so many days after the movie’s release" - I can practically hear you say that aloud.

Maybe I am crazy, but I have no option other than to share my story with you before I go completely mad. I might also end up driving you crazy in the last section of this post. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My story involves a bizarre paradox - a moral dilemma of sorts. It all started when I watched the film Padmaavat on the second day of its release.

I loved the film. The climax choked me emotionally and this was the only time in my life where I wished I had seen a movie in 3D because those glasses could’ve hidden my tears at the end. That’s how much I loved the film.

Putting aside the discussions about gender politics, Jauhar or the Hindu VS Muslim trope that’s been doing the rounds, the film and the climax appealed to me at a very basic level as a triumph in tragedy – where you feel sad that the good guys die at the end but also feel happy because they somehow end up looking heroic and victorious – like Jack in Titanic.

The film would have worked for me even if it wasn’t about Rajputs and a crazy Muslim ruler, because...
At the core Padmaavat is a story about a clash of values!
Maharawal Ratan Singh’s culture dictates his values. He is bound by its rules, like Kattappa from Baahubali. His decisions might look stupid and impractical at times, but that is how he functions.
Rani Padmavati isn’t as rigid as Ratan and doesn’t mind bending some of those values as the situation demands. We are shown ample instances in the film where she displays these traits. She is sorted in her mind.
Sultan Alauddin Khilji on the other hand has a calculative and cunning mind along with a heart that is passionate and relentless. A deadly concoction forming his value system – a non-existent one at that. There is only one rule of war for him and that is victory (at any cost).
Throw all of them together and that’s the story of Padmaavat.
Ratan lives and dies sticking to his values – no compromise, no matter what, Khilji should never see Padmavati.
Padmavati lives and dies sticking to her values - her victory lies in denying what Khilji’s heart desires. It’s her choice of what I call a triumph in tragedy.
That’s where the high point, the vindication and moral victory lies for the audience too by upholding a value system we think is right - by denying what Khilji seeks so desperately throughout the movie.
Justice we believe is served. That’s when the tears happen. And the ensuing stupendous box office collections are nothing but a validation of that sentiment.
If even one of them skewed a little bit in a different direction the outcome of the story would’ve been very different.
All sounds good. What’s my issue then?
The Karni Sena
(No, not exactly in the way you think about them)
The story of Padmaavat is incomplete without a mention of the Karni Sena. Their protests capturing prime time news right from the time they disrupted the shooting of the film all the way until and after the release of the film.
Rani Padmavati, whether she is real or fictional, seemed to be personally intertwined with their value systems. Similar to how the movie shows the Rajputs protecting Rani Padmavati, these guys didn’t want anyone to cast an eye on her or turn her into a piece of entertainment for public consumption.
In hindsight, they looked exactly like a Xerox copy of Raja Ratan Singh while the movie itself could stand as a metaphor for Padmaavati the queen, the one who needed to be hidden from public view - a case of life imitating art imitating life.
Question that occurred to me next: What role do we as an audience play here?
That’s when the shocking realization hit me…
We are nothing but the splitting image of the Khilji we see on screen!
The same Khilji we took delight in seeing defeated on screen. The story offscreen looked something like this…
We, I am assuming majority of you reading this post have opposed the protests against the movie. We fought for it (on social media off course); we were desperate to watch the film and spared no means to trash these protestors, especially when they protested without even seeing the film. Key point we missed seeing from their perspective - Padmavati isn’t meant to be seen (something I learnt after seeing the film), be it the character or the film.
But we, the Khiljis waited patiently (or impatiently) to catch a glimpse of Padmaavati, didn’t matter even if they knocked off an ‘I’ and made it Padmaavat. We just had to see this film.
We consider ourselves as modern citizens who have changed with the times, not afraid to question history or traditions, I then suspect…
Was the madman Khilji ahead of his times too?
Most of his behavior fits perfectly with the value systems of people today, with their ruthless determination to succeed no matter what the costs are.
Even Karni Sena broke the rules and attacked a school bus carrying kids. Their values haven’t remained the same. Are they leaning towards Khilji’s value system too?
To add to the confusion, Karni Sena now says they don’t have any issues with the movie.
And some of those that wanted the film to release are now voicing concerns over how the movie wrongly depicts gender politics, glorifies the practice of Jauhar, and so on…in effect saying that the movie should’ve been banned – they are all starting to look like the Karni Sena now?
What kind of crazy U Turns are these?
In my case I don’t know if it is a U Turn. My head is actually spinning in circles trying to make sense of this perplexing paradox:
How can one value system feel right on screen and the exact opposite of that feel right in the real world?
Am I really Khilji; the one I hated on screen? Are you one too?
I look to you to help make sense of this paradox. Can someone please answer my questions and put me out of my misery?
Till then,
Cheers!!!
Kartik (Khilji) Dayanand Boddapati