I’ll be seeing Padmavat tonight, mainly because I haven’t been able to go see a movie in a while, and here it is. A large part of the reason it will no doubt get a big box office, here it is and there hasn’t been anything else for a long time. And also, my friend Dina is free to go with me and I haven’t seen her in almost a month. But, to counteract what I am beginning to hear about Padmavat, I am going to give us a little reminder of all the wonderfully strong female characters that there have been in Hindi film, and all the wonderful historical Muslim characters there have been.
The “Muslim Social” was a standard genre for decades before slowly fading away in the 90s. Plots set in the glorious high culture of Lucknow with elegant courtesans and noble landowners and so on and so on. Here is an all time classic song from an all time classic Guru Dutt film in that setting.
And of course that same era saw Mughal-E-Azam, set in the glory of the Mughal Empire and the founding of modern India.
Another later version of that same glory came in Jodha-Akbar.
Until recently there was slight movement even in modern set films, more and more interreligious romances and Muslim heroes and heroines. Where it wasn’t even the point of the film. Break Ke Baad for instance, which wasn’t a great movie, but it did have a casual interreligious romance.
Daawat-E-Ishq, which WAS a perfect movie, and also was set entirely in the Muslim community.
And of course My Name is Khan, speaking the unspoken and using glorious Islamic hymns to do it.
And before that, another Shahrukh film that acknowledges his religious identity, Chak De, India.
Okay, something slightly happier! Salman’s casual Muslimness in Sultan, not the point of the film, but there in the background in visits to Masjids and in the way they are married.
Another happy marriage one! From a slightly arty film, Tehzeeb. In its own way, a descendant of the poetic intellectual classic Muslim socials.
And finally a glorious cheerful ode to inclusion, which I may have to watch straight through to cheer myself up tonight (unless Bhansali surprises me), Amar Akbar Anthony!
UPDATE: Totally forgot until I remembered in the comments, Bhansali himself has done a Muslim social in the past, Saawariya, which includes this lovely song.
I saw this (Padmaavat) film yesterday, and I found it quite disappointing to be honest. There were some things about the film that I liked such as the acting and visuals. However, I felt that it was outweighed by some of the regressive elements of the film. It was Islamophobic and homophobic.
The Islamophobia, in my opinion, is largely due to the fact that Khilji’s character is written completely one dimensional. He is depicted as a cartoonish villain with little to no nuance. The Rajputs, in comparison, are sanitized and deified.
The homophobia was the way Khilji and Malik Kafur’s relationship is portrayed. Khilji was bisexual in real life and it is also implied in the movie. The problem is that the movie tries to make it seem as if Khilji’s bisexuality is something negative and comical. For instance, in one scene, Maharawal Ratan Singh’s courtiers refer to Malik Kafur as Khilji’s “begum” (a title that is usually given to married Muslim women in Central and South Asia). The scene is played up for laughs and it just felt like it was making fun of same-sex relationships.
I also felt that the film glorified jauhar. It was basically thanking Padmavati and the Rajput women for saving the kingdom’s honor, dignity, and pride by killing themselves via a slow and torturous death.
I mean, the film is worth seeing for the acting and the beautiful aesthetics, but I was let down for the aforementioned reasons.
Yes, it sounds like exactly what I expected from the trailer. There have always been tendencies in Bhansali’s work to romanticize history and tragedy and violence, and to do it in the most unhistoric way possible. Which means he is susceptible to the worst stereotypes and lazy thinking floating around the world today, and it sounds like this was the peak of anti-Muslim, anti-Queer, and anti-Woman propaganda.
Not sure if you saw my post back when the trailer first came out, if not it is here and I go into great detail about the historical forces driving the film and so on and so forth: https://dontcallitbollywood.com/2017/10/09/padmavati-orientalism-history-and-art/
Thank you for the link, it was a very good and enjoyable read.
On Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 11:06 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Also, thank you so much for posting some of the more positive depictions of Muslims in Bollywood movie. I really needed that after watching how much Muslims were demonized in Padmaavat.
Thank you!!!!!! That is exactly why I posted them! To cheer us all up and remind us that on the whole, Indian film is kind and progressive in what it presents about other religions. Heck even Bhansali is capable of it! I forgot that Saawariya has a Muslim heroine and second hero:
I’m going to counter the conventional wisdom of the times, and if you want to ban me from your blog for it, then so be it.
I have no doubt the film is a mess. I always expected it would be, just because Bhansali isn’t capable of doing anything else, so I was never interested in seeing it. So I speak without having seen it, but I have seen some of the commentaries on it.
First, let me sound a general caution about imposing present day morals on societies and people from centuries ago. It is a pointless exercise, and actually takes away from acknowledging the progress made since then. So all these various “–phobias” that we throw around these days simply have no place in the historical setting.
Allauddin Khilji was one of the most horrible people in documented history — note the word, “documented” — and would be so no matter what his religion was. But in point of fact many of his atrocities were driven by his religious beliefs, so it is relevant to note that he was a Muslim. However much you may see Muslims as “victims” in the present day (and that is a debatable, and much debated, point now), the fact is that they were the oppressors for nearly a thousand years of Indian history, very violent and cruel oppressors. This is attested to by their own court historians, outside observers who were present at the time, and by respected (non-Indian) historians since then. You don’t need to take the Hindus’ word for it, if that bothers you. Historical fact is not “Islamophobia”, term that has yet to be adequately defined.
Homophobia — even today, there are many who belittle male homosexuals in this way. Why do you think people in the 13th century would conform to your 21st century standards of political correctness? The portrayal of homosexuality in Hindi films in general is not much different. If you want to protest that, protest all the films, not just this one.
The issue of jauhar is a very interesting one. I recently read some historical accounts of why that practice came into being. It was not only that the women didn’t want to be taken captive and become the invaders’ sex slaves, as was the practice (and this situation is still found today, as you see by the news accounts of Yezidi women captured by ISIS jumping off of cliffs and killing themselves rather than be forced into sexual slavery). If they wanted to avoid that fate, merely killing themselves would serve the purpose. No, the reason for the jauhar, i.e., completely burning up their bodies, was motivated by the fact that it was also a common practice for the Muslim soldiers to have sex with the dead bodies of their enemy’s women (something not done by Hindu soldiers in previous wars). So the Rajput women did not want their bodies to be defiled even after their death.
Now I don’t expect that Bhansali has presented any of these concepts with anything other than his usual woolly-headedness. That’s why I decided from the time of the announcement that I wouldn’t bother to see this film, especially having seen the mess he made of Bajirao Mastani. It is too bad that a director of such promise when he started out should now have become a caricature of himself.
But I do find all this hand-wringing over the film, and Margaret’s desire to “make up for” what she is going to see, quite absurd. I have seen several criticisms of the film in cinematic terms — for example, that in some scenes Ranveer’s portrayal of Khilji was so over the top that it took away from the effectiveness of portraying him as a villain, and, instead of inspiring fear, it provoked laughter. That kind of criticism is fair, and one doesn’t have to invoke any political ideologies to make it.
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Thanks for your comment which I read after having written mine. I would like if what you write will glimpse through the movie…that the characters will be believable and not caricatures because the movie is not ment to be satirique, I think.
I can’t fully respond to this comment, because I have not written my review yet nor have I seen the film. You can bring up your concerns on that post once I do, and of course anyone who has already seen the film is welcome to respond to your comment here.
I have only banned two users, one for abusive language towards myself and others on the boards, and the other for blatant extreme hate speech, to the degree of saying that no Muslim can be considered Indian, which is a level your comment does not even come close to. Free exchange of views and discussion is something I appreciate in general, and on my blog, so long as it does not turn into promoting extreme bigotry, or abusive language towards myself or other commentators.
In terms of the purpose of this particular post, even without seeing the film we know that it features a prominent violent Muslim villain. And so I feel safe in saying that it is counter-programming to provide songs in which Islam was part of the character of a non-villain.
On Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 10:16 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I know that Khilji was not a good person and I have no issue that he was the villain in this film. It’s just that I felt Bhansali could have handled this with much more nuance and sophistication, especially when you consider the current socio-political climate in India and many other countries regarding sentiments towards Muslims.
This is just something that strikes close to home for me since I am an Afghan Muslim, and my family and I have always had a love for Indian films and India in general. So when I saw this movie, it just felt like punch in the gut to me.
I second this argument about khilji. From whatever I read about him in school, he was a barbadic invader. So there is absolutely no way he could be shown in good light. I just saw the movie, and while it was underwhelming, I don’t think Jauhar was glorified and Allaudin Khilji was potrayed in such a manner, because, well he was like that, there was nothing likeable about him.
I know that Khilji was a cruel invader, and I’m not saying that the film should have portrayed him in a good light. I just think the film shouldn’t have exaggerated his savagery and turn him into a cartoon villain. For example, the animalistic way he ate his food, always looking like he was in a trance with his crazy eyes, stomping around when dancing, maniacal laughter, etc. All of that was not needed. Bhansali could have portrayed Khilji more accurately and his point would have still been made that Khilji was a bad person. He didn’t have to turn him into a Khal Drago type of savage and I felt that it veered into Islamophobia.
I get that. Bhansali is known for his exaggeration. Take Devdas for example. Every emotion is amplified and played to the gallery.
I’d have liked for this movie to have taken religion and religious motivations behind Khalji’s actions head strong, before finally arriving at some sort of conciliatory conclusion, showing how all of this is a tragedy and women of all religions are the real victims.
Rather what bhansali did is to make Khalji’s character caricaturist, avoided any specific reference to Islam, religious motivations behind Khalji’s actions, and glorify barbaric practice of Sati.
A nice idea to do this counter-program. As I won’t watch Padmaavat, I already read something about the movie and met comments similar to Parwana’s. The most beautiful costumes and decoration and even good acting performances become importless when stereotypes and partial gloryfying and demonization become the core of the movie.
Marginally related: Margaret, another reason for you to watch The Big Sick is the family is Muslim and portrayed very humanely. As in they are real human beings with human motives, strengths and frailties. More counter-programming!
I join in into the recommendation 🙂
Also Alizeh from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil! I loved the bit near the beginning where Lisa Haydon wishes her a happy eid even though it isn’t eid, it legitimately made me laugh out loud.
Yes! I love everything Lisa Haydon does in that movie, it all makes me laugh.