The troubles for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati seem never-ending. From the behemoth budgeting to the complex casting procedure, the project seems troubled from the word go.
But this is not the main reason why Padmavati is negotiating choppy waters. The budget and casting can be fixed by a filmmaker of Bhansali’s stature.(For one he can cut down on his own 22-crore fee by half).
No.The really big problem lies elsewhere. It’s the basic plot of an Islamic invader Allauddin Khilji lusting after the King of Chittor Rawal Rattan Singh’s beauteous wife.
Are we as a nation going to sit back and watch our Queen being lustfully inveigled by a foreigner?
The sheer political incorrectness of the premise would daunt every other filmmaker except Bhansali.
If the truth be told—and the legend of Padmavati has no real historical foundation– Padmavati is the Ramayan from Raavan’s point of view. It’s the story of the arrogant culturally savvy and politically tyrannical invader who sets his eyes on the virtuous and beautiful Queen of the invaded kingdom.
Seen within the mythological context Ranveer Singh will play Raavan, Shahid Kapoor will play Ram and Deepika Padukone the archetypal Sita. But the focus in the plot would be on the conflict between the foreign invader and the righteous stunningly beautiful queen who won’t succumb to the invader’s lustful gaze.
Padmavati is not the first film to be seen from Raavan’s point of view. 6 years ago Mani Ratnam tried the same in Raavan with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan playing the abducted Sita and her real-life husband as Raavan. The film was a colossal disaster. Padmavatitoo subverts a real-life couple Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s Ram-Sita relationship into an antagonistic Raavan-driven equation on screen.
Prior to that Ram Gopal Varma’s Jungle also made a pitch to understand the mind of Raavan.
But Padmavati is a difficult beast to tame. Here , not only would there be a moral conflict between the noble Indian Queen and the savage foreign invader there are also references to the banned practice of Sati, at least in the opera version of Padmavati that Bhansali directed in Paris in 2008 wherein the Queen prefers to perish in her slain husband’s pyre rather than succumb to Allaudin’s Khilji’s sexual advances.
For a nation on the boil that is passionately devoted to addressing itself to issues of women’s empowerment and questioning and demolishing patriarchal values through progressive cinema like Pink is Padmavati’s pyre-driven passion going to go down well with the audience?
The movie making maestro that he is, one is sure Sanjay Leela Bhansali has all the answers.