Swara Bhaskar recently wrote an open letter published by The Wire addressed to Sanjay Leela Bhansali about how he is glorifying Sati and Jauhar and how it reduced her to a mere ‘vagina’.
The letter seems to have gone viral with almost the entire industry and the common people commenting on it and surprisingly not taking Bhaskar’s side instead saying she is making a mountain out of a molehill.
Before I start I would like to say that I agree almost completely with Ms. Bhaskar when she talked about Jauhar, Sati, the right of life and individuality that women should possess and that India really has a victim-blaming and rape heavy mentality.
And definitely, under no circumstances, a woman should be stripped of her rights and that be glorified as art. Art is meant to impact the society, to affect us and think about either happy or taboo topics and walk on the road to change and evolution.
But at the same time, while I think her points are right, I do not agree with them in context to the film Padmaavat at all.
In fact, I do not think Bhansali is at all glorifying or promoting heinous acts like Sati and Jauhar.
Why Your Letter Is So Wrong Ms. Bhaskar?
You repeated ‘vagina’ a lot of times, how the vagina needs to be respected but not be the end all, be all to a woman’s identity. How even after rape or the death of her male companion, a woman has the right to live.
And definitely, you are fully correct in saying that, but I believe Ms. Bhaskar is forgetting what kind of society existed in the 13th century in which this movie is set in.
She said and I quote,
“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”
“There is life outside the vagina, and so there can be life after rape.”
Well, all those apply to any century, but the 13th century did not have the amenities and support systems that exist in today’s time. You are talking about ‘life after rape’, what life do you imagine these women would have had if they had survived?
You think the antagonists would have just raped them once and let them be on their merry way to live their life? As per the history I have read women who are captured in such a way are brutually and mercilessly raped, kept in conditions worse than an animal and basically lose any kind of dignity to live with. You really think that Bhansali should have shown such a reality?
Then the letter talked about how at the end of the movie Bhaskar felt like a vagina and that the years of work and progress done for the empowerment of women was washed away. Well, I think the sense is made in that very sentence itself. We have gone from a time when Jauhar was the only escape to not only accepting but knowing that rape does not mean the end and that the criminal will be punished in today’s time.
But more so I believe she is forgetting the context that Jauhar has been shown in the movie, it is not forced upon her instead but the fact that the queen did it on her own will.
Another line that seemed absurd to me was,
“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 fail to understand how Ms. Bhaskar could have written something so insensitive and foolish, like saying being a sex slave or slave in general to an enemy would be better than death.
It seems that Ms. Bhaskar is not really aware of what kind of a inhumane life such victims have to lead and would greatly encourage her to at least look at this one survivor who recounts her horrors:
Does she really think living that kind of a life would be better than dying at least with whatever little bit of dignity one has left? Or does she believe that after the rape the women can freely walk away to live their life as per their terms?
And I believe the argument that shuts her letter down completely would be the fact that this is a historical movie, based on events from that time that actually happened. Would it really make sense for the director to alter the history so it doesn’t reveal the dark areas of our society?
She talked about lynching a black person, well, by that mindset all the movies about slavery and black oppression should not show the graphic depictions of the reality that slaves used to live in because god forbid that it looks like they are glorifying the practice.
Or how about a movie on Akbar, that should also not show any kind of situation where he is doing anything that is considered wrong in today’s time.
A historical movie based on historical facts will obviously show that only, what else is to be expected? We wouldn’t want him to appropriate history either.
There should be no movies on depression and suicide either. 3 Idiots is also wrong in that case, cause according to Bhaskar it would glorify student depression and suicide too.
Swara Bhaskar Trolled Her Trolls
A lot of people commented on her open letter and not all of them were positive. Many mocked her open letter and said it was in poor light as not everything has to be given a feminism tag.
Bhaskar promptly replied back to them with quips and asking them to read the letter or how it was not all about vaginas.
However, even her replies were not really impressive, and seem like just arguing for the sake of arguing.
Not saying that either of the practices like Sati or Jauhar are good practices, they are surely regressive and have no place in the modern world.
But at the same time, I don’t think it is right to reduce their brave and self-taken decision and paste it on the board of anti-feminism thus lowering the level of their sacrifice, today.
Image Credits: Google Images