Padmaavat (originally Padmavati), is a Bollywood movie that is based on the 16th-century Indian poem that follows Rani Padmavati/Padmini, a Hindu queen, and Allaudin Khalji, the Sultan of Delhi.
The film made international news following the controversy surrounding a perceived love-arc between the characters, with people being outraged that the film’s interpretation and fictionalization of the story would dishonor Rani Padmavati’s memory. The film’s debut was delayed, and an Indian politician even offered a $1.5 million dollar reward for the head Deepika Padukone (the actress playing Rani Padmavati).
This news captivated my family and me, and we decided one thing: this movie was going to be special and that we had to see it.
Now that I have seen the movie, I will reiterate one thing that the producers also did prior to its release. Padmaavat does not include a love story between Rani Padmavati and Allaudin Khalji (spelled Khilji in the movie).
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’m disappointed to say that the movie didn’t live up to my expectations story-wise. Deepika Padukone and Shahid Kapoor did a particularly good job of portraying a madly-in-love royal couple, and the imagery and overall spectacle were stunning. But the film still failed to captivate me the same way it did before.
Before the film even started, there was a disclaimer claiming that the movie did not encourage the practice of Sati. It caught my eye, and I confusedly turned to my sister and asked what Sati even was. She told me it was an ancient practice of women throwing themselves into their husbands’ funeral infernos. She said it was made illegal in India, but it still happens sometimes.
So I already knew how this movie was going to end, and it did indeed end that way — I’ll leave out a few crucial details for spoiler purposes. But what confused me was that the beginning scenes of the movie established that Padmavati was a good hunter and a woman who refused to conform to her place in society.
It disappointed me that with all the strength Padmavati was shown to have throughout the movie, she accepted her place in the end and did nothing to stop the injustices happening around her, even though she had the skill to.
The plot was also based on the preface that Padmavati was ravishingly beautiful, which is also an aspect of the poem, and I for one can vouch for how stunning Padukone was throughout the movie. After her marriage to Ratan Singh, Padmavati is asked by the priest if she values beauty or skill more. She replies skill, based on her affinity for hunting. However, it seems as if after that, the movie itself forgets that Padmavati has value beyond her looks. All plot points and major decisions of hers are based on the desire to protect her beauty and nothing more.
And that is the true tragedy of Padmaavat — not the controversy, not the tragic ending, but how superficially the movie treats what is supposed to be a powerful queen.
I was brought in with the promise of something different and almost progressive, but I was given the same watered-down premise too many Bollywood movies try to pull these days. The plot may not have been the best, but if for anything else, I would recommend watching the movie for its stunning visual spectacle.