Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Padmavati. Creating a newer myth or distorting history ?

Setting apart politics, the controversy surrounding the release of Padmavati opens up conflicting views. Does a creative expression violate the collective imagination of the society or is artistic freedom beyond the realms of social sensitivity. This article tries to ponder over this issue and tries to give a balanced view on how such issues need to be dealt with both politically and socially

History and Myth are two intermingling elements which come into our thoughts if we cherish into the life and times of individuals from yesteryears.  History as a scientific discipline and looks into proven documentary evidence like manuscripts, numismatic and ethnographic sources. Myth, on the other hand, has evolved from the successive and collective narration of generations with their imagination, fantasies, and aspirations woven together. The complexity in Historiography is in removing the chaff from the grain and finding out where the truth lies. The case of Padmavati is such an instant where historical narratives clash with the popular consciousness.

As far as the story of  Padmavati goes the primary source is the book by Malik Muhamad Jayasi written in the sixteenth century named as  ‘’ Padmavat” . Jayasi was a sufi poet who wrote his magnum opus in Awadhi , centered around a  character called Padmavati the beautiful princess of Chittorgarh.  The story mentions about the Delhi Sultan Alludeen Khilji's, siege of  Chittorgarh fort  for his desire on the princess, leading to her and her consort’s mass suicide -Jauhar

Classical historians argue that Padmavati was an imaginative character,  for the reason that,  Amir Khusroo the court chronicler of Khilji does not even mention of this episode. They label Padmavati as a characterization of Sufi symbolism on female chastity and pride,  a theme which got into the collective consciousness of   Rajputs of Rajasthan.  However, the authenticity of Padmavati as per the locals are from the oral narratives of the region with no documentary proofs. If not Padmavati the practice of mass suicides among the warrior class women of Rajasthan on the face of defeat have  been documented and in that context, it needs to be assumed that these hardened beliefs have strong emotional overtones beyond the realm of any historical evidence.

It is in this context that we need to comment and opine on what constitutes the boundary of creative expression. For a society which values their believes and myths, creative expression may sound objectionable. It may be recalled that the book Da Vinci Code written by Dan Brown caricatured the companionship of Jesus with Mary , provoking the roman catholic church to call it heretic.  Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie attracted a fatwa on his head as it portrayed Prophet Mohammad in a different light. In Kerala the celebrated author MT Vasudevan Nair had written a Novel Randaamoozam  a retake on Mahabharata,  highlighting the lascivious nature of mother Kundi which gave her five sons from five different men. In a blockbuster Malayalam movie ‘’ Oru Vadakan Veera Gadha’’  (A movie which portrays a ballad of heroic deeds of north Kerala’s  martial artists ) MT Vasudevan Nair swaps the popular villain ‘’Chandu’’ into a hero which indeed created murmurs in Malabar, but not the kind of uproar as seen today. A version of Ramayana which portrayed  Sita as the daughter of Ravana was found offensive  by some people.  In all these cases creativity conflicted with the collective consciousness of the society. The question is where the limit is.

Whether Padmavati lived or not as long as she remains iconic in a group mindset,  then those sentiments need to be taken care in a creative expression, is one line of thought. However that does not justify the hooliganism being witnessed, which is more of an off take due to economic reasons. Unemployment is creeping the grass root rural youth and such sentiments with political overturn give dividends.

At the same time, It is imagination and creativity that has created myths. Making creativity mundane with restriction and fear can only restrict the making of a newer myth. As Pablo Picasso had said ‘’ the chief enemy of creativity is good sense’’ and should we show the good sense to our artists?

It is for you to decide………..

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