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A fun guide to watching 'Padmaavat'

In an era of fake news and views, facts are figments of the imagination. As the release of Padmaavat draws near, let’s imagine some facts.

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Updated: Jan 21, 2018, 10.48 AM IST
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Bhansali’s films are known for their garish sets and loud music. Don’t forget to carry your aviators and ear plugs to the theatre. Keep a copy of Lonely Planet Rajasthan handy.
By Palash Krishna Mehrotra

In an era of fake news and views, facts are figments of the imagination. As the release of Padmaavat draws near, let’s imagine some facts.

First the baseless basics: The film is based on Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s eponymous long poem written in 1540. Padmini is widely taken to refer not to a particular person but the female Platonic ideal type in Hindu erotology. Jayasi claimed that he had made up the story but ever since post-structuralist theory pronounced the author dead, Jayasi’s intentions have been rendered meaningless. This is also the Karni Sena’s line of reasoning.

What follows are the bare bones of the story though the skeletal remains of the historical figures haven’t been exhumed yet. Fire, remember, reduces everything to ash. A historical guide to watching the film is well nigh impossible under the circumstances, albeit a fun guide is possible.

One: Parrots and birds in general play a stellar role in the film. Padmavati’s best friend is her parrot Hiraman. He is the one who flies to Raja Ratnasen of Chittor and informs him of the existence of the most beautiful girl in pre-colonial, pre-Independence India. The king eventually marries Padma but, in the meanwhile, his first wife sends a message (“WTF. I miss you, Ratan”) via another friendly bird.

Watch the film to find out if this second bird was also a parrot. Do carry Salim Ali’s The Book of Indian Birds to identify the correct species. The illustrations are outdated but accurate to the period.

Two: Jayasi lived in a hamlet near Amethi. It is rumoured that both the Congress and the BJP leaders are scouting for the exact location so they can build a neon memorial to him.

It is claimed that Jayasi could transform into a tiger (and back) at will during his sunset years. This is one reason why figures released by Project Tiger and Save the Tiger fluctuated so wildly.

Three: It is highly advised that you wear a Karni Sena tee shirt underneath whatever it is that you are wearing. This way you have an alibi in case the theatre is attacked: “I was only checking if Bhansali had been faithful to fact.”

Four: Ratnasen’s loyal warriors Gora and Badal disguised themselves as Padmavati and an attendant to enter Khalji’s fortress. This has led to copycat crimes across the country. Hundreds of men disguised as women have been discovered travelling in ladies’ compartments, especially on the Delhi Metro.

Five: It is said that Alauddin Khalji was not a ladies’ man at all. Clearly, the Karni Sena has little to worry.

Six: Padmavati was a Singhal princess! From Sri Lanka? This has led to Indian cricket fans complaining: “What? We are playing Sri Lanka? Again?”

Seven: From the trailer we learn that queens do stitch, though not in Dhaka sweatshops. They put a symbolic stitch in their lover’s turban. It’s like upper middle class men and women in India who never cook but when they do they cook something elevated: the man usually mutton and the woman cake.

Eight: Don’t imitate the stunts at home; they have been performed by professionals, especially the imitation jewellery. Liberal intellectuals have interpreted the “bridge string” that extends from finger to wrist and earlobe to nose as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim amity.

Nine: Padma is wooed by three men: Ratnasen, Khalji and a dude called Raghav. Deepika Padukone’s co-star from xXx: Return of Xander Cage apparently stormed into the sets one day screaming: “Back off! Deeps is mine!”

Ten: Watch out for the famous dream sequence in the film featuring Donald Trump. Apparently Trump told Bhansali: “These sets are great. But Trump Tower is better.”

Bhansali’s films are known for their garish sets and loud music. Don’t forget to carry your aviators and ear plugs to the theatre. Keep a copy of Lonely Planet Rajasthan handy.

PS: The background score in the trailer sounds eerily inspired by the theme in the Old Spice ads from the 1980s: Karl Orf ’s Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi, also used in that other sword flick Excalibur (1982).

The writer is the editor of House Spirit: Drinking in India
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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