In a scene towards the latter part of writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s new film, Rani Padmavati has a conversation with the mother of Badal, a loyal soldier in her royal husband’s army who gave up his life to save his king. The queen informs the madre that her son is dead. The aforesaid madre refuses to mourn her child’s passing, replying instead that a Rajput who loses his life on the battlefield is not to be deemed dead.
By then, much speechifying about Rajput valour and usool (principles) has already flowed under the bridge on screen. But wait…there is more. “Today I understand why Rajputs are said to be brave,” says Ms Padmavati. “It is because they are born of brave mothers like you.”
Oh Mummy! I almost choked on exasperated laughter in that moment as I sat watching in IMAX 3D in a darkened hall in Delhi, because like so much else in the film, the goings-on in this passage too contradict what its self-worshipping Rajput characters are saying. Far from being an example of that much-touted Rajput bravery, Badal’s end was the result of a foolish and egoistic Rajput king’s foolhardy moves going against the common-sense advice of his far more intelligent wife Padmavati — the king’s stupidity leads to his imprisonment by an enemy ruler, at which point Padmavati displays further intelligence and political acumen in entering the lion’s den and snatching her husband from the jaws of death with the help of those like Badal.