Growing up, I was often told I had nothing and no one to fear because I am Rajput, because I’m a warrior by blood. I loved hearing the stories of my people, with their unparalleled courage and strength that both founded and destroyed the empire centuries ago. I was born in London and raised in the States, but these stories made me feel like my heart was still there in Rajasthan.
My dad told me the story of Padmavati, a legendary Rajput queen, when I was about 7 years old. He emphasized that she was cunning and brave, as well as unbelievably beautiful.
I eagerly awaited the end, expecting something similar to a stereotypical Bollywood movie, and when it wasn’t, I was confused and disappointed.
My dad also explained the pride of a Rajput is fragile, and it is important for me to understand that, because along with strength, this was also in my blood.
As an Indian-American, I feel incredibly blessed to have been brought up with seemingly unbreakable ties to a very rich heritage.
However, as an Indian-American, I am not surprised by the recent protests over the upcoming Bollywood film Padmavati, the story of a Rajput queen, from the members of the Sri Rajput Karni Sena.
Karni Sena is a Rajput organization founded in 2006 and based in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The organization claims to oppose caste discrimination and favor national unity.
The outburst over the film began in 2016.
Members are angry about one of the films songs, Ghoomar, in which Deepika Padukone, who stars in the film as Padmavati, performs a Rajasthani dance form under the teaching of Jyothi D Tommaar, a well-renowned expert in the dance.
Despite the accuracy of the dance form, SRKS claim Padukone portrays the Rajput queen as a “painted doll,” along with her attire being “indecent.”
The main issue lies in the character Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, played by Ranveer Singh. Lokendra Singh Kalvi, founder of SRKS, argued that no book states the Muslim leader fell in love with Padmavati. For this reason, members claim the film is anti-Hindu and a direct insult to Rajput history.
The situation turned violent fairly quickly. Bhansali was physically assaulted by members of SRKS, sets and theaters were vandalized and Deepika Padukone has a 10 crore reward over her head for anyone who burns her alive.
On November 19, in Koti, India, a group of women from the SRKS protested the film’s release, demanding it to be banned, while holding swords, symbolic for Rajputs.
It made me wonder, if I was raised and lived in India, is there a chance one of those women would be me?
The answer is no.
Being Rajput has guided me through my darkest times, and I will always be proud to be one. However, the outrage over a movie with a Muslim man, who died in 1316, falling for Hindu woman does not violate or dishonor our history.
India is a secular country, or so it is supposed to be. This controversy is an extreme, invalid response to an issue that ties back to British exploitation.
To those women in Koti, keep fighting. But instead of a movie, fight against female foeticide, which has led Rajasthan to have 883 girls up to the age of 6, for every 1000 boys. An issue that could have very well prevented either of us from being here today.
Fight against illiteracy; the illiteracy rate in Rajasthan is 52.12% for females and 79.19 for males. Fight child marriage! Rajasthan and Bihar have the highest rates of child marriage.
It turns out my dad was right from the start: Rajput pride is fragile. That has remained a constant throughout our history and during this current controversy.
I believe a major flaw lies in the belief of never being fearful. To not fear anyone or anything does not mean someone is Rajput, it means someone might be a sociopath. This mindset has been our downfall in the past and is shedding an ugly light on a beautiful culture today. It is crucial for anyone, especially Rajputs, to choose their battles wisely; take it from one who’s learned it the hard way. A high-budget Bollywood film should not be one of them.