Monday, March 21, 2016

Baijrao Mastani

So this was the film I was to meant to see a few months ago.

It is an Historical epic about a warrior king of India - in Maharasthra- the middle bit of India - who fought the Muslims.  Based on a true-life character, I thought the film tried to be historically accurate in illustrating the interplay between the two groups of people.

Mastani is the daughter of a Rajput king and a Muslim woman..such allegiances were common although more common in the other direction as the 'proud' Hindu kings frequently sacrificed their sisters and daughters for momentary peace to retain their kingdom. She was brought up as a warrior princess, so this must have been before the Hindu kings in the Northeastern India got overwhelmed by the muslim invaders and resorted to 'selling off' their women. In this film an opening scene is the women of Mastani's household preparing themselves for immolation..preferring death to dishonour. Mastani is tasked with persuading Baijrao, a famed warrior Prime Minister who is en route to another battle, to divert and support/save her kingdom of Bundelkhand.  Interesting for someone like myself interested in History.. touching on the origins of child marriages, widow suicides, the mutual distrust of Hindus and Muslims and loss of women's rights.

They develop a mutual admiration for each other and when he gives her his dagger, he seems to be unaware that it is one of the many ways a man can be betrothed to a woman in that part of the world.  Mastani herself says that she decides her fate and 'takes' him as her husband ..that should be the end of it but against her mother's wishes goes to cause trouble for the man in his home..where it turns out he was happily married with at least one older son, his household seemingly run by his mother.  I surprisingly felt some sympathy for the man as basically the rest of the film shows him torn between his love for the two women (two wives)and I mused about it reasonable to seek outside one's marriage for things that your partner is unwilling or unable to provide for you? Or would it make you a cocky bastard if you are a man and a slut if you are a woman?  Really, India back in those days was very liberal-- that was about the time the erotic temple of Khajuraho  must have been being built-- so this strong intelligent woman decided/accepted being the second wife of a powerful man.

I found the film tried to deal sympathetically with all sides..the Brahmins coming out as the baddies, manipulating Mastani out of the way to preserve the 'purity' of the caste and displaying dreadful ignorance making them so unsuited for being called that!

Needless the say, the other American film couldn't compare.