Swara Bhaskar, Padmaavat poster
Swara Bhaskar, Padmaavat posterIANS/Twitter

At a time when Padmaavat is being applauded by most of its viewers, actress Swara Bhaskar took a dig at director Sanjay Leela Bhansali in an open letter saying that she " felt reduced to a vagina only" after watching the magnum opus.

This, for obvious reasons, has raised a lot of eyebrows, and mixed reactions came up on social media. Swara, in the long letter, stressed that "a woman has the right to live despite being raped", and took jibes at Bhansali alleging that he glorified 'Jauhar' and 'sati' in Padmaavat.

The critically acclaimed actress slammed Bhansali for showing Deepika Padukone's character choosing 'Jauhar' to escape the torture from Alauddin Khilji's character played by Ranveer Singh.

"You may be wondering why the hell I am going on and on thus about vaginas. Because Sir, that's what I felt like at the end of your magnum opus. I felt like a vagina. I felt reduced to a vagina–only. I felt like all the 'minor' achievements that women and women's movements have made over the years– like the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to education, equal pay for equal work, maternity leave, the Vishakha judgement, the right to adopt children...... all of it was pointless; because we were back to basics," Swara said in the letter.

"Surely Sir, you agree that Sati, and Jauhar are not practices to be glorified. Surely, you agree that notwithstanding whatever archaic idea of honour, sacrifice, purity propels women and men to participate in and condone such practices; that basically Sati and Jauhar, like the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Honour Killings, are steeped in deeply patriarchal, misogynist and problematic ideas. A mentality that believes that the worth of women lies in their vaginas, that female lives are worthless if the women are no longer controlled by male owners or if their bodies have been 'desecrated' by the touch of ; or even the gaze of a male who doesn't by social sanction 'own' or 'control' the female," Swara added.

"You will say that you put out a disclaimer at the beginning of the film claiming that the film did not support Sati orJauhar. Sure Sir, but you followed that up with a two-hour-45-minute-long paean on Rajput honou...There were more than three instances of the 'good' characters of your story speaking of Sati/Jauhar as the honourable choice, your female protagonist – epitome of both beauty, brains and virtue sought permission from her husband to commit Jauhar, because she could not even die without his permission; soon after she delivered a long speech about the war between Satya and Asatya, Dharm and Adharm and presented collective Sati to be the path of Truth and Dharm."

"Then in the climax, breathtakingly shot of course – Sir, if this is not glorification and support of Sati andJauhar, I really do not know what is. I felt very uncomfortable watching your climax, watching that pregnant woman and little girl walk into the fire. I felt my existence was illegitimate because God forbid anything untoward happened to me, I would do everything in my power to sneak out of that fiery pit– even if that meant being enslaved to a monster like Khilji forever. I felt in that moment that it was wrong of me to choose life over death. It was wrong to have the desire to live. This Sir, is the power of cinema," she concluded.

This letter instantly grabbed huge attention, and a lot has been talked about Swara's comments on Bhansali and Padmaavat. While some praised the Veere Di Wedding actress' "brave" statements, many others questioned Swara's logic and criticised her.

Many invited Swara's attention to the fact that Padmaavat is a film set in the medieval era, and hence it should be taken in that context. Some even ridiculed her, asking why she did not have any problem when the lead male character in Raanjhanaa was shown stalking a girl.

Check some of the responses that came on Swara's open letter to Bhansali.