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Women in Period Pieces

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Rajputi Kangan Mein Utni Hi Taqat Hai Jitni Rajputi Talwar Mein.

This translates verbatim to “A Rajputi bracelet has as much power and strength as a Rajputi sword”

This goes to show just how much power and courage is hidden behind the deep, sensual beauty of womanhood. A ‘kangan’ or the power of a valorous woman holds equal, if not more strength than a ‘talwar’ or the power of a man ready for battle, a man ready to destroy his enemies and return victorious.

The most incredibly vivacious women were those chained by society's expectations of them but freed by their powerful minds and beautiful souls.

Nothing represents these women better than their depiction in period pieces that have entranced all of us.

Movies like Kalank tell us about a woman’s supposed duty to her family that forces her to sacrifice her one true love. The movie set during the partition, starts with Roop(Alia Bhatt) in a beautiful grey and pink lehenga and the most elegant oxidized jhumkas and mangtikka. She then goes on to sport the most extravagant joda (wedding attire) with a beautiful jewelry set encompassing a nath, headpiece, and heavy jhumkas. Alia Bhatt was nothing short of spectacular in this movie with her warm pastel kurtis, shararas, and simple jewelry. Roop marries Dev because of the advantage to her family but she clearly doesn’t love him. As her story progresses she expresses herself through her dance and travel where she can be herself and not be someone tied down by the duties of marriage.

Through these exertions, she meets Zafar, her one true love. But how could a Hindu be with a Muslim during such nationalist turmoil? With the support of her husband, of course! Dev is the picture of support as he helps Roop and Zafar escape the war-stricken region, but unfortunately, Zafar doesn’t survive and is murdered. Roop, a beautiful young woman had only just found her love and lost him far sooner than she had known him. Roop was fine just getting by, spending her life in a loveless marriage but she found love and it was snatched from her too soon, just like it was from countless women. She represents what women couldn’t have and what they had to give up as the picture of purity - Love.

A strong, headfast young woman was broken by society’s expectations and couldn’t have the one thing everyone deserves.

Padmaavat, a story of a fierce, smart, and skilled young woman who captures the attention of a Rajput King, who eventually makes her his queen. Except this king already has a queen and he marries another woman only to have the first one smiling through her tears. Padmavati’s knowledge is put to the test in which she emerges victorious and the tales of her beauty transcend the illusion of time. Padmaavat shows us the courage, trust, and support women have for each other.

This movie shows us how Mehrunissa gave up her life and threw herself at the mercy of a madman, all to help Padmavati, another woman who had nothing to offer in return. But, in spite of this, Mehrunissa risked her life and showed great strength and courage to a man who ruined several lives. Nagmati, the first wife, was understandably jealous of Padmavati, but when the time came, she supported Padmavati, to save themselves from Khilji’s army by performing sati. The true courage it takes to not only perform the ritual in this context but to lead it is truly admirable and a tribute to the beauty of womanhood.

Many more movies like Bajirao Mastani, Jodha Akbar, Mahikarnika, Raazi and Gangubai Kathiawadi encompass what it means to be a woman and the power of a woman who is grossly underestimated by society.

It shows us that women can achieve anything by sheer will and that a ‘kangan’ will always be stronger than a ‘talwar’.

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