‘Bajirao Mastani’ – 5 Years On.

‘Bajirao Mastani’ – 5 Years On.

[SPOILER ALERT: Please do NOT read this if you haven’t watched the film yet/wish to watch it! This article is an in-depth analysis of the entire film.]

I remember watching SLB’s ‘Bajirao Mastani’ for the first time on a plane to Dubai, and the cinematography captivated me at first sight. So much so, in fact, that I ended up watching it twice again on the flight home six days later! It’s been five years since the launch of one of Bhansali’s greatest and most critically acclaimed films and I still sob every time I finish the film, so I’m going to explain exactly why it resonates so deeply within me and how it has impacted me to this day.

Bhansali not only directed and produced the film but he was also responsible for the musical direction and choreography. For those of you who haven’t watched a Bollywood film before, they’re almost always musicals with three to five-minute dance sequences at pivotal moments during the film. The choreography within the film, emotional and intensely expressive, is some of the best I’ve ever witnessed, complimented by the incredible set design and intricately crafted costumes which are now widely recognized and associated with the film by viewers worldwide.

‘Bajirao Mastani’ details the historical love story between the Hindu Peshwa (Prime Minister and general of the Maratha Empire) Bajirao Ballad and the half-Hindu, half-Muslim soldier Mastani Begum, daughter of Maharaja Chhatrasal in Bundelkhand. Bajirao helped save Mastani’s homeland from annihilation and ended up falling in love with her in the process. Unbeknownst to her, Bajirao is already married to Kashibai, his first (and until Mastani’s arrival, only) wife. The story follows Mastani’s relentless, vicious struggles against marrying into a Hindu political regime whilst being only half-Muslim. She fights constant battles against her mother and brother-in-law, Kashibai, priests and many others who refuse to accept a Muslim woman into the Peshwa clan.

There is one particular element of this film that strikes me as controversial, first and foremost. This is not the first Bollywood film to cast a Muslim character in a negative light – essentially, the film depicts a Muslim being the fundamental root of the downfall of a political empire in Pune, as well as essentially being the cause of the Peshwa’s death. Padmavati, another hugely controversial film by Bhansali which drew intense simultaneous criticism and praise worldwide similarly portrays the exact same message. As much as I do love this film, that element of a Muslim being an antagonist never quite sits well with me. However, to counter this, Mastani herself is portrayed in the most desirable light – she radiates intelligence and unmatched beauty, strength in her valour as a soldier whilst maintaining an air of innocence and untouched purity. Her beauty intimidates those wishing to oppress her, her wit threatening to undermine those who seek to destroy her.

The reason I fell in love with this film is because of the poetic nature of its dialogue, which makes perfect sense considering the film is based on a fictionalised love story between the two historical figures. What still strikes me as incredibly profound to this day is how Bhansali paints the unconditional love story between Bajirao and Mastani. Despite being branded a mistress by his conservative family, his love for Mastani never once withered; if anything, it only strengthened. He fell in love with her knowing her religious background and took the risk anyway, following his heart instead of his pride. He devoted his short life to protecting her dignity and happiness, as well as ensuring their son would be raised as an equal to his other child.

The most gut-wrenching part of the film for me was the ending. The film ends with both Bajirao and Mastani dying in the separate locations at the exact same moment in time – this is foreboded from the second the natural landscaping changes to unprecedented storms and monsoon-like weather conditions. Earlier on the film, as Bajirao bids farewell to Mastani before departing for war, he speaks poetically of the day their two souls will reunite amidst the chaos of a chaotic intertwinement of natural elements. As this comes to fruition towards the end of the film in both characters’ locations, they seem to acknowledge the poetic speech Bajirao delivered and they become simultaneously aware they will be reunited almost imminently. The characters shortly after die peacefully with grace, without struggle or pain. They effectively greet death with open arms.

The dialogue between Bajirao and Mastani is predominately poetic and dense with metaphors of their undying affection for each other. Their love clearly transcends anything we could possibly know on this Earth. The film ends with a beautiful poetic analogy which made such perfect sense and was a heartbreaking but stunning way to close their story. The film itself casts itself in the shadow of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in that two lovers who are forbidden from being with each other fight against all odds to remain alongside one another. Yet, the cultural references distinguish a point towards the fictional tale and distinctly underline its powerful message – that love defies mortal constraints, and that when soulmates come together they become intertwined as one being.

The film is one of the greatest sources of inspiration for my writing today. The love the two protagonists had for each other is something I imagine not many will experience in this lifetime but it is beautifully poetic and artistic in its depiction. The poetic nature of the film doesn’t stop at the dialogue, however. Towards the end of the film, a song is played during a sequence called ‘Aayat’, which translates as ‘holy verse from the Qur’an’. There are a few quotes and lines within the song that are also spoken in the dialogue between the two lovers earlier in the film, adding to the remarkable nature of Bhansali’s clever cinematography. The song is recited in Urdu which leads me to believe that it’s a poignant tribute to Mastani, particularly Mastani’s devotion to her husband right up until their dying breaths.

This film is definitely one of Bhansali’s greatest achievements, I believe. It’s only when you watch the film a few times that you really appreciate the subliminal messaging which ultimately makes this depiction a true work of art. Below are a few stills and quotes from key powerful moments within the film!

Dagger
Mastani accepts Bajirao’s dagger as a gesture of their love after he saves her homeland [Source: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/700239442045491845/?nic_v1=1akYkud%2BPeRz4nd968lvFt2vQQmIdn3bVsGNU0uDZjjuE30E5AkGcw4Nz90z0emR4f%5D 

Kashi
Kashi proudly celebrates her husband’s arrival from battle towards the beginning of the film [Source: http://bollybrit.com/fashion-features/bajirao-mastani-fashion-anju-modi-raises-the-bar%5D 
Bajirao-Mastani-–-Deewani-Mastani-featured-1366x768
One of the infamous dance sequences led by the character of Mastani Begum [Source: https://www.vogue.in/wedding-wardrobe/collection/deepika-padukone-bajirao-mastani-anarkali-lehenga-sharara-deewani-mastani-song-bridal-look-nikaah/%5D 
B M and K
Bajirao and Mastani being welcomed into their new home by Kashibai [Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3735246/mediaviewer/rm4234756608%5D 
Bajirao and Mastani End Scene

Bajirao bids farewell to Mastani before departing for war for the last time. [Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3735246/mediaviewer/rm4202094848%5D

Bajirao on reuniting with Mastani,

“We shall meet when the setting sun
and rising moon appear together in the sky.
The sky will change colour,
and all will be bathed in an orange glow.
Winds of desire will blow
And thundering clouds will fill the skies.
Dry leaves will murmur
and untimely rains will wash the earth.
All that will remain will be
the fire of love in our hearts.
On that day
we will become one
for eternity.”

Narrated in the final scene of the film,

“On a day when fate and time stood witness
two star crossed lovers breathed their last.
They say witnessing a falling star
fulfils any wish,
but these two stars fell to earth
wishing only to belong to each other.”

Quote from the song, ‘Aayat’,

“I’ve memorized you like a holy verse from the Quran … now you will be mentioned like a prayer.”

Bajirao and Mastani’s final words to each other,

“Our hearts beat together … and they stop together as well.”

A x 

[Featured Image: https://www.bebeautiful.in/fashion/how-tos/bridal-look-inspiration-from-bajirao-mastani%5D

De Su – ‘His’

I see poetry in your eyes when the sun traces her fingertips over your face.
I envy her ability to caress so much of your skin at once when you turn your face towards her.
Almost imperceivable lines of hardship vanish, leaving you awash with the innocence of a boy who suffers in the grasp of Aphrodite.

You thought me foolish for falling in love with your eyes first.
But how do I resist being drawn into hazel-hued oceans so irresistibly deep, that I make peace with your waters choking my lungs if it means keeping a piece of you within me for eternity?

‘Afflicted’ – A Netflix Original Series

‘Afflicted’ – A Netflix Original Series

I did all of this work just to get sick and not be able to live my dreams

A new Netflix series aired recently surrounding the stories of people suffering from chronic illnesses, undiagnosed or “unspecified” by medical professionals. Symptoms were extreme, leaving most of the participants of this docuseries unable to perform any of their daily activities.

Each person differentiates themselves from another through their symptoms, and the symptoms present themselves as different illnesses entirely – from the offset. The words “psychosomatic” and “Lyme Disease” are thrown around often through the episodes, suggesting a potential link between the participants, their symptoms, and the disease. I’ll leave the opinions of other participants to the general public, however. There’s one person in particular that I want to focus on.

We’re introduced to Jake in the third episode of the docuseries; an aspiring musician whose career was suddenly cut short due to the onset of symptoms linked to Lyme Disease. The beginning of the episode features Jake’s struggle in articulating his current symptoms to the camera, and as the episode progresses, the viewer is lead to understand the events which took place in his life but most importantly, how his life has been dramatically impacted because of his illness.

22 minutes into the episode, I had to stop watching. Any documentaries featuring people struggling with chronic illnesses hit a nerve, so to speak. The intention of this post, however, is most definitely not to associate my condition on any kind of level with those in the series. This post was to highlight the unimaginable trauma of those who may look physically well but are struggling with an uncontrollable and unpredictable illness, of which there is no cure yet and treatment which consists entirely of trial and error. Watching a relatively young man’s life turned upside down due to something both entirely out of his control and entirely unanticipated is definitely heart-wrenching. To see the ambitious light in his character gradually diminish – it puts everything into perspective.

Learning about stories such as that of Jake’s really makes me realise how lucky we are, how lucky I am. I can call myself a survivor, but am I really battling a condition of no known cure? No. Has my life been stripped from my hands overnight? No. I agree with one thing, in particular, the docuseries mentioned; those who are sick have a tendency to associate their identity with their illness. They’re not just a person anymore – they’re a sick person. I, too, have fallen victim to enshrouding myself in self-pity when, in retrospect, my health is improving, I am most certainly not bed-bound, and I do not rely on medication to essentially live. Those who have suffered from chronic illnesses, and/or chronic pain can definitely identify with the overwhelming trauma it leaves one with, even once they’ve overcome the worst of it. And perhaps this motto isn’t the healthiest to live by, but the documentary showed me how people undeniably have it much worse than people such as myself. Granted my health isn’t the best it could be at the moment, I’ve learned that relatively stable health is often taken at face value.

I intend to bring myself to complete the rest of Jake’s story. And he’s taught me just how lucky I truly am, to be able to live my life to its fullest potential – he’s given me perspective. I sincerely hope from the deepest of my heart that his story has a happy outcome.

The transience of life is all too often overlooked and underestimated. We have an overwhelming ability as a society to conceal ourselves behind issues which are ephemeral in comparison to others.

The series, in general, verges on the side of sensationalism as opposed to information and fact, but the stories of the participants raise some interesting questions in relation to chronic illnesses, pain and an array of unspecified symptoms.

A x

Featured image: Afflicted, Netflix Original Series (2018)

What Do You Believe In?

My friend and I were having a debate late one night about Islam in the 21st century and what I’ve come to believe in. He asked me the above question and below is the answer I gave him:

“That God gave us life. He gave us a chance to live on the planet He created. His words and teachings were manifested into a holy book. We ought to follow this book and its teachings as best we can and to whatever extent we see fit. We also ought to live our lives as pure and peacefully as possible – to love one another relentlessly, to protect our loved ones and to live in harmony with others. To maintain a pure heart, and, in doing so, we can maintain a pure soul. I believe there is a plan for each and every one of us. We don’t know what this plan is, only God knows, but whatever happens in life happens because it was destined to. There’s no such thing as fate versus free will.It’s either one or the other, not both. I believe that God also weakens us in order to make us stronger. He tests both our perseverance and our loyalty to Him. He challenges humanity and brings us down to our knees in times of despair so we can appreciate what He’s given us so far. I believe in Him. But I also believe in the part of Him that lives inside me and gives me the strength to survive every day. I believe that when I die, I’ll be content knowing I’ve loved and love in equal measure. And I make mistakes, but I am a good person with a good, pure heart. I believe in the faith I have in Him, and Him alone.” 

A Special Note to a Loved One

It’s my (not so little) cousin’s 14th birthday today!

He’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to a sibling and I’m beyond proud of how far he’s come in life. We’ve had so many obstacles thrown our way over the past few years and he’s overcoming every single one like the miracle he is.

I never knew it was possible to love someone as much as I love him. From helping change his nappies when he was a baby, to teaching him how to read and write, I’m always going to be grateful to God for giving me such a precious gift. There are times in life when God challenges us, but He only does so in order for us to realise and embrace our true potential.

Everything I do, I do for you, pal. One day you’ll see that.  Alhamdulillah, thank you for blessing my life.

“…And If you would count the blessings of Allah you would not be able to count them…” [Surah Ibrahim 14:34]

Anisah x

‘Decadence’ by Tyler Shields

‘Decadence’ by Tyler Shields

HOLY GUACAMOLE.

I finally got round to visiting the much-anticipated exhibition ‘Decadence’, showcasing Shields’ work in the Maddox Gallery, Mayfair. Having read a few reviews prior to seeing the exhibition for myself, I was interested to find mixed opinions on his latest series. I later realised that these opinions are based entirely on one’s perspective of the subject matter and the form in which it’s portrayed.

‘Decadence’ is Shields’ manifestation of society and, more specifically, women in the court of Marie Antoinette.¹ He creates two incredibly juxtaposing, authentic images of women during this period; the provocateur and the oppressed. The director of the exhibition, James, kindly informed us of the contextual background to each and every photo on display in the Maddox Gallery. Each one has its own story and like he said, the longer you look at the photographs, the more you see.

I cannot commend and thank Tyler enough for allowing us to view his latest work in London, and for making it so accessible to us. There’s nothing quite like standing in a room full of art created by an artist you idolise. I’d also like to thank James for his welcoming hospitality and sharing with us everything both he and Tyler got up to in preparation for the opening of ‘Decadence.’

Here are a few of the pictures I was kindly encouraged to take. I would highly recommend visiting it if you’re in or around London!

A x

¹http://www.tylershields.com/2015/11/24/decadence-by-tyler-shields-staring-jaime-king-holland-roden-and-more/