‘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

Eid Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak!

To all my Muslim friends and family around the world, Eid Mubarak! (A day late, I apologise, as I spent the entire day with family)

This year, Eid was particularly special for me; for one, my entire family spent it together for the first time in years, due to different mosques in different boroughs choosing to celebrate Eid a day after it’s announced by Saudi. I am still yet to understand why. Thus, this year, it was fantastic to spend the entire day with loved ones and not spread it over two days.

Secondly, this year more so than previously, I am reminded of how special family is, and how fortunate I am to be able to spend this year celebrating with them. I am constantly in awe of how exceptionally wonderful my parents are –  I truly feel so blessed to be surrounded by such love. I’m happiest when I’m with them. The events of Baghdad hang heavy in the air for many Muslims celebrating Eid around the world, and I can’t help but feel slightly guilty for enjoying it as much as I did today, knowing there are families around the world who’ve lost so much, so many at the hands of terror. Today allowed me to appreciate that life is unpredictable, and we ought to cherish our time on this earth with the people we love, who help us strive to be better versions of ourselves.

The war on Islam is ongoing, with ISIS claiming more Muslim lives than any other. During this holy month of Ramadan, we witnessed a terror attack on such a great scale, no comparison can be made with relation to lives lost. It’s believed to be one of the deadliest attacks on Iraq. What more can be said to emphasise the severity of this situation? One of the five pillars of Islam is Zakat – charity. I urge as many of you as possible to donate to charities which help cities like Baghdad recover, or at least begin the recovery process.

It appears the Western media only cares about terrorism claiming lives if the victims are Westerners. Muslim lives are worth much less comparatively, in their eyes, hence the substantial lack of media outcry against such an act of atrocity. The Baghdad bombing should serve as a shocking reminder to the ignorant that ISIS do not represent Islam in the slightest if they’re killing fellow Muslims –  they are not Muslims and lost the right to call themselves so when they decided to commit acts of senseless murder in the name of a religion they so clearly subverted.

Conclusively, I ask as many of you as possible to keep Iraq in your prayers. We cannot fathom what they’re experiencing, having to bury their loved ones, children and families on a day where the rest of the world is celebrating the end of a holy month. But we stand in solidarity against the Islamic State militants, and their fight against Muslims. Shia or Sunni, a Muslim is a Muslim. We are all one and equal in the eyes of God, and what matters the most is how we live our lives –  NOT how others live theirs. May God give those who lost their lives a peaceful resting, and those who’ve lost loved ones any kind of comfort to ease their pain.

God is not a creator of evil; evil is manmade.

A

Does Media Bias Against Muslims Feed Into Radicalisation?

I can’t even say “as of recently” because this is an ongoing issue, and has been for some time: bias against Muslims in the western media. I voiced my opinion on how I, as a Pakistani girl, felt attacked by various, biased, news broadcasters; the above interlinking of anger at the bias and radicalisation was the response I received, from someone who worked in the industry.

Now I’m not exactly well-informed in what goes through one’s mind when they decide to fight for the Jihad but this suggestion of subjective bias in the media being a reason behind  radicalisation is almost hilarious. Instead of accepting responsibility for unfair media coverage, they deflect furthermore blame. The heavy focus on average Muslims fleeing the country to fight for groups like Islamic State places most Muslims under the spotlight and heavy scrutiny. Since 9/11, Muslims have been categorically associated with terrorism. Anyone wearing a hijab, burqa or with brown skin is instantly given an awkward side-glance. People wearing niqabs are racially abused in public. The media’s stance on, or rather, against, Muslims is adding fuel to an increasingly widespread fire.

To create a correlation between Muslims feeling attacked by the media and terrorism is possibly the highest level of ignorance I have ever come across. That’s saying something, what with ignorant, uneducated comments are on the rise with a biased media reporting unfairly on current affairs worldwide, involving terrorism and more specifically, Islamic State. There are a fair few newspapers who incite racial hatred with their headlines and focus on the ethnicity of key figures in a story. For example, the Daily Mail is notoriously well-known for focussing on “Muslim” immigrants or “Muslim youths” being involved in crime, when the ethnicity or faith is not necessary to the crime at all. This representation and blatant categorisation of Muslims being criminals, job-takers and rapists is what is creating an increasing uproar amongst the Muslim communities. This uproar is not radicalisation, it is defiance and anger at being treated unfairly. Poor media coverage of Islam is not turning us into radicals. Let me make that very, very clear.

Broadcasters such as the BBC thrive on sensationalist headlines but go out of their way to attempt to prove their lack of bias; sadly, in doing so, they make themselves look even more stupid. More often than not, I find myself having to write posts like this to justify a Muslim, such as myself, being completely thrown and disgusted by outright bigotry. Sadiq Khan is our new mayor of London; I, for one, voted for him and for many Pakistani Brits across London it is much more than a political achievement. It’s a step forward for us as a multi-cultural community to accept a Pakistani man leading our city, much to the disappointment of Islamophobic bigots.

I do not blame every white person for the acts of the KKK. Should I? Should I label all white citizens of London as racists? No, because I am educated. Reporting on events by drawing attention to their faith first is uneducated. Finally, assuming that terrorists represent Islam and Islamic teachings is uneducated, too.

I am a Muslim; I am defiant in my faith and beliefs. That doesn’t make me a radical.

Anisah

UMRAH 2016: Makkah

UMRAH 2016: Makkah

الحَمْد لله

Having just returned from the most life-changing trip I’ve ever had the privilege of going on, I’m juxtaposed in my feelings of heartache at leaving a beautiful city behind and excitement at the prospect of going back again in the near future.

Before I arrived in Makkah, I was nervous and apprehensive at doing things wrong but all the worries of my life back home were washed away the second I stepped foot in the holy city. The night we landed we were exhausted from a long flight and made the decision to begin the pilgrimage of Umrah the following day so we could complete it to our full potential. Driving from the airport to the holy city, we were astounded at how modernised it was; lights and sculptures lined the streets leading up to the Holy Mosque. The roads were packed with cars, everyone travelling to the mosque for Isha (night) prayers.

Image
Top level of Masjid Al-Haram

Setting foot inside the exterior of the mosque (expanded to accommodate the ever-increasing capacity of visitors worldwide) the first thing to hit us was the sheer grand scale of the Sacred Mosque. The interior was packed with Muslims trying to get in as fast as possible to visit the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam. The intense rush of people hastily making their way towards the Kaaba is quite overwhelming at first but as soon as your eyes find the Kaaba, everything falls away because, at the moment, it’s just you and God. The outside of the Kaaba was packed with circles people performing Tawaaf (one of the rituals of Umrah.) The rest of the visitors were either praying or simply sitting in front of it, making the most of being in the presence of such a sacred part of Islam.

The following morning, after Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer, we made our way to the Aisha Mosque to recite our intention of performing Umrah. From there, we travelled back to the Sacred Mosque and began the Tawaaf which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times, passing the Black Stone at the eastern corner. Following the seven rounds, we proceeded to Maqam Ibrahim (The Station of Ibrahim) where we performed the prayer as mandatory during Umrah. Finally, once this was completed, we made our way to the Zam Zam wells. It’s said to be the purest and freshest water on the planet, with sacred qualities improving health and wellbeing in all those who drink it. I personally believe this to be the truth as my health was the best it has ever been whilst in the Sacred Mosque.

IMG_7074
Sitting in front of the Kaaba

 

From there, we made our way to Al-Safa and Al-Marwah to perform Sa’i – walking between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times. (3.15km) Once completed, we performed the mandatory prayer and thus, completed the ritual of Umrah. Sa’i was definitely the most challenging aspect of the entire pilgrimage, as we were walking barefoot on marble for nearly two miles. Nevertheless, once this was completed, a beautiful feeling of serenity washed over me and that’s when I found an inner peace radiate within me.

For the remainder of our four days in Makkah, amidst performing our daily five prayers, we visited other holy sites in the city. Most of the time I was inside the Sacred Mosque, sitting in front of the Kaaba and it was blissfully peaceful. My relationship with God grew ever-stronger as I know He listened to every prayer. It sounds awfully cliche but this was a life-changing experience for me in that it transformed my entire perception of the religion, bringing me closer to God. I embraced everything Islam has to offer and came back an entirely new person, spiritually. Once you enter Makkah, your heart never wishes to leave; being back in London is great for me health-wise, but my heart is still in Makkah and I’m desperately longing to go back as soon as possible.

I can only thank God for making this trip possible.

سبحان الله

 

Perspective

It’s March 2nd and my first day back home after spending 5 days in hospital has come to an end. I have thoroughly enjoyed being wrapped up in a blanket watching ‘The Night Manager’ and ‘The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story.’ However, I’m not the same person I was when I went in to hospital.

Last Friday night, I was left feeling a little on edge after experiencing discomfort due to ongoing stomach pains. Of course, stomach pains are nothing out of the ordinary for me but they usually went away after an hour or so and even after taking medication, I was still suffering. Things reached a peak at around 11pm on Friday night; I was doubled over in pain, unable to breathe without feeling a stabbing pain rippling through my upper abdomen. Not cute. By 2.30am the following morning, I was hooked up to an IV line. Over the course of the next 5 days, I was transferred from a&e to the surgical assessment unit, to the day surgery unit. But that isn’t the point of this post.

Whilst in the day surgery unit, I came across many patients being admitted and transferred and I guess I should’ve been prepared for some sticky situations – after all, this was a surgical unit. On Monday night, a young patient was admitted to the bed next to me after undergoing surgery. It was clear that something hadn’t gone too great with the operation because she was screaming in agony and bleeding out. This was at roughly 10pm so visiting times were over and the rest of us in the bay were alone and it was pretty quite, with patients either zonked out on morphine or trying their best to sleep. Her parents were with her to ensure she settled in okay and was recovering from the operation, when things took a sudden turn for the worse. I heard the patient’s mother call the nurses frantically, telling them her daughter was feeling light-headed. Within two minutes, the patient had gone into cardiac arrest from bleeding out.

The next 20 minutes were a blur of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses running around, giving her oxygen and trying to stop the bleeding. With no theatres free to perform emergency surgery, they were forced to stop the bleeding there and then in order to save her life. Her parents were hysterical with fear and surgeons were shouting about the lack of blood bags available to them – it was terrifying. I guess I forgot that in hospitals, things do go wrong and situations like this do occur. It’s not common but it does happen and in the moment, everything just fell away. The pain I was experiencing, the sickness, all the symptoms just fell away because all I was thinking of was how young this girl was next to me and how numb I felt.

I don’t know if they managed to save her. She didn’t come back the following day, and neither the nurses nor other members of staff had any clue as to what happened in that operating theatre. Situations like this put everything into perspective; life is too unpredictable and we ought to make the most of the good health we have. What is life if we don’t have our health? Right now, I can’t get those 20 minutes out of my head. I’m not sure if I will forget the panic in her parents’ voices, the panic in the surgeons’ voices and the sound of the blood pressure monitor dropping. It’s a horrific reminder of the fact that we’re only on this planet for a limited amount of time and we ought to make the most of every single second; by being good within ourselves and towards others. Whether you believe in God and His power to guide you or not, it’s important to have a pure heart as that alone makes us immortal.

“Is not He Who listens to the distressed soul when it calls on Him, and remove its suffering, and makes you inheritors of the earth?…” [Surah al-Naml 27:62] 

A x

 

 

 

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