Actress Swara Bhaskar has, in a scathing comment on Padmaavat, said she felt like a “vagina only” after watching the Sanjay Leela Bhansali directorial. However, some film fraternity members dismissed it as a “feminist debate”.


Swara believes Padmaavat has brought up the question whether women — widowed, raped, young, old, pregnant, pre-pubescent — have the right to live.

In an open letter published on The Wire late on Saturday, Swara has decried glorification of self-immolation customs Sati and Jauhar.

Felt reduced to a vagina only: Swara on 'Padmaavat'
“Felt Reduced To A Vagina Only”: Swara Bhaskar On Padmaavat

She began her note by congratulating Bhansali for being able to release Padmaavat despite the hurdles — something she says she even fought trolls for on social media.

The actress, who played a small part in Bhansali’s “Guzaarish”, watched Padmaavat first day, first show”, and decided to share her concerns as it left her “stunned”.

“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 judgment, the right to adopt children… All of it was pointless; because we were back to basics.

“We were back to the basic question – of right to life. Your film, it felt, had brought us back to that question from the Dark Ages – do women – widowed, raped, young, old, pregnant, pre-pubescent… do they have the right to live?” Swara wrote.

She stressed: “Women have the right to live, despite being raped sir. Women have the right to live, despite the death of their husbands, male ‘protectors’, ‘owners’, ‘controllers of their sexuality’… whatever you understand the men to be. Women have the right to live – independent of whether men are living or not.

“Women have the right to live. Period. It’s actually pretty basic,” she wrote, referring to the “very uncomfortable” climax scene in which actress Deepika Padukone (Rani Padmavati in Padmaavat) leads a pack of women to commit self-immolation after attackers venture into their kingdom and kill the men.

“Women are not only walking talking vaginas. Yes, women have vaginas, but they have more to them as well.”

Swara said she was hopeful that Bhansali would offer “some sort of a critique of Sati and Jauhar in your film”.

The daughter of well-known strategic analyst C. Uday Bhaskar and professor of film studies Ira Bhaskar signed off the letter as “Swara Bhaskar, Desirous of Life”.

Her lengthy post did not resonate well with actress-singer Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, who tweeted: “Aren’t these feminist debates on Padmaavat rather dumb? It’s a story ladies – not an advocacy of Jauhar for God’s sake. Find another battle for your cause – a real one at all. Not historical fiction.”

Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit wrote: “This is nothing but trying to grab eyeballs with zero rationale and logic. Swara Bhaskar has reduced a queen of brain and might to just a female body part. Does more harm to feminism than good.”

Producer Manish Mundra commented: “Now somebody takes fiction seriously and writes an open letter about a story 100s of years old. The point is if you make a film from your past, do changes suitably to reflect today’s feminism.

“Both are in the same boat — those who think a film can change their history and those who think a fictional film from past should be changed suitably to represent today’s feminism.”




  1. Bhansali had just one job to do…to make a film but then chose to be inspired from some crappy historical story to make money and show how great he is as a director. In the 90s, a rape scene from “Bandit Queen” got an award. Nowadays, when rape happens in reality, everybody goes on a vigil, march and protest and then light candles to show support. Soft porn is today’s recipe and spice in Bollywood movies and they are glorified yet nobody threatened to commit jauhar or burn down cinemas or wreak havoc in the cities. Indeed, India has gone backwards. If Bhansali has chosen to make a controversial movie, Swara as well has the right to voice out how she felt about the movie. It must have been a pain to see that those women who are now taking selfies with swords and all while claiming to be hardcore rajput, chose to commit self-immolation like cowards in the pasts. Had they lifted the sword back then, this stupid history wouldn’t have caused pain their a$$es today. Indeed India is just a country where women are reduced to mere walking talking vaginas.

  2. She has a point: Fictional and non-fictional movies influence the audience. All story tellers know that fictions can be adjusted to address societal mores.
    Good or bad is achieved whether we individually IGNORE fantasy or not.


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