Friday, November 06, 2015

Deepika Vs Madhuri


The music channels are full of the  “Deewani Mastani” song. It takes one back Madhuri Dixit’s so many kg ghagra kothawali dance in Devdas.  Pet obsession?
Chitpavan women would never be caught in public watching such a performance, as Priyanka Chopra is seen, with perhaps the most authentic expressions crossing her face as she looks on at the interplay between Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone.
Deepika, in  her pale gold avatar in a net outfit reminiscent of flamenco dancers, with many  co-dancers, seems to inhabit the same Madhuri  space.  She dances in a huge ornate space, more European than Peshwai in design.  
Peshwai architecture was noted for its long, perhaps narrow halls and tall distinctively fluted and carved wooden columns based on stone to prevent damp and  insect damage --- all topped with intricately carved wood ceilings and all polished black in color.  Noted examples are the Mastani resurrected palace at the world renowned Kelkar Museum in Pune and the Wada of Nana Fadnis at Wai.
Yes, the setting has a beauty of its own.    But the historical references?
Despite considerable ‘authenticity’assurances from the production company, Mastani is apparently being depicted as a dancing girl – from Persia!!   or Spain? It sticks to an old myth of  a courtesan, not Baji Rao's legally married second  wife. The marriage  is accepted by the present day Peshwa family and Kashibai’s descendants, after later day research brought out the facts of Mastani's origins.

Mastani was a kshtriya princess from Bundelkhand, a daughter of  one of the noted kings of his time and the chief proponent of the Pranami Panth.   Maharaj Chhatrasaal gave  her a dowry 5 lakhs lugda choli with 500 gold mohurs, plus a jagir of one third of his estate to Bajirao plus one third share in the mines of diamonds and emeralds at Panna.  
Such a handsome dowry for a dancing girl?   When all that he sent to Maharajswami Shahu as war reparations for Bajirao's rescue mission was a sum of 1.25 lakhs?   
Yes, Mastani used to dance … in her Krishna bhakti (hence the name Mastani.)  and for her husband Baji Rao. The only time she danced for the family was when she had performed at the Janmasthami that Kashibai organized in their apartments.  Baji Rao's secretary came in to get signatures, saw her dance and spoke about it, germinating that myth.   The other time  she directed the little girls of the family for a dance at Ganesh utsav.
At the Kelkar museum recreation of her palace chamber, a prominent display is that of her tanpura and her Bal Krishna. Would such a  devout princess stand up in public to sing main deewani mastani hogayi etc etc.   no dignity or class?

The book on which the film is purportedly based, was first written in the 1970s before any research had happened. The author went by the prevailing myths of the time.  Those dancing girl myths were created at the instance of Kashibai's grandson and Raghunath Rao's son, later known as Baji Rao II who lost the Peshwai to the British.  He was trying to ensure he got the Peshwai and not Mastani’s grandson, Ali Bahadur who was favored because he was the replica of Baji Rao I both physically but also administratively and emotionally and therefore popular.  Ali Bahadur was later sent off as the Nawab of Banda. In his absence all these stories were created and circulated and the Bakhars edited to remove Mastani by Krishna Sohni.


11 comments:

Shilpa Madkar said...
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Shilpa Madkar said...
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Kusum Choppra said...

Hi Shilpa,
Sorry for the delay in replying as I was a bit busy with other commitments. Hope you will forgive me.
About the Kashibai - Mastani interaction, let us just remember that Kashibai had grown up from childhood, playing with her husband Bajirao and never dreamt that he would one day bring in such a stunning beauty into their lives, whose dowry was to become the life blood of the Peshwai to boot!
Obviously she would try to keep herself unto the mark to maintain her position as Mrs. Bajirao. Unfortunately for her, Mastani was not only as well trained as her, but also beautiful and intelligent too. That gave her an edge that Kashibai tried to gain with her early association since childhood. Let us also remember that between 1731 when the family shifted into the Shanivar Wada at Pune and till Bajirao's death in 1740, Mastani bore him only one son, Krishnasinh in January 1734, and Kashibai 4, of whom only two survived, both born after Krishnasinh.
Obviously in a large political household, there would many lips whispering many things into very many ears, which would bear influence on minds, especially one threatened by the fear that the Peshwai might slip out of her son's grasp into that of his half brother who was the Zerox of Bajirao himself, Mastani's son, renamed Shamsher Bahadur.
A dance face-off between Kashibai and Mastani was not likely to happen as Kashibai had, after a long earlier illness, developed a slight limp.

Regarding the matrugaman episode, you will find it referred to in very many renderings of Bajirao's life, both historical and social. Since Mastani's name was edited out of the Bakhars around 1800, there is not historical material as such, so the focus shifts to what are called secondary sources, books written in that period of later by different persons, diaries, commentaries etc etc.
Just as the conservative historians accepted the dancing girl myth after the editing of the Bakhar, they also agreed to depict not he matrugaman episode as an instance of Nana Saheb's total nubile and naive reliance on the machinations of his uncle Chimaji appa, in order to discredit Mastani in the eyes of Bajirao.
My observation is that Nana was neither nubile nor naive. He had been unto lot of stunts earlier too. He was a grown up, as old as Mastani was, @25 years old, whose wife's Godh Bharai for their first child had just been held then. Even if the suggestion came from someone else, is it not incumbent for the person to reflect on what they are doing, when and especially in the light of family relations -- more so in an important political sphere like the honor of the Peshwai itself?

Kusum Choppra

Shilpa Madkar said...
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Shilpa Madkar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shilpa Madkar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shilpa Madkar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kusum Choppra said...

Sorry Shipa dear, I cannot see the link between where we started and where this discussion is headed; apart from mere reiteration of the practices earlier prevalent in the Chitpavan Brahmin Bhat family, which have been recorded in presumably authentic sources.
Personally I think one needs to be rational in accepting healthy practices and weeding out others that cause unnecessary family heartburn as we move forward in time. That is the practice in more communities in India and around the world, than you and I can keep track off.
Since the present head of the Peshwa family has accepted Mastani as his legally wedded wife, (such as may be the legalities of marriage in those times), I think this controversy in unnecessary. You are welcome to meet me for a discussion, but the matter is closed here.

Kusum Choppra.

Shilpa Madkar said...
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Kusum Choppra said...

Hey Mystery woman, Shilpa, since you cannot tell me about yourself, all I can say is that I did not set out to hurt you or anybody. Only to seek Justice for the woman named Mastani, which has become a mission. And my book is a historical novel. keyword: Novel.
All the best. Hope we meet someday.

Shilpa Madkar said...
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