Why Pinga Deserves The Sting?

What is it about the Pinga number anyway that has everyone up in arms? It’s not as if this is the first time a Bollywood film-maker has failed to make it anywhere close to the Holy Grail of history!

So why this outrage? And isn’t the ‘self-righteous’ criticism ‘casteist and hypocritical’?

Sorry, but all of the above are lazy – and I dare say – inaccurate arguments and you can no more hide behind them just like you can’t hide an elephant behind the curtain of uhh…  liberality (sorry, I dont even think it’s liberal. It’s plain bad taste.)

For starters, you cannot define tipping points for audiences. People can (and do! unfortunately) take rubbish for years, and one day boil over. It happens. Deal with it.  Perhaps this anger over “just another Bollywood number” by a filmmaker “who never claimed to be Richard Attenborough” in the first place – is part of a continuous evolution of audience tastes. Perhaps it’s one outrage over too many from Bhansali’s oouvere of cinema (Devdas being the first instance of him taking ‘artistic liberties’) with a deeply rooted culture (the Bongs). Many were they that simmered and stewed silently over the pathetic imitation of the Bengali saree, the blatant violation of commonly-accepted (and well-known) cultural mores, and worse, the accolades heaped on Bhansali for his ‘vision’.

OMG. Bheeshon (to quote the Bongs)…


Thirteen years have passed since. Audiences have changed.  They demand more, they are exposed to more, they want more, and they deserve better. A whole lot better, in fact. Especially from a maker of Bhansali’s potential.  (Yep, many do believe he is an artiste of great merit when he chooses to be.)

But then, Mr Bhansali, artistes need to evolve continuosly, organically, wilfully. You cannot sleepwalk through a movie (again) and term it your creative freedom (Nicht. Nada. Nein.) It’s not happening.

Besides 2015 is not 2002.


And the petulant huffing “don’t-other-makers take liberties too” is just too silly for words! Sure, they do. But how do two wrongs make a right? Also, chances are they aren’t the success story that Bhansali is – and thus, the brickbats aren’t as relentless.

If you can take the applause, you ought to be able to deal with the dandas when you dont deliver – and as per the reaction to the promo of Pinga – he clearly hasn’t.

As for the ‘racist’ slur – and boy-o-boy does it take it cake for sheer banality?!!!!

Come on, how is asking for authenticity in look, dress, language and atmosphere the same as ‘racism’? How is an intimate knowledge of one’s culture equivalent to jingoism (the worst derivative of nationalistic sentiment)!

Also what is so unreasonable about asking for an actor that resembled the original? Certain racial groups tend to have common physical attributes, and while there is no hard and fast rule that the dusky Chopra cannot play the ‘fair’ Kashibai – that stereotypes are ugly and limiting – and so on – fact is that Bhansali has smartly elected to go along with the worst stereotypes of Bollywood film-making as per his convenience.

How else would you have the horror of a dancing face-off between his two leading ladies – irrespective of the minor detail that a lady from the Peshwa’s family would never have danced even in an all-women’s gathering?  Or such boring historical details that Kashibai had both TB and arthiritis and would never have been able to match step with the nimble Mastani? That they are supposed to have met just once in their lives? That the Pinga number (performed by married women in the month of Shravan for an female audience to celebrate the values of wedded life) bears a weird resemble to the sexually provocative Lavani?!

How?? And why???


It is also a fact that low-waisted sarees with mirror-work (suspiciously similar to the kind you see on Gujarati ghaghra cholis in modern day disco dandiyas ) were nowhere close to being woven.

Perhaps the argument by the purists that “decent Maharashtrian ladies from good families would never have lowered themselves thus” is sexist and regressive but in this case, it must be seen in context.

Which is, honestly, as simple as this: The Peshwa era is a relatively modern period in history with enough documentation with regard to dress, habits and lifestyle. Sure, the maker can protest ‘which of us was actually there to see what happened’ and thunder his way out of this one. But the thing, Mr Bhansali, is this: it’s not the fact that you failed that bugs us, it’s the fact that you failed at such a fundamental level. You failed not just in grasping the nuances of the notes, the notes themselves are all wrong. And copied to boot.

At least those that we have seen in the promo.

So if Pinga does face the sting – what’s wrong in that? We aren’t baying for Bhansali’s blood or demanding his head – just wondering where it was in the first place!!!




Pune-based journalist and copywriter, Kalyani Sardesai is currently working on her first book. With over 15 years as a professional writer in assorted media, she brings to the table several observations – especially with regard to the manner in which women are perceived, treated and written about. She pens a fortnightly column ‘Politically Incorrect’.

Readers can write to her at kalyanisardesai@gmail.com

One comment to Why Pinga Deserves The Sting?

  • Priyanka Prasad  says:

    Kalyani…. You rock girl. Kudos to you for this well written, articulate piece.

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