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Ahilya is because she could think

THE MOVIE that opens in Indore on Friday closes with pages of history strewn all over the waters of Narmada River at Maheshwar.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 13:08 IST
Dileep Chinchalker
Dileep Chinchalker

THE MOVIE that opens in Indore on Friday closes with pages of history strewn all over the waters of Narmada River at Maheshwar.

The life and times of a lady whose claim to fame is not battles she fought like Rani Jhansi or the conquests her legendary beauty made like Padmini. In fact, a low-profile and selfless life she dedicated to the greater interest of her subjects after the untimely death of her husband earned her a place of distinction.

Still, was the life of Ahilya interesting enough to be turned into a work of literature or art? Not that her thoughts did not strike Ranjeet Desai, the modern biographer of Shivaji. Despite her monumental work spread from Maheshwar to Indore to Haridwar, from Jagannathpuri to Kanya-Kumari, Ranjeet who capitalised on war Shivaji won, found Ahilya’s life bland.

He confessed it to Jayoo on his deathbed. It took the vision of this prodigal daughter of Indore and her filmmaker husband Nachiket Patwardhan from Pune to measure up the length and breadth of Ahilya Bai’s folklore. Capturing it through the fish eye of their camera the personality they have created is not of a statue on a pedestal but that of a dignified and lively person who walked this very tract of Malwa and Nimar.

Serious viewers and scholars of Ahilya Bai’s life and rule feel that the movie ends introducing Ahilya Bai to the viewer and goes no further.

But she was not a warmonger ever after expansion of her kingdom. The film that is no documentary but has the treatment of an absorbing feature film, establishes Ahilya more than a compassionate being, a management expert whose reign extended over the heart of whole of India. In those medieval times when illiteracy was all prevailing, besides written words Ahilya could read and make maps. Shivaji excelled in guerilla warfare, Ahilya won battle of nerves against Raghoba (and Chandrawat of Rampura).

Being a statesman to core she could see the futility of war and averted a potentially dangerous flash point when a temple was proposed in place of a mosque in North India. We need not repeat the mistake Aurangzeb committed, she said.

Plenty of water has flown down the Narmada in more than two centuries. The precedence Ahilya Bai set seems to have washed along with them. Victory towers she never built but the fragrance of her deeds still exists. The movie reflects - she could think therefore she is.

First Published: Mar 17, 2006 13:08 IST