So I was watching Zubeidaa today and it’s one of those movies that I’ve watched innumerable times before and yet, for the first time, have I found a new dimension to the movie. I remember very clearly, that the last time I’d watched the movie, all I’d really noticed was the superficial story. Of a Muslim woman being married into a royal Rajput family. All that came through to me in the movie were the cultural differences, the flamboyance of the Maharaja and the inability of Zubeidaa to settle in and her innumerable crazy demands. I’d failed to feel any true sympathy, let alone empathy, for her. And yet, today when I watched it completely disinterestedly, the magic of the movie and its mysticism, which had eluded me for so long, burst forth.
Today, the subtlety of the dictums issued by Mandy on her first meeting with Zubeidaa did not escape my attention. Nor did her regal behavior and dignified acceptance of her fate leave me untouched. Here was a woman meeting her husband’s second wife, one he undoubtedly loved beyond words, and she could do nothing but welcome her as was the dictates of her customs. Its difficult for us modern women to contend with our guys meeting their ex for lunch occasionally and a one night stand is enough for us to contemplate the sanctity of the relation whereas this woman has to not only face her worst nightmare and share her husband, society does not even give her the freedom to vent her anguish…not even in the confines of her own home. Heck, she is even responsible for making Z a proper Maharani. A status which is essentially hers.
And just as you start feeling sorry for M, you see Z’s side of the story. During the same moments where M is handling such precarious emotions, Z has her own fair share of agony. She herself is unaware of how affected she is by her ex-husband’s defection. It’s made her irrationally possessive of her new husband, to the extent that she competes with M simply because the latter shares a great camaraderie. Her inability to merge effortlessly into the new household further adds to her growing insecurities. Add to that, a husband with a wandering eye, a culture vastly different from the one she was used to, a land with no one to call her own and having left her son and parents behind, you almost feel pitiful for her. And you can see how strenuous the situation is.
Another point that this movie makes and, which refuses to stop swimming in my head, is M’s statement in response to Z wondering about how M can possibly not be jealous of her? I love the dignified answer…“You can either make the person yours or you can completely belong to the person. These are the only two forms of love.”
If that is really the case, then somehow my life has immediately started making sense. M had spent her entire life belonging to the person she loved. It had resulted in the long lasting kind of love, the one I aspire for, for myself. She shared an understanding with her husband. Even his numerous wives and paramours could not boast of such a relation. She was essentially his support system and the person he went to for counsel and understanding. And yet, he wandered off. Whereas…Z was his entertainment. She was his light-hearted banter and laughter. She was the one who had essentially made him belong to her.
And yet, neither woman had him completely. So while I’ve realized the kind of love I want for myself, I realize as well that it is not independent of the other. I want a mutual belonging to one another. I want to belong so completely to one person that I become his essential indispensable. And yet, I’d also like to have made him belong to me to the extent that I be his entertainment.