Book Review: Padmavati by Sutapa Basu

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
Book : Padmavati : The Queen Tells Her Own Story
Author : Sutapa Basu
Pages : 300
Publishers : Readomania
Formats available: Paperback / Kindle

Predating the release of the controversial Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie 'Padmaavat' that had a whole nation debating the significance of the story behind the making of the movie rather than the movie itself, the book Padmavati itself focuses on two voices set in different eras -
a) Mrinalini the journalist who in the present day seeks to discover whether there ever existed a character named Padmavati and
b) the Queen of Chittor herself as she journeys from adjusting to life after marriage in a different country to making a decision that would etch her name forever as a legend.

What does Mrinalini discover in Chittorgarh? What do her conversations with Uma, a local village girl offer her in her quest for the truth? What made Padmavati choose the steps she took?

The book Padmavati by Sutapa Basu offers far better insights than the movie Padmaavat into what could have occurred

What stands out in this book

The author does not sugarcoat the harrowing reality of our past

This book, in my opinion, stand far above the much feted movie, simply because it does not try to appease any side. This matters because, at the end of the day, we are dealing with a controversial topic like Jauhar (a 'honourable' suicide). You get to see the doubts and the dismay, the uncertainty and the thought process that would lead a Princess and her fellow women to consider such a drastic step rather than succumb to being slaves to the invading ruler Khilji. Yes, there is a code-of-conduct at that time that demanded the tradition be followed but it was no easy decision for any human being to make.

Well-fleshed out characters

Whether it be Padmavati of Sri Lanka before she became a Queen, her Rajasthan king Ratan Singh, the scheming ways of Khilji or difference in traditions, the story allows enough time for you to see various nuances of these characters. You can see their evolution from their first appearance to their final moments and how their choices alter over time.

Historical fiction done right

A scholar herself, author Sutapa Basu has researched well for her story. I was frequently surprised to find out new tidbits about this legend I thought I knew about.


This is quite a quick read. I finished it over the course of a single night and totally enjoyed it.


Her thirty year career in the literary field includes being an editor and publisher and has seen Sutapa Basu work with Oxford University Press, India and Encyclopaedia Britannica in addition to publishing over 400 books. She also was one of the First Prize winners in Season 1 of India's largest literary contest, Write India, beating out over 25,000 entries that year to win. So ya, trust me... she knows how to keep you hooked with her words.


I am going with 9 out of 10 Appletinis for this book. 

The use of Mrinalini is inspired, giving us a voice in this era who has the same doubts and queries we do about this legendary tale. The author has no trouble moving between the past and present while offering multiple viewpoints and arguments on this topic.

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For all the hype that the legend of Padmavati had in India in 2017-18, the movie did not really delve into the minds of its characters, offering two dimensional portrayals that painted sides as black and white. The book Padmavati by Sutapa Basu offers far better insights than the movie Padmaavat into what could have occurred and the events that conspired to reach that ending we know.

You can buy Padmavati: the Queen Tells Her Own Story here.

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Let me know what you think.

  1. I'm always a bit wary of historical novels primarily because I am not certain if the research would have been done well. Glad to note that your review mentions that it does!

    I steered clear of the movie for a number of reasons. The book , now, I just may pick it up.

  2. The book sounds like a good read .The movie somehow failed to impress me.Loved the review .very crisp and no fluff.

  3. I didn't like the movie at all. As you mentioned, it was insipid and two dimensional. I did read up about Padmavati's tale and found that the director took a lot of liberties with the story. Good to know that the book is better researched.

  4. I am sure this must be an interesting read.I remember reading about queen padmini and the jauhar in my history books.History is always interesting.

  5. Thank you Dr Roshan for your erudite review. I am delighted you like my book.

  6. I have not watched the movie, cos well too long for me. The book sound good and I'm quite inclined to read it.

  7. I may not watch the movie but this book I would like to read. The research would be a good way to learn about the history. Thanks for sharing an honest review.

  8. AnonymousMay 10, 2018

    I have watched the movie. and despite all the grandeur didnt enjoy it much. And a 9 out of 10 for this book, well surely makes it worth a read. Atleast to get a clear picture , considering tte author hasnt sugar coated anything :)

  9. This sounds like a good read. After watching the movie, i felt It could have been dealt better. A new voice of the journalist in modern setting sounds interesting to me. I will give this one a read.

  10. Roshan, your review says it all. I am not a very fast reader as of now due to lack of practice. But I am convinced by your ratings and am bound to have my copy soon.

  11. I had heard about this book, but did not pay much attention to it, because well I had seen the movie and I thought that it was pointless after seeing/knowing the story.

    However your review has changed my mind. You are right, the movie has painted one side black and the other white. And like we know, most times things are simply in varying shades of grey. And it would be interesting to explore those shades through this book.

    Thank you for sharing, Roshan, and this fantastic review!

  12. I've not watched the movie but book seems to be crisp interesting recreating the phenomenal historical story back drop as per your review.

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