Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
I am completely in awe of period dramas-always eager to find out how a particular time in the history is translated on the screen. I am always curious to understand the director’s perspective of a set era back in time. Just like always, this time as well, I knew I would like the movie as soon as I saw the promos. Also, I am a Sanjay Leela Bhansali fan so I was all the more looking forward to his latest outing.
Bhansali movies are known for their elaborate sets and extravagant costumes and also their larger than life portrayal of characters. Exactly what I was expecting and exactly what I was served. The movie set in the 1800s is the love story of Peshwa Bajirao who fell in love with the warrior-princess of Bundelkhund, Mastani, while he was already married to KashiBai. It is also the story of people warped around love where they are unable to devote their whole self and are divided in the turmoils of religion- something that rings true even today. Therefore the story in the present context is quite relatable.
This fictional depiction of Bajirao’s life has many shades-love, longing, bigotry, valour and sacrifice. Where Bajirao is fighting hard to balance his life which is divided between love and religion, there is Mastani, who is all consumed by love. Every step she takes, she aims to be closer to Bajirao. Then there is Kashi who is torn between her love for her husband and her husband’s love for another woman.She does excuse the deceit but she does not forgive. This is what makes the story pretty contemporary. How this love destroys the three of them is what sums up the story.
Where the ethereal Deepika Padukone has played Mastani to the hilt we wonder how in one year she could give us the outgoing Tara (in Tamasha) and the submissive yet strong Mastani, all with consistent poise. Her character has been built based on any woman who completely submits to her love and lives as per her desires. So when she is humiliated, shunned and brutalized, she refuses to give up on the man she loves and bears him a son, as well. She quietly but confidently makes way into his life, only to be remembered as one with her lover. There is Bajirao-the valiant. Ranveer Singh fits into the character so well, it’s almost as if the role is tailor-made for him. His mannerisms, his accent, his tonality all ring of originality as he gets into the skin of his character. He makes the character more believable than what it actually is written as. Every time he moves on the screen we can see grace- whether it is a fight sequence, romance or anguish. He is as effective in the battlefield as he is in the most vulnerable parts-taking Mastani as his wife and Kashi denouncing him. He make us feel for his character.
There is Kashi Bai played by Priyanka Chopra. Her character is the righteous wife who knows her husband of how he is perceived by the outer world. She connects with him as a friend though but nothing beyond that. Her love for her husband is more devout than spiritual. And when she understands the difference she is broken. Her heartbreak reaches out to you and you sympathise with the character. Her pain speaks at various levels during the course of the second half, whether she is airing it to out to her husband or his lover.
Among the other characters, Tanvi Azmi, as the peshwa’s mother shines through and creates ripples. However, the other fine actors like Raza Muraad, Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Milind Soman were quite wasted. We would have loved to see their characters play a more vital role in the screenplay. However, that does not hinder us from enjoying the narrative.
Even though the principal characters have worked really hard to bring the characters to life, it is but the sets and the costumes that complete the circle. Cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee makes the first half quite distinct from the second half. Where the first half shows the life of the peshwa set within his family and his outings with the enemy, the second half in contrast shows how his life is torn by his family and his battles are more within than outside. Where the first half is sprinkled with deep frames, the second half brings the wide angles and outdoors, transitioning the story that depicts how large the war within the protagonist’s heart is. Additionally, the CGI brings the war scenes to life and some of the visuals get completely etched in your memory- like the one where Bajirao jumps on the head of an elephant and stabs the enemy. Wow!!
The costumes designed by Anju Modi are strikingly beautiful and come close to the extravagance of Jodha-Akbar. Deepika’s costumes are meticulously brought together to contrast with her various moods throughout the movie-as a princess, as a lover, as a mother. Priyanka carries the marathi look quite well. With slightly wavy hair tied in a bun, the shining gucha-nath, she makes the look complete with that thousand watt smile. Her vibrance brings much colour and life to the frames she is in. Ranveer takes center stage because he needed to bring character to the way he dressed. From regality to soldier his transformation was as elegant as it could be and pleasingly so.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a brave filmmaker to be able to pick up subjects like this and go all out to create what he visualises. Even though the product does not turn out flawless, but it still manages to soar higher than most of the products being churned out. With the colours- all sorts- sprayed courageously across the screen, this historical narrative looks brighter than it would on book. It took me a few days to chew on the movie and I can safely say that this review was worth the wait. The message is clear-love surpasses all- no religion can ever come close because love is a religion by itself.
In case, you have still not watched it I would suggest you to use this weekend to watch it. Here is what to expect: