Run Time:158 mins
Director:Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast:Ranveer Singh with Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra
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“Every religion preaches love. Love is beyond religion. And Love is a religion in itself,” is the message Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest offering, Bajirao Mastani, released Thursday in the UAE, carries.
The Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone’s movie is a based on the historical romance of the Maratha leader Bajirao Ballal Bhat who fought 40 battles, and won each one of them, with the Mughals and Muslim rulers of India to create a unified Hindu state or Bharatvarsha (country of Bharat). Yet the love of his life, his soulmate Mastani, was a Muslim woman – the daughter of the Chhatrasal (king) of Bundelkhand and his Muslim wife – a woman never accepted by Bajirao’s family or their religious custodians.
Through the film, we see Bajirao fighting two battles: one for his country and one against his family to bring honour to his beloved. The film tries to explain that it’s not the religion Peshwa (leader) Bajirao fought against but the tyranny of the reigning clans.
On the one hand, the film is a brilliantly crafted visual spectacle with its opulent settings and sets, gorgeous costumes by Anju Modi and Mastani’s exquisite jewellery designed by the 226-year-old Delhi-based jewellers Shri Hari Diagems, and the grand battle scenes with ample use of CGI.
On the other hand, brilliant performances by not just the lead actors Singh, Padukone and Priyanka Chopra – who plays Kashibai, Bajirao’s legally wedded wife – but also by Tanvi Azmi as Bajirao’s mother, Mahesh Manjrekar as Chhatrasal Shahu, Vaibhav Tatwawdi as Bajirao’s brother Chimaji and Milind Soman as Bajirao’s friend and advisor.
Padukone as Mastani looks like an ethereal beauty with minimal make up, even in the climax when she’s covered in dirt and her own blood. Though her character as the wronged yet dutiful wife shared lesser screen space, Chopra gives one of her best performances.
But the film belongs to Singh who went through rigorous training in Indian martial arts, such as Kalaripayattu, and horse riding to become Bajirao. He shines in the war scenes, slashing the enemy with an urumi (the belt-like flexible sword used by Kalaripayattu fighters) with either hand while riding a horse; and as the angry, stubborn lover being kept away from his love. Yet I wouldn’t call it his best performance, which I feel was in Bhansali’s earlier film Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela.
Also the film falls short on several accounts. First of all, it seems confused whether it should be a romance or historic film, swerving between Bajirao wanting to be the famous warrior and the eternal lover. Second, is its pace. The film hardly moves in the first hour or so, picking up speed only after the intermission – in fact it seems a little rushed in the second half. Third, the visual effects, though plenty, lack the punch of say, even, a Bahubali. Fourth, the music by Bhansali can at best be described as “sweet” and not something that anyone would listen to very often, and is a disappointment compared to that from his Devdas, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or Ram-Leela. If you listen carefully, you’ll find one tiny piece in the introduction seemingly “inspired” from Game of Thrones.
To top it all, with two giant releases in Dilwale and Star Wars – The Force Awakens this weekend, Bajirao Mastani is going to face a real tough time bringing in the crowds. But don’t miss it if you are a Ranveer Singh or Deepika Padukone fan.