Padmaavat (2018)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali has attempted a film about a subject that should have been a matter of pride, but has now become a matter of protection.

Padmavati, rechristened Padmaavat, is a tale about an ethereal Queen, and everyone who saw her, or didn’t, was mesmerised by her beauty. Her marriage to the King of Mewar and the subsequent interest in her by Emperor Khilji show us the inner workings of politics, power and war.

The director is no stranger to scale, or aesthetics, and he has gone a step further than his previous epic Bajirao Mastani. The film needs atleast two viewings to take in all the details, metaphors, costumes, dialogues and expressions.

Deepika Padukone is the pragmatic Queen who represents not only courage and dignity, but rules of engagement as well. Though her physical beauty is striking, it is her resolute and visionary thinking that make her truly remarkable.

Shahid Kapur is perfect for the role of King Ratan Singh. He embodies the characteristics of Rajputs in every manner of his being, reserving his reactions to only necessary situations. He, like Deepika, speaks volumes with his eyes.

Ranveer Singh portrays every sin in one personality in a menacing and convincing way as Khilji. Achieving a spectrum of disturbing, violent, obsessive and repulsive actions and gestures shows his growth as an actor.

The Indian Republic Day is when India adopted the constitution 70 years ago, which is a living document. An opportune day to write this review. Let’s honour our freedom and those who fought for it by rebelling against forces who want to harm our country and it’s creativity.

It’s a film of pride, of choices, of honour, of valour and a celebration of everything Indian. Everyone must watch it, and exercise their democratic right to.

4.5/5

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The breadth and depth of Love

Being a big fan of the opulence, drama and aesthetics of the eccentric director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, I analysed his penchant for incomplete love stories. Being single himself (or unattached in public life) he probably has felt the despair of heartbreak at some point in his life.

No other director has shown us so many hues of this universal emotion. While his first film ‘Khamoshi’ achieved a complete couple, ‘Guzaarish’ united an unlikely pair. We saw the ultimate sacrifice in ‘Hum Dil de chuke Sanam’ in the traditional marriage. A courtesan was capable of love while childhood sweethearts remained unfulfilled in ‘Devdas’. Love broke all barriers of the senses and age, albeit for a second, in ‘Black’. Doomed were the lovers who belonged to warring families in ‘Ram Leela’ and taboo was the warrior princess’ devotion for her saviour, in ‘Bajirao Mastani’. The innocence of unrequited love in ‘Saawariya’ broke our hearts while the prostitute gave us hope in humanity.

This Valentines’, focus on the highest, most important form of love: the one for self. Only when we love ourselves are we capable to fully love another. And if you have attracted the right significant other, celebrate them, and yourself, ALWAYS…

Bajirao Mastani (2015)

Master story teller and aesthetic genius Sanjay Leela Bhansali finally presents his long nurtured dream on celluloid. For fans of the director, and the cast, the wait was worth it.

Bajirao is played surprisingly well by a solid Ranveer Singh, who has mastered the accent and developed a body language which is believable and appropriate. He balances being the deft leader of an army, a devoted family man and a doomed lover.

Mastani, a warrior princess, an ethereal beauty of Persian descent, who else could play it but the girl with the magical touch? She can do no wrong, and this time, Deepika Padukone mesmerises us with the grace of royalty and the fierceness of a soldier. A talented danseuse aside, she emotes mainly with her eyes, speaking volumes on love, strength and pain. Kashibai, full of dignity that befits the ‘First Lady’, has the trickiest role.

Priyanka Chopra has the edge of a senior artist and shows us another mastery of accent and gestures, the other side of the spectrum from ‘Quantico’. She has a tough act of balancing herself in the face of her husband’s new love and political turmoil, which she does with a stoic humility.

The director has used dialgoue sparingly in the film, as actions and ambience speak the unspoken. Great care is taken for no scene or emotion to be melodramatic. Instead they are understated to make a far greater impression.

Costumes by Anju Modi weave their own story, while the sets and the mood is earthy, opulent, muted yet grand. The Aaina Mahal will be remembered for the resonance with its historic counterpart and its spellbinding magnificence. Bhansali has stepped way out of his comfort zone with his colour pallette. His adept treatment of war, romance, drama and politics, and the music as well, makes him a complete director.

A supporting but stellar cast comprises of many members, but the one that shines the most is Tanvi Azmi, who plays Radhabai, Bajirao’s mother, who has an impact with just her presence. Her actions are pivotal and her acting is flawless. Milind Soman has a short but important role, with one influential speech which he delivers effectively. Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Vaibbhav Tatwawdi support the drama.

Undoubtedly this year’s best film, it ticks all the boxes. It’s not heart wrenching like Mughal-E-Azam, but will choke you for sure. To be enthralled by music, grandeur and emotion, witness a movie which recreates history to become part of it.

4/5

Bajirao Mastaani…
Two lovers united by one sword…
Touching the breadth and depth of cinematic extravagance…
Will share more once I have processed the beauty and majesty of my experience…