Movie Review: Bajirao Mastani
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Tanvi Azmi, Milind Soman and Mahesh Manjrekar
Rating: Four stars
The master of grand opulence is back with one of his most ambitious project, Bajirao Mastani which was announced after Saawariya and after the project was almost shelved in the past, it has finally seen the light of the day. Being a huge fan of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, I am glad Bajirao Mastani has been released and it’s one of the biggest, brilliant and aesthetic cum cinematic period drama. Canvas on art, it beautifully portrays grandeur, stupendous camera movements and recreation of the era. Let’s analyse what makes Bajirao Mastani a cinematic gem.
The film pays tribute to the rich Maharashtrian culture in India and Sanjay Leela Bhansali takes us on a breath-taking journey narrating the story of Peshwa Bajirao (Ranveer Singh), Kashi Bai (Priyanka Chopra) and Mastani (Deepika Padukone). The introduction scene is tantalizing, which opens up on Mahesh Manjrekar as Chhatrasal Shahu. The first 20 minutes is breath taking in terms of grand opulence, exquisite camera movements, battle scenes shot majestically and costumes that gives one the feel of living in the historic era. It simply takes our breath away. Only a director of the stature of Sanjay Leela Bhansali could have pulled such a feat from start to finish. A visual treat to the viewers, who remain glued to their seats.
Ranveer Singh as Peshwa Bajirao does a fine job in the movie, torn between his love for Kashi Bai and Mastani, fighting the conservative Brahmans and this role will add to his CV in playing the fearless warrior. He stands out in the climax scenes, where his life is taken away and fighting the demons in his imagination. It’s one of the scenes where he shines. Deepika electrifies the screen every time she appears and Mastani has been written specially for her where she raises the bar higher in a role that she never essayed before. Priyanka Chopra is Kashi Bai who lends so much credence to the character and is pivotal to the Bajirao Mastani, despite playing second fiddle. She is the heroine, along with Deepika and proves there is more to her as an actor. At times, sensual and expressing facet of eroticism in her posture, she plays her part effortlessly. Tanvi Azmi is terrific, in portraying the strict mother of Bajirao, Mahesh Manjrekar in a special appearance leaves an impact through his body posture and facial expression. Bajirao Mastani also marks the return of Milind Soman, who does a fine job.
Among the scenes that stands out are Deepika’s entry as the warrior fighting the men of Peshwa Bajirao and the conflicts between her and Priyanka cum Tanvi. The latter as Radha Bai and Mastani being in conflict with each other in terms of ideals in upholding the royal household add to the brilliance of Bajirao Mastani, giving shades of grey an altogether new meaning, in 18th century Maharashtra. Credit goes to SLB for pushing Ranveer in playing the Maratha accent to the hilt.
On the flip side, Ranveer who delivers an excellent performance as Peshwa Bajirao, suffers at times for lacking a certain depth and maturity as the king. It shows in the film, considering that Bajirao is a larger than life and historical figure. The pinga song has been well executed and is a delight, but it falls short when compared to Dola re Dola, which shows the Madhuri-Aishwarya conflict. SLB has tried to repeat the same, in showcasing Deepika and Priyanka conflict through dance as an art form.
Bajirao Mastani is the perfect answer to theater and drama. It deserves to be emerged as a cult film depicting historical drama. The real hero of Bajirao Mastani is Sanjay Leela Bhansali, through crisp writing and narration, in showcasing the historical era with mesmerizing competence, be it the extravagant decor he is famous for, scintillating production design, actors’ stupendous performance and narration. For sure, Bajirao Mastani should be counted among the best movies of the year and it’s a gem that will take away your heart. It’s artistic with a human soul coupled with compelling dialogue, where the 18th century era has been created in an aesthetic manner that would make one die to live in the era.
Book your tickets, if you haven’t, for Bajirao Mastani is the kind of cinema that comes rarely and that’s what makes it a classic. It’s only SLB that has the knack to make history romantic and lyrical.
Post script: I remember interviewing Tanvi Azmi in August where she shared her experience of working with SLB, who is passionate about everything. She narrated an anecdote on how she wanted to shave her head and discussed same with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Since, it was much too early for her character to come into play, she was sitting with Sanjay and told him about it. The director said, No, a couple of times and she was adamant. The actor went back to the director and kept bugging her. Finally, Sanjay just told her, “Do it before I change my mind.”