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Review: Padmaavat is a live opera on celluloid

Review: Padmaavat (i)

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Cast: Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapur, Jim Sarbh, Aditi Roa Hydari, Raza Murad, Anupriya Goenka and Aayam Mehta

Rating: Four stars


Now, that the unfortunate hooplah surrounding Padmaavat with an i is behind us and the raging debate on whether history has been distorted or not has been put to rest, we can all breathe. Movies depict various forms of artistic expression, prose or poetry in motion, entertainment, education or a narration taking us on an experimental spree. I call Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the master of opulence and extravaganza. Pandits have discussed at length on the magnum opus Padmaavat(i), at times questioning the movie’s logic laden with open letters or contrarian views accusing the maker of garnishing his stories with grandeur by twisting history. Why not? I shall argue. After all, brand SLB is about grandeur, decor and stunning visuals that make his stories credible and an experimental affair lapped by the audience.

Padmaavat was bound to create furor or raise eyebrows since history can be fictional or, for that matter, the filmmaker’s right to make use of creative freedom in his depiction of Queen Padmini.  A little bit of history. Sanjay Leela Bhansali has always been passionate to bring the story of Padmavati on screen since a decade and in the year 2008, he directed a 2-hour theatre version in Paris slithered with western classic and operatic music to create the visual imagery. It was a live opera that wooed and charmed an international audience.

Padmaavat on-screen is no less than a  live opera and herein lies the charm of the film marrying grandeur, epic battle, magnificent visuals, intense love and hatred in one frame. The entire picturization repose on a cinematic experience in form and essence bearing the signature style of the master storyteller and a stroke of genius, Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I am always sold on period and costume drama. At one shot, Padmaavat is an enthralling affair bringing to the fore sheer magnificence, stunning visuals and splendid camera angles moving at a frenetic pace that drags the viewers instantly into the world of Queen Padmavati. The Ghoomar song is Bhansali’s ode to celebrate the spirited and free woman lent tremendous grace by Deepika Padukone where the picturization has been done in a colossal manner marrying a ballet and grandiose spectacle at the same time.

A piece of art whipped in a super majestic manner where 3 D technology has an overbearing and powerful impact on the audience. One is simply transported into the world of Padmaavati like a trance. The battle sequence is epic and made it on par with classic Hollywood movies coupled with fantabulous camera movements cum decor which simply haunts in a delightful manner. That’s brand Sanjay Leela Bhansali for you. He captures emotions and style with elan. Jaw dropping sequences and a marvel to the eyes. Magnificence has a name. One watches in awe at the splendor with which he captures theatrics, visuals, and drama like jazz.

Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji simply owns and aces every scene on celluloid and he is menacing, passionate and sadistic. The body language spells doom and evil in form to wreak havoc in this bravado act that not only pays a fitting tribute to dreaded villains lost in translation on the Hindi silver screen but brings it back with elan. The act adds to the soul of Padmaavat. He has come a long way right from his first outing in Band Baaja Baarat to taking his Bajirao Mastani act a notch higher and now defying all logic in this period drama. Ranveer is simply haunting in this stupendous act. He has challenged himself as Khilji and pushed the self to the brink which shows on the screen.

Queen Padmaavati is Deepika Padukone in form and spirit. She slays it with both intensity and subdued at times where she wears the character of the Queen on the sleeve like a magnetic force.  Deepika gives grace and dignity to Padmaavati, the various emotional nuances displayed makes her shine and sparkle like rare diamonds.  She is one of the rare artists who is in competition with herself and this act testifies the capability to play a demi-goddess in the most convincing manner.

The force of Shahid Kapoor lies in his effortless and superlative performance as Maharawal Ratan Singh and delivers a royal performance with the costumes sitting on him like glove, facial and eyes’ intensity that gels beautifully with the character. He holds his own fort in a flawless manner that runs high in the body language. The real surprise is Jim Sarbh who delivers a memorable and wicked performance. Aayam Mehta adds zing and is superb as the crooked priest while Aditi Rao and Anupriya Goenka are decent.

Except for Ghoomar, the songs in Padmaavat lack the shine that could have adorned magnificence and stunning visuals for that matter. There is a dearth of spark in the music that fails to match this enthralling cinematic vision which is quite a surprise considering that SLB has always made them an intrinsic part of his films.

On the whole, Padmaavat is cinematic brilliance and shot in an aesthetic matter which makes it a soulful journey and experience on the silver screen. The director has concocted a breath-taking and pulsating finale particularly the scenes where Queen Padmaavati descends into the fire, shot brilliantly like poetry in motion as well as the epic battle between Khilji and Ratan Singh making it magnificent and stunning at the same time. Padmaavat (i) clearly belongs to one man and he is none other than Sanjay Leela Bhansali who whips a visual treat. It is not a film but an artistic expression rendered bigger through an enthralling cinematography, splendor in scale, nail-biting climax, aesthetic visuals, and power packed performances.




Work-in-progress, seeker and bundle of contradictions. Stubborn and Refusal to grow up and constantly in search of myself, I blurt it out on my space. Drop in and share some love. Indian by choice.

46 thoughts on “Review: Padmaavat is a live opera on celluloid

    1. Thanks Paromita. I know that many reasonable voices raised concern on Padmaavati in a legitimate way where debates should be encouraged. I watched the movie from a cinematic perspective minus logic and believes it’s a theatrical experience brilliantly told.

  1. Watched this movie last week. It was visual treat with the opulent sets and the battle scenes. Agree with you, Ranveer Singh’s stellar performance stole the thunder. He is one actor who has matured so much since his first film. Otherwise for me it was a one time watch!

    1. Thanks Radhika. The battle scenes are truly epic and the opulent sets cum cinematography just blow the mind. Ranveer has come a long way and love it how an actor shocks his audience. I know there are diverse views regarding the movie which is a healthy sign which augurs well for the future:)

  2. I guess the whole hype around the depiction of Padmaavat with an i made many go and watch it. I would love to see what has gone into making it (the opulent sets etc), and the character of Ranveer.

    1. Thanks so much Alok. For sure, the controversy garnered more interested that made the producers laugh their way to the bank. Yes, me too the wickedness and ruthleesness in making Khilji makes for such interest.

  3. I want to watch this movie for Ranveer. But all the talks about glorifying sati/ jauhar has made me doubtful about the movie. What did you think about the sati part?
    Btw I liked the Ek Dil hai song too apart from ghoomar. It is a nice romantic melody.

    1. Thanks Mona and Ranveer has pushed himself to extraordinarily level to wreck fear and evil. Incredible performance. I think the movie needs to be put into context taken into account the poem based in those days. That’s how I see it from a purely commercial and artistic manner. I mean, the entire film. Yes, we cannot accept Sati or Jauhar in today’s age but I don’t think SLB tried to glorify it. Mona. But, what I like there are different views on the film itself and attempt to assess thing in all its forms which should be encouraged. Yeah I do like Ek dil hai. I strongly recommend that you watch the movie. A brilliantly told story.

  4. So what’s the deal with the I? How does it change the meaning?

    Wish they showed foreign movies here, other than American blockbusters and the very highly patriotic Hungarian movies, which I refuse to watch. Wonder if they’ll show Black Panther.

    1. Some idiots protested and burnt buses thinking the film initially called Padmaavati, a Rajput Queen, has distorted history. Finally, the I was removed for the film to see the light of the day. I never knew that no foreign flick is shown in Hungary.

      1. Burning properties is extreme no matter what. Interesting how as humans we never learn, because burning has been the go-to expression of discontent since we discovered fire, I’m sure.

      2. Thanks. Kids are off limits. Adults know better. Even with public figures. You leave the kids alone. Of course, if the kids publish something, you can comment on it. But in normal terms, “I like it,” “I don’t like it.” You don’t shred the kid. And what does pelting a school bus achieve? Pelt the CEO’s car. Not that I’m advocating violence.

  5. It is indeed one of the best film reviews reflecting every observations and nuances outpouring instinctively in your writing. I love the statement:”Padmaavat is cinematic brilliance and shot in an aesthetic matter which makes it a soulful journey and experience on the silver screen”. This review drowns all the protests and controversies about the film, and make it an awesome entertaining piece of art on the silver scree. Well done, dear Vishal.

    1. Thanks Mr Pramod. People have various ways of seeing a film and there is no reason for protests since SLB films are about entertainment, I feel there should be no ground for that since it is based on a poem which gives the author the cinematic liberty. Thanks for the lovely words.

  6. I wasnt impressed with Bajirao Mastani – for all its grandeur and sets and glitzy glamour; the storyline and the actors lacked a punch. I found Jodha Akbar a far more believable celluloid tale that this opera-esque movie. So I was and still am not in the favour of wtching Padmavaati as I feel SLB depends too far and too often on the sets/ costumes/ gimmicks than any actual tale telling or even performance from his lead actors. He reduces them all to a gimmick.
    Your review confirms my belief that this one is once again a whole lot of opulence without substance. Beauty without soul is jarring and that seems to be SLB’s forte now!

    1. I wouldn’t agree with your perspective and feel he extracts the maximum best from his actors. Bajirao Mastani in my eyes was a soulful fare and one of this best. Nopes, my review didn’t hint at opulence without substance but to the contrary, expressing the extravaganza with soul. But, I respect your views. Thanks for dropping.

      1. Me too.. And I hope you have read Swara Bhaskar’s open letter… I really felt sad about that allegation on the movie… Thought it was completely pointless… Glad Padmaavat released after so much of controversy… Else Bollywood would have missed a masterpiece…

      2. I think it’s good that there is engagement and disagreements on the issue. It holds signficance looking at the violence unleashed by those stupid Karni Sena. I feel that Swara Bhaskar letter is important to encourage contrasting views. I disagree with her but we go a long way on freedom of expression :)I think Padmaavat is brilliant and reason why I am not putting logic in it. SLB’s movie is based on a poem during that days and we should not see it from a reality perspective. The box office figure is a slap to the bigots preventing the release, Sushmita.

    1. Thanks so much and I love your review. The issue with critics is that they put too much logic in a film which is aesthetic in appeal. Yes, Sena wanted to make themselves relevant but failed. Thanks for reading Rommane.

  7. That is a detailed review, Vishal. Yet to watch the movie. I am well aware that I am going to watch just a grand setting on a magnified screen so that a bygone era and a Rajput beauty – her dance, opulence and power will be better brought to life. Bringing this to life was no easy task, what with all the controversy and some even wanting the directer’s and actresses head on a plate, yet it is the last scene which I hear has been over dramatized that has been putting me off.

    1. I find the movie brilliant, the sets, dance and the action sequences in the way is shot are marvellous. The master of opulence never disappoints and it’s a story close to the heart. Yeah, I think the worse is ever but fringe elements always look out for a new challenge to destroy property 🙂

      1. I don’t know but was wary in watching on 3D. I like my cinematic expression being simple and reason why I’d still prefer typical theatres than plexes, given a choice.

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