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.