The Rajputana clan of Northern India(specifically the state of Rajasthan) have been widely romanticised in many Indian texts and media. History books speak of their praise and Indian media cannot speak of them enough. In 2017, the film, then titled ‘Padmaavati’, sparked outrage in the state it was being shot in. Sets were vandalized, the director and crew assaulted and the existence of a ‘Shri Rajput Karni Sena'(A Right Wing Rajput Upper Caste Advocacy group based in Rajasthan) came to light. When the initial release date of December 1, 2017, approached, violent protests broke out and the Central Board of Film Certification(The Film certification organization of India) declined to rate the film. A two-month-long tussle finally saw the light when the film, now renamed ‘Padmaavat’, finally found its way into theatres, now enhanced with the addition of 3D and the large format IMAX 3D. Padmaavat Padmaavat Padmaavat
Padmaavat tells the widely renowned story of Rani Padmini, a legendary queen portrayed in the epic poem, ‘Padmaavat‘ written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi.
The story deals with the famous ruler of the Khalji Dynasty, Alauddin Khillji who becomes infatuated with the queen of Chittor, Rani Padmini. what follows is the conquest of Chittor in his lust for the queen, in what would culminate in the Jauhar(a mass suicide cremation of women in order to protect their dignity against invaders) of all Rajput women in Chittor.
While the story is pretty straightforward, Director and Scriptwriter Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Prakash Kapadia manage to weave it into a 3-hour long cinematic epic, one that has mixed results. The characters feel monotonous and the plot is wafer thin, which contributes to the tedious feeling of the film. Filler moments and character interactions occupy a lot of the screenplay, culminating in a haphazard story that is low on substance.
That is not to say that the film lacks merit.
What it lacks mostly in substance, can be made up by the style and by the performances. The Larger than life scale of the film saves it from becoming a tiring drag. The war sequences and the elaborate set pieces add to the grandeur and regal feeling associated with Indian royalty and are visually appealing. The elaborate display of colour, mostly the hues of red and black brings forth an aesthetic quality to each frame and the cinematography, focusing on panning shots and scale, adds a visual gravity that is beautiful and opulent.
The strongest point of the film is, however, the performances of the entire cast.
Bolstered by a strong supporting cast, the lead trio pack a punch in their respective performances. When talking of the supporting cast, the praiseworthy mentions are Jim Sarbh and Aditi Rao Hydari.
Jim portrays Malik Kafur, the loyal eunuch servant of Alauddin. Sarbh adds an enigmatic and feminine quality to Malik while remaining playfully menacing throughout. The underlying romantic affection he holds for Alauddin has been subtly showcased and his misery in never being able to become what he yearns for shows a softer side of an otherwise despicable character.
Aditi Rao Hydari plays Mehrunisa, the first wife of Alauddin. She adds depth to an underwritten character, her eyes doing most of the acting. One can feel the pain of being ignored and brutalized by the person she is married to, and her interaction with Deepika Padukone’s Padmini are some of the film’s best moments from a character perspective.
With that, One must talk about Deepika Padukone and Shahid Kapoor. Padukone brings forth a polished intensity in Padmini, immediately visible from the first time she appears. The beauty and sophistication she brings to the character are praiseworthy and is befitting of the character she plays, a character known for her beauty. As with every other cast member, her eyes do most of the acting, where they convey more emotion than her words do. Shahid Kapoor, on the contrary, brings a certain physicality to the ruler of Chittor. It is not a tough task to play a mostly expressionless king, but Kapoor does a fine job of portraying that, also making the most of his eyes. In light of recent events, he does become the subject of ridicule, as his dialogues chronicling the valour and pride of Rajputs become unintentionally funny, though to no fault of his own
But everyone is heavily overshadowed by Alauddin Khillji himself, Ranveer Singh
Exceptionally terrifying and appropriately over the top, Ranveer Singh overshadows anyone in his range, demolishing them with his mobility and eccentric performance. One look at him is enough to send shivers down your spine, and his unpredictability in his schemes makes him an antagonist that no protagonist should have the misfortune of facing. His character is hampered by Bhansali’s excessive need to showcase the badness of Khillji, which takes up most of the screen time, becoming more of a beast with no humanity explored.
All said, the film can be considered entertaining by those experienced with the immediate roster of Bhansali. Carrying forward the formulaic approach over from ‘Goliyon Ki Raas Leela, Ram Leela’ and ‘Bajirao Mastani’, this approach does hurt the film considerably. Another point to be raised is that in the modern context, can such a film be backed up knowing communal tensions and crimes against women in India run high? I truly do not have the answer to that, but I can say one thing, I would request anyone who believes in their freedom of speech, to watch the film to show their solidarity with the artists trying to make such films.
Everyone knows we need to.
You may also like: My Favourite Hindi Films of 2017
Jack of many trades, but a master of none. A businessman by profession, but a chef by heart, Dipanjan has his hands dirty with photography and photoshop. He would spend all his day sleeping if he could, and makes the same resolution of losing weight every year(but to no avail) . Also has two daughters, which are actually dogs, but sshhh we don’t tell him that.