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Spectacular But Stupid

Well, this can be the title of reviews of most films by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He repeats an old triangle in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam; he would make us believe through Black that the visually and hearing impaired walk around with their legs spread apart. And he is so fond of making his female protagonists dance that he spared neither Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay’s conservative Paro (or even her mother who the novelist never said was a nautch girl) in Devdas nor a Muslim princess of 18th century India — not just in a court where her mother-in-law wants her to face humiliation but also in her own father’s durbar — in Bajirao Mastani! Bhansali actually repeats a “Dola re”-like situation in this venture.

bajirao-mastani-scenes-looks-teasersBut then, you must give him credit where it is due: his ability to create an awe-inspiring canvas. After Khamoshi – The Musical, his only work in the art genre, he chose to dazzle the viewers in every other film, be it through sombreness or through glitz. Whether he has a reason like Mahesh Bhatt’s, who chose never to make another Saransh or Arth, believing that the Indian audience is not mature enough for serious stuff, is anybody’s guess.

Bajirao… also impresses with the Marathi-accented Hindi of its actors, especially who does not hail from Maharashtra. His talent for mimicry has been put to good use in this movie.

After Bahubali – The Beginning, we again get to see jaw-dropping enactments of sword-and-arrow wars in Indian cinema in this Bhansali production. Since he specialises in spectacles, cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee must be praised for their jobs, too, except for a pall of green (or, was it sepia?) that was cast over all sights of the palace — from the courts to the bedrooms to the bathroom.

640837Those who went to the theatre expecting it to be a war movie with a subplot of a triangle, as the trailer had suggested, also stand to be disappointed. It is the other way round. Bajirao Ballal Balaji Bhat (Ranveer) is brave, invincible and crafty in battles, but the plot is dominated by the problems in his marital life and extended family invited by his act of falling in love of the daughter of Bundelkhand’s besieged ruler Maharaja Chhatrasal (Benjamin Gilani), Mastani (Deepika Padukone), who strangely inherits from her mother and not Hinduism from her father. It’s the faith that makes her acceptance in the Peshwa family as Bajirao’s second wife near impossible, as her scheming mother-in-law (Tanvi Azmi) first tries to insult and finally eliminate her.

tanvi

The first wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra) is hurt, expectedly, but she still does not pose an insurmountable hurdle on the way to the warrior’s second marriage. It finally becomes an out-and-out story when the chivalrous man is reduced to a lump of hallucinations.

The initial stages suggested that the pratinidhi (Aditya Pancholi) would be up to some mischief throughout the story, given that he was left disgruntled by the king (Mahesh Manjrekar), but Bajirao’s mother proves more than a handful in bringing in the bad times. Milind Soman does an above-average job as the helpful minister. Vaibhav Tatwawdi as Chimaji suits the character.

The biggest misfit is Deepika. Her look is perfect as a soldier, but the typically Indian costume either for a princess or for a danseuse does not suit the face we are used to seeing portray a modern-age woman film after film.

2609368434One thing you should not hold against Bhansali is historicity of the storyline. He plays it safe by issuing a disclaimer right in the beginning.

If you must see the film, keep in mind the name of the producer-director throughout and check it out only to go “wow” on two occasions when battles break out. Some are also going for it to avoid Dilwale featuring Shah Rukh Khan, which is reportedly dumber.

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Surajit Dasgupta
Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sirf News Surajit Dasgupta has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life, the first national affairs editor of Swarajya, executive editor of Hindusthan Samachar and desk head of MyNation

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