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Posted at: Dec 18, 2015, 6:14 PM; last updated: Dec 18, 2015, 6:14 PM (IST)

An opulent affair

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Film: Bajirao Mastani

  • Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
  • Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Tanvi Azmi, Vaibbhav Tatwawdi, Milind Soman, Aditya Pancholi, Mahesh Manjrekar
An opulent affair

Nonika Singh

A Sanjay Leela Bhansali film is well, a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. High on splendour, epic in scale and lavish in treatment and a little wanting in its emotional quotient. And when it dips into history to recreate the life and love of 18th century Maratha Peshwa Bajirao, Bhansali simply pulls out all the stops. Battle scenes, court setting, sterling dances, costumes or the performances everything is top notch and larger than life.

Sure for a while the chants of Har Har Mahadev and talk of Hindu rashtra in times of religious intolerance leave you a little flustered. But as the story unfolds as the love between Bajirao (Ranveer Singh) and half-Muslim Mastani (Deepika Padukone) blooms there is no doubting the intentions of the maker which are as secular can be. The final lines of the film in the firm voice of Irrfan Khan even spell it down for you crystal clear. Religion might have a colour but love is a religion in itself is a message that echoes more than once. But where the film works better is when it’s subtler and nuanced. No wonder more than Mastani’s open declaration of love for Bajirao it’s his wife Kashibai’s (Priyanka Chopra) stoic countenance that tugs at your heart strings. In fact, it’s Priyanka who provides the emotional core more than the trials and tribulations in love story of Bajirao and Mastani. Without a doubt, Deepika dazzles as does much else in the film. But beyond the razzle dazzle, it’s the piercing intense gaze of Ranveer Singh that makes you sit up and notice him and others who spar with him, idolize him and love him passionately. He owns the part of the warrior as if he were to the Peshwa born, not a single faux pas in his characterisation of the brave Maratha with several shades to his persona. The descendants of Bajirao and Mastani might have issues with the film, it invokes fierce pride in Maratha roots at the same time not shying away from pointing fingers at the doggedness of the religious bigots.

Whether the film takes liberties with history or not, it issues a disclaimer in the beginning that it doesn’t vouch for historical veracity. But it sure creates a leaf out of history with romance and intrigue providing dramatic highs. Apart from signature Bhansali moments like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone’s dance off ‘Pinga’, there are a few borrowed from other epic films like Mughal-e-Azam. Bhansali’s obsessive fascination with chandeliers and sheeshmahals shows no signs of abating either. On its own merit Bajirao is a magnum opus for sure. But more than being an ode to love it ends up as one to Bajirao the warrior and of course opulence.

However, no reason to miss the film. Ranveer’s act as those of others, especially Tanvi Azmi as his unrelenting mother and Mastani’s bete noire, alone makes it worth the while. Add to it the perfect, even if lavish, period setting, high aesthetic and cinematic values and this Bhansali outing may not make your heart ache but fills your senses with stunning spectacles. There is a poetic languor too that may not be the defining thread but is certainly interspersed in between to make it a cut above the usual fare.

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