Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, Jim Sarbh, Aditi Rao Hayadr
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Rating: 3.5 stars
There are three disclaimers before the beginning of the film Padmaavat. It clarifies that the film is based on Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic poem of the same name, and an important one that the film does not endorse Sati or Jauhar - a Hindu practice of mass self-immolation by women, to avoid capture, enslavement and rape as a result of defeat during a war. The disclaimers were inevitable, given that the film was almost derailed from it’s release by certain fringe groups in India.
With this film, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has proved his mettle as an artist. He has repeatedly demonstrated an understanding of Indian culture, passion for history and a keen eye for visual art through his films. The extravagant scale and ostentatious display showcase nothing but Rajput pride in every inch of the frame. The film’s grim narrative is indeed packed with pomp and splendour, thus keeping one engaged.
The story evolves as a loose political ruckus, much like the decontaminated CBSE textbook which teaches us a lesson of morality and honor. Get ready for long stares and pavitra romance between Shahid and Deepika. It is so sanskaari that it makes Alok Nath seem snappy. Not to say that their romantic sequence does not have its winning bits.
Deepika Padukone who plays the lead as Padmavati, justifies her part as a Rajput wife who abides by the social statements. She is a badass strategist who rescues her husband out of Khilji’s den, making her somewhat smarter than the Raja who swears by his principles and takes way too much pride in his physical strength over political prudence. Deepika is an enchanting beauty, who wears lovely costumes with utmost grace, even if her midriff is “decently’’ covered using special effects. Take that Karni Sena!
Maharawal Ratan Singh played by Shahid Kapoor did not add much to the narrative apart from bringing regal aura and brimming with Rajput pride. Kapoor mainly holds one expression throughout the movie and focuses on his stiff body posture in the name of ‘acting’. An actor of his caliber did not have much to contribute to the film because Padmaavat belonged to Ranveer Singh.
Bhansali’s version of Allahuddin Khilji, played by Ranveer Singh is barbaric. He sports kohl eyes and long rowdy locks. His walk resonates with that of a bear and he chomps meat like a greedy demon; greed for power, empire, lust, blood and ‘har wo nayab cheez’. After much righteousness from Padmavati and Ratan Singh, Khilji’s savage edge brings respite to the film. He dances like a lunatic, breaks into unhinged laughters and lusts unabashedly.
Singh’s brilliance, devotion and submission to essay Khilji has been noted by the audience and stored for posterity. Hindi cinema has found its iconic antagonist who can be categorized amongst Gabbar and Mugambo. Kudos to Singh!
A special mention for Jim Sharabh who makes a mark alongside Ranveer Singh. Malik Kafur is a homosexual slaveboy who diligently looks after his master Khilji. Jim shines in this impactful performance as a supporting cast.
Alas, the film takes unbearably long to unfold and conclude. The writing is undoubtedly inadequate but excusable for the real fascination of Padmaavat comes from its production and presentation. The production design, visual appeal, costumes and camera work of the movie is startling. It is an epic saga packed with a fairy tale layer. If you were enthralled by Bahubali 2, wait till you’ve watched this one.
What were you talking about, Karni Sena?!