I managed to catch the ‘first day-first show’ of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus ‘Padmaavat’ yesterday evening amidst heavy police protection. The security arrangements were excellent and hats off to all the policemen who ensured that nothing would disturb us while watching the 3-D spectacle unfold on the big screen.
The film in every which way lives up to all the expectations of grandeur and extravagance associated with Bhansali films but this time the difference is that it is mounted on a 3-D format giving the viewer a newer, better and grander experience thus making the movie a must watch! The film is a glorious tribute to the valour and ideologies of the Rajput community.
As the film is based on a very popular legend and owing to the extraordinary publicity the film has garnered in the last few months, the basic plot really has no surprises as everyone viewing is aware that the film will culminate in the tragic and gruesome ritual of ‘Jauhar’ in which all the Rajput women spearheaded by Queen Padmavati decide to jump in the huge burning pyre to protect their honour from the cruel Muslim invaders.
OUTLINE OF THE PLOT:
Sultan Alauddin Khilji (Khalji), the most powerful ruler of the Khalji dynasty after hearing about the beauty of Queen Padmavati of Chittor wants to possess her and comes to attack the fort of Chittor just to get a glimpse of her. Unable to get anywhere near the impenetrable, strong and well-guarded fort, he waves the peace flag and extends his hand of friendship to the King of Chittor- Maharawal Ratan Singh. Agreeing to the conditions laid out by the King, he agrees to send back his army and enters the palace unarmed and is treated to the warm hospitality of the Rajputs by the King but much to his chagrin even after repeated pleas and persistence is only allowed a very long-distant glimpse of the Queen and that too for just a fraction of a second.
His anger and frustration are both heightened as he feels he has been humiliated and decides to take revenge. He gets the King kidnapped by trickery, imprisons him in the gallows and insists that he would release him only if Queen Padmavati comes to Alauddin’s palace personally and show her face to him. Of course! The Queen outwits him and gets her husband back. Now Alauddin’s seething rage can only by quenched in a fight-to-finish battle, slaying the king and possessing Queen Padmavati thus leading to the much publicized ‘Jauhar’ sequence.
Nobody in the current lot of directors can dream of matching Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s vision for grandiose sets and visuals which makes viewing his films an enriching experience. He takes his time to spin this tale dotting it with his imaginative sequences and decorating the narrative with good dialogues, delicate romantic moments, several emotionally charged confrontation scenes between the main characters and superbly choreographed dance sequences.
The battle scenes are done very well and cinematography is excellent. There is a battle scene in particular when the dust kicked up the innumerable horses during the fight makes it look like a veritable area of dust-storm and there is a long shot of the lone man Khilji waiting to enter at the right time. Minutes later he enters with the ferocity of a savage beast and emerges out with the head of the beheaded enemy king!
Though it is the story of Padmavati, the film totally belongs to Ranveer Singh, who dominates the narrative from the first scene to the last frame. As the manic, powerful, ruthless and cruel Alauddin Khilji he reeks of brutality and has delivered an unbelievably brilliant performance. A lot of thought and imagination has gone into his get-up and looks and the effect on the screen is amazing. The director has given a lot of screen-time to showcase many facets of Khilji which allows Ranveer the opportunity to brings to life the menace, savagery, carnal pleasures and brutality in Khilji’s personality with such élan, confidence and conviction that it will remembered as one of the best performances of his career. Honestly, Bhansali could not have asked for a better Khilji!!!
Deepika Padukone is perfectly cast as Queen Padmavati. Her beauty and personality bring a regal bearing to the character and she comes up with yet another milestone performance. She is indeed fortunate to have a director like Bhansali who conceptualizes such strong characters which give her ample scope to test her prowess in every film.
Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh is also very good and has many strong scenes and dialogues going for him. But somewhere in the final outcome of things, his character is somewhat overshadowed by the towering presence and acting of both Padmavati and Khilji. Though the pairing of Shahid and Deepika is novel to watch, their on-screen chemistry lacks the much needed spark which would have given their scenes an edge.
Raza Murad as Khilji’s uncle, Aditi Rao Hyadri as Khilji’s wife and Jim Sarabh as Khilji’s right hand man deserve special mention. They are all very well cast and add a lot of value to the proceedings.
There are not too many songs and though they are very good we remember only two songs- ‘Ghoomar’ and ‘Khalibali’ when we walk out of the cinema hall. And the credit for that goes to the choreographers for coming up with such stunning steps.Deepika’s effortless grace in the ‘Ghoomar’ song and Ranveer’s energetic dancing in ‘Khalibali’ leaves you asking for more.
The ‘Jauhar scene is not as impactful as it could have been. Somewhere the visual grandeur of the slightly prolonged sequence where the Rajput women clad in red keep on running towards the fire pit overshadows the emotion of horror and tragedy connected with such a horrific act which it should have evoked… But Bhansali thankfully avoids any gruesome depiction of the actual act and only the effect is conveyed.
There is not a single frame or scene which in any remote way can be interpreted as being derogatory to the Rajput women. So it remains baffling as to what started off this unnecessary controversy regarding the film which offended and provoked the ‘Karni Sena’ to threaten the stars and demand a ban. It is not as if stories on Rajput women have never been shown. In fact the popular television serial ‘Maharana Pratap’ (2013-2015) showed two ‘Jauhar’ episodes in the narrative- one during Maharana Uday Singh’s time in the same Chittor place and the other which involved Uday Singh’s grandmother Queen Karnavati. Also in 1988, director Shyam Benegal’s historical serial ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’ had an episode dedicated to the story of Alauddin Khilji and Rani Padmini and ironically Bhansali was one of the one of the assistant directors. So why all the fuss now!!!
Whether the film becomes a hit or not is not in Bhansali’s hand. Notwithstanding the senseless ban and violent attacks still ensuing in many States the public may be wary of venturing into cinema halls. But the fact remains that Sanjay Leela Bhansali has crafted this tale with a lot of love and passion and spent extravagantly to give the viewers an amazing experience. The film gives us a peek into our legend, culture and history which by all means is definitely worth watching and applauding.
Take a bow Bhansali and three cheers to Ranveer!!!