Monday, 21 December 2015

Laal Ishq. My review Bajirao Mastani

Director : Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Starring : Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Tanvi Azmi, Mahesh 

कांटों भरे हैं लेकिन, चाहत के रास्ते
तुम क्या करोगे देखें, उल्फत के वास्ते
उल्फत में ताज़ छूटे, ये भी तुम्हें याद होग
उल्फत में ताज़ बने, ये भी तुम्हें याद होग

One of my favorite love songs, the words resonate even now, and came to mind as I watched Bajirao Mastani...

Love. We know it… or want to know it… it is an all-consuming emotion whose wonder has been written about since words were noted…  No wonder love stories are told over and over again in cinema too… Love that is fulfilled is joyous and that left unfulfilled, tragedy, makes us feel even more, because like love, we all know what pain feels like.

Welcome to the world of Bajirao Mastani. Two warriors, two lovers, who went against all norms of the society they were living in, and made history.

SLB’s film is not an exact account of history, in fact far from it. But as the opening Title reads, it is the love story of a warrior.

As expected, the scale, the grandeur, each frame painstakingly perfected, giving you a visual experience that is rare to come by. Opulence and detailing at every level, from the sets to the costumes, to the flawless make-up, Bajirao Mastani is a visual treat.

But what takes it beyond and makes it worth watching ( I saw it for the second time today) are the actors. Even when the story falters, sequences rush or linger longer than required (the climax) the cast carries the film, living each character, making you invested in them, feel what they feel. So this time I want to talk about the trio first.

Ranveer Singh. You got me jaaneman. A convert, that’s what I am after watching his Bajirao. Credit to Mr. Bhansali too. Ranveer has given his best performance to date, the way he has become the warrior Peshwa, Puneri accent in place most of the time, the taut body, the glint in his eyes, the walk, the fighting, the stance… uff…

Priyanka Chopra. Quantico ( Or Qwanakko as her Parrish says) ko bhool jaao, PC ke liye taali bajao. Not a fan, apart from her Barfi! I always found her lacking, but here in most parts, in a role that is bound to evoke sympathy from the audience, PC delivers. And her strongest moments are when she is silent, using her eyes to show the pain, the humiliation of being a wife whose husband has found love in another woman. Her scenes are few, but she stands out in most of them. Look out for her expressions in the curtain burning scene in the film.

Deepika. I love her, and Tamasha made me salute her prowess, but here, either because of the writing, or may be of the way the director visualised his Mastani, she does little more than look absolutely gorgeous. Her eyes forever brimming, her skin lit up from within, a thing of beauty with very limited moments where her acting could shine, even where she had meaty dialogues, her diction defeats. But a pleasure to watch nonetheless. Her beauty, grace and screen presence making her a perfect Mastani. 

Now coming to the storytelling. The forbidden love, the anguished wife, the “other woman”, religion coming in the way of lovers, a warrior princess becoming a putty in the hands of her passion and a wronged wife finding it in her to banish her husband out of her house… even though he can decimate armies single-handedly. The evolving of characters is extremely interesting, even when the unfolding of their lives is predictable. 

My big grouse is that in a love story where you want me to root for a married man, who is a Peshwa, a great warrior,  falling in love with a princess, and a princess’s instant love/obsession/lust with a married Maratha warrior, where she is ready to leave everything behind and follow her heart, very well knowing she will never be accepted by his family or society, I wish there was some more time spent with the two. Yes there are a few moments where we have to buy in to “instant chemistry” but an epic love story, for me could do with some epic moments… Remember Mughal e Azam, and that film is the inspiration for the director in his own words.

Some sequences really stand out, especially the husband wife scenes between Bajirao and Kashibai.

Tanvi Azmi as the mother works, with tonsured head et al, but her track is so predictable, the only breath of fresh air was her scene with Kashi where she points out their limitations as women… The other supporting cast does justice to their roles, you even get Mr. Raza Murad, his baritone still intact.

Mr. Bhansali knows what he wants, and you can see his vision unfold in every frame, yes he likes to indulge, but again to quote the man himself “it is not indulgence, this is how I see things”.  When a few directors exist who can be called auteurs, Bhansali yet again shows why he is prominent in that list.

Go watch the film, if for nothing else then for the sheer visual spectacle, and the women, you would definitely not want to miss how a bathing Bajirao can make you… Wink wink .

My Verdict 3.5/5