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Bajirao Mastani review: A shallow visual extravaganza

Bajirao Mastani review: A shallow visual extravaganza

Source: General

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Friday 18 December 2015

Movie Title

Bajirao Mastani review: A shallow visual extravaganza

Director

Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Star Cast

Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh

A few minutes into the film, our senses are overwhelmed by the sighting of an 18th century Maratha royal court. There are chandeliers, water-ways, gems and jewels, and a curious mix of Aditya Pancholi and Milind Soman as courtiers.

Ranveer Singh as Bajirao strides in with an arrow and cuts a feather into half, proving himself fit as the next Peshwa.

Bajirao moves ahead swiftly, winning battles, slaying enemies, making allies with strategic help and taking over half of India. He has a “nothing personal, just business” way of fighting the Mughals, and always maintains a broad-minded approach when it comes to religion.

Which is why, he’s at loggerheads with hardliner Brahmin pundits. These altercations take a deadlier turn, when Bajirao falls in love with the warrior-princess of Bundelkhand Mastani (Deepika Padukone). Born to a Rajput father and Muslim mother, Mastani’s mixed lineage is unacceptable to the pundits and to Bajirao’s own mother (Tanvi Azmi, delightful).

Palace and religious politics takes over. Bajirao is now torn between the orthodoxy and his heart’s desire. He is torn by his commitment to his first wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra) and honouring his love for Mastani who he takes on as his second spouse.

Now, the story of Bajirao is fascinatingly volatile. His professional life was soaked in violence, and his personal life was full of emotional trials. However, we wonder where the drama of such an eventful life disappeared in the film. It’s almost like it was soaked dry by the visual splendor. For example, the swivelling crystal chandelier that Bajirao holds in an emotional moment, distracts from his inner turmoil.

Now the actors in the film are supremely talented, and have proven their mettle several times over. However here, drenched as they are in multi-layered finery and jewels, they do not become one with their characters, costumes, or dialogue.

Ranveer Singh is able to convince us of Bajirao’s personality for the most part. Except when the fine actor is made to do a victory song that ends with a pose, where Ranveer Singh inevitably takes over Bajirao.

Priyanka Chopra’s performance, particularly towards the second half, is the only time you actually ‘feel’ something for any of the characters. And Kashibai proves to be the most layered and interesting characters among all.

Deepika Padukone looks divine and she does bring out Mastani’s feisty rebelliousness. However with a hollow characterization that is given repetitive dialogue about ‘ishq, mohabbat’ and lines like ‘Mastani apni takdeer khud likhti hai’, the actor struggles to make the character as flesh-and-blood as possible.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, that visual wizard, gives us beauty in every frame. You feel transported to another world, as you soak in the Aaina Mahal, the ornate chandeliers, beautiful fountains, the sheer ostentatious beauty all around.

But that cannot make up for the lack of emotional connect to the story and characters. Bhansali is utterly unsubtle whether it is visually (which works) and when it comes to drama (doesn’t work).

For example, all arguments are loud, and peppered with simplistic dialogue. In order to add a touch of drama, all characters hop into water and walk, instead of taking a turn and using the floor. A character travels a stormy sea in the dead of the night to profess love. All Bajirao’s enemies are scowling, kohl-ed actors who look like they’re playing dress-up. Accents are sketchy and inconsistent.

The saddest part is we don’t know what to make of the Bajirao-Mastani romance. It happens in a hurried manner (they’re professing undying love in days), too many convoluted developments take place, the fact that he’s married to Kashibai never once comes up in their conversation, and so, we don’t connect enough to root for them.

With that gone, all that remains is the uneasy relationship between Kashibai and Mastani, which has its moments. Bhansali’s classical-music infused songs, Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography, Anju Modi’s costumes and the production design are all aces.

The story had the potential to touch the heart; but what you essentially recall is the genius of Deepika’s costume, Priyanka’s Kashibai and her lovely Maharashtrian look, Ranveer’s astute sword-fights and that swivelling crystal chandelier. Watch it for the visual splendor and snatches of masterful performances from the lead cast.

Rating: 3 stars

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