Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra and Tanvi Azmi
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest magnum opus offering ‘Bajirao Mastani’ is a movie based on the historical romance of the Maratha leader Bajirao Ballal Bhat who fought 40 battles, and won each one of them. Yet the love of his life, his soulmate Mastani, was a Muslim woman who was never accepted by Bajirao’s family or their religious custodians.
From the start it is evident that ‘Bajirao Mastani’ is Bhansali’s ode to K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam, the folktale about the love between the Mughal crown prince Salim (later to become Emperor Jehangir) and the slave girl Anarkali. He also makes it amply clear in the disclaimer at the very start that though based on N.S. Inamdar’s Rau, his love triangle — of Peshwa Bajirao I, his first wife Kashi and second wife Mastani — is not a historically accurate narrative but one which takes liberties with the period, the setting and the story.
Ranveer Singh plays Bajirao, the dynamic Maratha warrior who leads the king’s armies and captures lands far and wide. He meets the daughter of the king of Bundelkhand, Mastani, when she comes to ask him for help in rescuing her kingdom from a Mughal conqueror. The two fall in love in true Bhansali style amid swinging chandeliers, falling curtains, clanging background music, and what is meant to be poetic dialogue.
Priyanka Chopra plays the character of Kashibai, Bajirao’s first wife who gets ignored by him. Priyanka brings so much dignity to the role of a wife who has to watch her husband fall in love and marry another woman. She is, by turns, playful and serious, a far cry from the Kashibai that Inamdar describes in his book (Kashibai is said to have been arthritic and had a limp).
Deepika Padukone plays the role of Mastani, a warrior princess, with sparkling brilliance, stepping up the tempo every time she is in the frame. She makes a dashing entry as she attacks the Peshwa (Ranveer) in his own camp when his attendants do not allow her to meet him. Dressed like a soldier, she moves forward kicking and slashing Ranveer’s soldiers. He stands there awestruck. She is riveting as the legendary beauty Mastani. Her face is so luminous that she seems lit from within.
Tanvi Azmi plays Ranveer’s mom with such power and elegance that she makes you fear her. Even the supporting cast of Mahesh Manjrekar as Chhatrasal Shahu, Vaibhav Tatwawdi as Bajirao’s brother Chimaji and Milind Soman as Bajirao’s friend and advisor add gravity to the story. They swiftly stepped into their characters.
In the upcoming awards season, ‘Bajirao Mastani’ should have a clean sweep of awards in every possible category. In fact, this is the film that should be India’s entry to major film awards across the globe. The film showcases our history in as grand and beautiful manner as possible and is a tribute to our colorful culture.
Bhansalified history, as it turns out, makes for good cinema. If you appreciate Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opulence and grandeur, this won’t disappoint.