Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sanjay Leela Bhansali hits the right notes in 'Bajirao Mastani' -- It is about power, prowess, love and the caste politics of Chitpavan Brahmins

Sanjay Leela Bhansali loudly announces the disclaimer at the very beginning the film. He says events and characters have benn created to enhance its cinematic creativeness. In spite the intrusions of the imagination, the viewer comes away with enough information about the man Bajirao, the women, Kashi and Mastani, and the palace intrigues and casteist Brahiminical simmering in 18th century Poona, at a time when the Marathas were the dominant power in Indian politics. Now, this is a great achievement by any standards.

Unlike the Salim-Anarkali story, which K.Asif turned into a magnificent celluloid drama in 1960, which had no element of historical truth -- the true lovely story of Jahangair was one with Noor Jahan nee Mehrunissa -- Ashotush Gowarikar's 'Jodha Akbar'(2007) and Bhansali's 'Bajirao Mastani' (2015) bristle with historical facts and credible performances. Bhansali's 'Bajirao Mastani'should indeed serve as a popular historical study of Bajirao, the man who is most successful on the battlefield and who is a true romantic at the same time. Mastani is again a real woman, who is a fighter and a lover. The story has inherent dramatic potential. Bhansali takes every opportunity to imagine the drama and he succeeds.

The film gives a glimpse of Bajirao as a great military general, who defeats the the Nizam's forces and those of the Mughals. Poona emerges as the alternate power centre of Maratha power. It shows how the Chitpavan Brahmin household of the Peshwa comes to terms with the social and political reality of power and success. Bajirao, the brilliant military campaigner cannot be held back by rigid, small and narrow-minded Brahminical caste restrictions. His success lies in the fact that he is a free man in the intellectual sense of the term, and that is why he succeeds.

His love for Mastani is that of an honest and brave man. It shows that the Chitpavan Brahmins who are ready to deal with the world of different castes and different religions are trying desperately to preserve othodox Brahminism in the household and in the limited society of Poona! This is what makes Bhnsali's film fascinating. And perhaps, it gives an inkling of why the rising Maratha power under the Peshwas was shortlived. There were of course many other reasons. But the fact that the Chitpavan Brahmin Peshwas were also busy holding on to their own caste rules while dominating Indian politics of the day is a major social reason for their short-lived glory.

Bhansali has borrowed the sense of drama from K. Asif and the awe-inspiring technical grandeur from Zhang Yimou's 'The Hero" (2002). But these are not drawbacks. Bhansali makes them his own and he has made a lavish film. But it is the politics and real-life romance of Bajirao and Mastani that is more important than the lavish and grand scenes. Ranveer Singh excels as Bajirao. He shows the flair of a warrior as well as a lover. Priyanka Chopra essays a nuanced role of Kashi, the wife. Deepika Padukone as Mastani gives an honest performance. There are some scenes and some angles when she reminds one of Aishwarya Rai.

Prakash Kapadia's dialogues are powerful, ironic, rhetorical, poetic. Production designers Saloni Dhatrak, Sriram Iyengar and Sujeet Sawant have done a great job. The music is good but it is not great. Which is perfect because one is not distracted by the music and the focus remains on the politics and the emotional tangles of the romance.


Mahendra said...

Reviewing a really well made movie makes it difficult to find glitches. This is one such movie. It escapes falling between history and fiction. K Asif bit is right, but six decades hence with better technology available, Sanjay has been able to excel Asif. The war scenes in Razia Sultan were poor by comparison. By far this is the most detailed portrayal of a historical battle in Indian cinema. Priyanka hasd a great role, performed well. Deepika as Mastani good, but more low key than she should have been in some scenes. No Sohrab Modi touch in dialogues, written as well as delivered, which is good. The conflict between saffron and green comes off well.

Parsa Rao said...

A very honest review of a well made Historical Movie.
The performances of Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra stand out as more than Excellent. Par Excellance.
Priyanka Chopra essays the aggrieved wife's role with remarkable finesse and puts her soul into it.
Ranveer Singh amply justifies his selection for the Title Role which he plays to the hilt. Great performance.
Deepika as the other woman is good for the role which has far more limitations than one can think of. Yet she turns in a flawless performance.
On the whole a very satisfying movie experience which we did not have after Jodha Akbar in recent times. Congratulations, Mr. Bhansali, you did a perfect job.

Parsa V R Rao

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