A wait of more than a decade for your dream project to shape up can be painful. Sanjay Leela Bhansali had announced ‘Bajirao Mastani’ in 2003 with Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the lead roles. The film went through several changes in the cast and the director tried to bring his ambitious project to life several times but things did not work out. Bhansali finally realizes his dream as the film, based on the relationship between Maratha warrior Bajirao and his second wife Mastani, released all across the globe this week.
Bajirao Peshwa (Ranveer Singh) proves that he possesses all the qualities of an able ruler and deserves the right to sit on his deceased father’s throne. He is given a warm welcome by his wife Kashi (Priyanka Chopra) and mother Radhabai (Tanvi Azmi). Mastani (Deepika Padukone), the daughter of the ruler of Bundelkhand and a warrior herself, comes to meet Bajirao and requests him to help them fight the enemy. Bajirao agrees and both the armies join forces to drive the enemy away. Sparks fly between Bajirao and Mastani as they get enamoured by each other’s valour on the warfront. Although both of them realize that they have feelings for each other, they part ways as their alliance does not seem to be possible. They believe the fact they follow different religions and that Bajirao is a married man, would never let them unite. Bajirao returns home and shifts to Shaniwarwada, a new palace built for him, with his family. Mastani cannot bring herself to forget Bajirao and moves to Poona, where Bajirao lives. She does not find acceptance there and even gets ruthlesssly humiliated by Amma. But, Mastani resolves to stay close to Bajirao no matter what. Soon, Bajirao aacknowledges his love for Mastani and together, they battle several odds to stay together.
Though the film is set in a period gone by, it deals with an important issue (amongst other things) that every individual in the country is familiar with – religious intolerance. The film is based on a relationship that thrived hundreds of years ago but one could imagine a modern couple, in the present times, facing severe opposition because of the fact they follow different religions. A disclaimer runs in the opening credits stating that certain characters and episodes have been fictionalised in order to enhance the dramatic/cinematic impact. One does not know how much of truth one gets to see on the screen. But, what one can confidently say is that ‘Bajirao Mastani’ is a cinematic gem. It could be quite a challenge to write the script of a period film apart from all the research involved, it should be able to make the audience familiar with the milieu and relate to the characters they do not come across . The screenplay is written in detail and it comes alive on the screen beautifully by the director whose aesthetic and visual sense is unputdownable. The film entertains and enriches you as you marvel at the sight of a part of history coming across on the screen. The second half, is almost as good as the brilliant first half but could have done with a few trimmings. Though the climax is dramatic, it is a little abstract because of which it may take some time to sink in. Barring these few glitches, Bhansali gets it just right.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali does a splendid job as a director by putting together a film which, apart from looking beautiful, has a lot of substance. The screenplay (Prakash R.Kapadia, additional scrrenplaay: Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Mallika Dutt Gharde) is reflective of the research the writers must have done and has suitably adapted for the screen. The dialogues (Prakash R. Kapadia) are classy and yet have popular appeal. Cinematographer Sudeep Chatterji composes some stunning, memorable frames. The editing (Rajesh G.Pandey) is good but a couple of scenes should have been done away with in the second half. The music (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) is good but one feels the absence of some everlasting melodies which the director’s earlier films had boasted of. The background score (Sanchit Balhara) adds to the dramatic impact. The costumes (Maxima Basu and Anju Modi) are stunning.
Ranveer Singh imbibes the characteristics of Bajirao very well. He gets the nuances right and delivers a memorable performance. Deepika Padukone has never looked this gorgeous before. She brings out the courage of a warrior and the vulnerability of a compassionate lover equally well. Kashibai’s name, unlike the names of the other two main characters, does not feature in the film’s title, Priyanka Chopra’s performance makes sure that Kashibai’s name is taken in the same breath as Bajirao’s and Mastani’s. Tanvi Azmi is exceptional as Radhabai. Vaibhav Tatwadi is impressive as Chimaji. Milind Soman is good but one wished to see more of him. Raza Murad, Aditya Pancholi and Mahesh Manjrekar have small but important roles.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali leaves no stone unturned to ensure that his dream venture shapes up into a fine cinematic piece. Yet again, he proves that he has an eye for detail and makes sure that the film stands out in almost every department. Apart from portraying the love story of Bajirao and Mastani, he handles the old but prevalent issue of religious tolerance with utmost sensitivity. ‘Bajirao Mastani’, one of the last Hindi films to release this year, is also one of the finest films the Hindi film industry has churned out this year.