From the first frame, you know you are in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. Everything is scaled up, grander than grand, a-glitter. The Maratha court is in session. As all eyes turn to Peshwa Bajirao (Ranveer Singh), we are invited not just to see, but to behold a warrior in the full glory of manhood, striding off to conquer new places and hearts. It’s all razzle-dazzle, the way only Sanjay Leela Bhansali can turn it on.
And then we tear our gaze away from the lush sets and the gorgeously attired actors – Priyanka Chopra playing Kashibai, Bajirao’s wife, Deepika Padukone as the film’s eponymous Mastani ( lover, concubine, second wife?)and the equally beauteous Singh, and demand the very thing we come to the movies for: a story. (Read Review of Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol’s ‘Dilwale’)
And we don’t find it, or chance upon it only sporadically, in between all the song-and-dances, and the set-pieces in the battle-fields and the palaces. Oh look, there’s a lovely chandelier, and gasp, what a beautiful glass palace ( `Mughal-e-Azam’ has a lot to answer for when it comes to our fascination with glass studded walls and ceilings), but excuse us, where’s the plot point? See Pics: Bajirao Mastani releases, Here’s why Deepika Padukone’s movie can be on your watch list
All you enraged historians, breathe easy. With a disclaimer in place, the film doesn’t even pretend to be a faithful document of the events that took place in the early 1700s, when the Maratha empire in its ascendency. The facts, such as they are recorded, are not allowed to weigh heavy upon this pretty edifice. There is some chatter of the ‘debauched Dilli darbar’ and ambitions for ‘poora Hindustan’; a couple of kohled, bearded Mughal invaders show up with their armies, as well as scenes featuring a crafty ‘Dakkhani Nizam’. But these are stray mentions, and mere diversions : the real action in ‘Bajirao Mastani’ is in the bedrooms and boudoirs and hallways, between Bajirao and brave ‘Bundalkhandi’ lass Mastani, with Kashibai valiantly fighting a rearguard action. Also read: Dilwale or Bajirao Mastani: Who will win the box office battle on Friday?
It is hard to imagine anyone else as Bajirao after Singh finishes chewing up the part ( and, to my untrained ears, cracking the Marathi accent), and owning the film – he swaggers, struts and ruts, an actor fully enjoying himself. Priyanka Chopra’s hurt wife has a couple of strong moments ( in fact, the only remotely felt sequence in the film belongs to Chopra and Tanvi Azmi, who plays Bajirao’s widowed, ambitious mother, as they ponder over the meaning of love and betrayal, and the man they are tied to). Deepika Padukone is lovely as usual, and creates sizzle with Ranveer Singh, but hasn’t melded with the part. Her Mastani is all dressed up, and acting away. And of course, we get an item number with the two lovelies—aiming for total ‘paisa-vasool’ two-for-the-price-of-one,—but ‘Pinga’ felt such a tired ‘Dola Re’ rip-off, only spectacle, not spectacular. See Pics: Deepika Padukone, the beautiful Mastani from Bajirao Mastani; see pics
But too quickly you tire of all the showiness. The grandiosity wears off. You long for a genuinely moving, exciting story, featuring all these beautiful people, all actors able to pull off characters, but buried under their mounds of clothes, mouthing dialogue. ‘Bajirao Mastani’ had the potential to be a terrific historical. You want to be transported. What it ends up being is a costume drama : too many costumes, too much revved-up, empty drama, and too little plot. See Pics: Bajirao Mastani premiere: Rekha, Hrithik, Sonam are Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh’s special guests
Star cast of Bajirao Mastani: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Tanvi Azmi
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali