Beginning with the same more important issue first as in the review of DILWALE, its really weird & highly disheartening to witness the makers of these big films in no way concerned or speaking against the deliberately increased ticket price of their films charged from the end-users. In fact this strongly reminds me of that crucial chapter on PRICING found in every book related with business, sales and consumers pointing towards the MARKET PRICE of your product that has to be decided with an utmost care keeping the average end-user in mind.
Whereas it seems that these big names of Khan, Kapoor, Kumar, Shetty or a Bhansali, now damn care about what is being forcibly charged from their own people, their fans on repeated basis. And thus are simply making these films more for the exploitive multiplexes, the corporates and the foreign production houses interested in just encashing the huge selling prospects in our 125 crores population............... instead of the average common man searching for the good old days of affordable cinema.
So as mentioned in the review of DILWALE, here too it was a pre-decided move of BTC to take away one complete star from the ratings of these ‘consciously unaware’ filmmaker's respective films even before watching them in the theater and writing the detailed review.
Moving on to the detailed write-up on BAJIRAO MASTANI, would like to divide it into several segments to give the film its due respect in terms of creation, appreciation as well as unbiased criticism as below.
1. We cannot exactly review such films just moving our fingers on the keyboards.
First of all this is one of those rare movies that make you feel small, so small writing/expressing both the positives and negatives in just a few hours in a word file, which honestly is too easy or just nothing in comparison to the huge unbelievable kind of conviction, dedication, efforts and passionate hard-work put in by the entire talented team (in years). Still, would like to review it saluting the producer, director as well as the whole creative team and crew for this magnificent cinematic treat….. straight from the heart.
2. The Painting-like look in its posters.
The first amazing feature of the film I noticed even before watching it in the theater was the look of its posters, the subtle colour scheme, the background effects and the figures of Bajirao & Mastani looking like as if painted by a renowned artist on a canvas. Personally I had only one name in mind looking at its beautiful posters and it was of the 19th century renowned painter Raja Ravi Varma, that should perfectly describe the impressive works by the creative designing department guided by the director. (as seen in the picture here.)
3. The appreciable effort of introducing us to a lesser known regional chapter of our ‘Proud Indian history’.
Besides providing entertainment, one of the basic purposes of cinema is to introduce its viewers with many untold, interesting as well as inspiring chapters of a country’s proud history that are not known to many except the people of a particular region. And India being a collective form of so many languages, cultures, traditions and beliefs, there certainly exists an unbelievably huge repertoire of stories and real life accounts of key historical figures from distinctive regions that importantly need to be explored, studied and presented before the present generation making them rightly feel the proud for their own country.
Here BAJIRAO MASTANI successfully serves this significant purpose of cinema introducing us to the legend Bajirao Peshwa, about whom more than 80% of the people outside Maharashtra (may be more) might not be aware of. So Sanjay Leela Bhansali unarguably scores some extra brownie points for this choice of subject, though with its own share of controversies shared in the next section.
4. The condemnable act of playing with the same ‘Proud Indian History’ and its respectable historical figures.
Having praised the director for his choice of subject above, would also like to criticize him equally for tempering with the facts and manipulating the characterization of the historical figures in his script that actually presents a different picture of the past which should have been strictly avoided.
Yes, the film opens with a caption and the voiceover explaining that this is a fictional account of history (based on N.S. Inamdar’s book titled ‘Rau’) taking some big cinematic liberties. But if you are openly doing so then ideally cannot use the same names of those historical figures playing with their actual personas as recorded in the history books. For instance if a person had a physical disability as per the historical references, then you cannot make him or her dance and that too in a typical filmy style satisfying your own creative urges in an arrogant manner.
Interestingly, Bhansali did the same in DEVDAS by sending his hero to America for studies and then making both Paro & Chandramukhi meet and dance together like two professional performers. The excuse was that it’s a fictional story from our rich literature. But again if you are changing the entire characterization and sequences of a book considered to be a key representative of our Indian literature, then how can you use the same title of the book as well as its characters so bluntly.
Anyway, changing the recorded history as per his own cinematic desires in a typically Bollywood style (using the original names), Bhansali loses some big important marks becoming the culprit of passing wrong information to the next generation ……………. and he asked for it himself by not learning by the similar mistakes made in the past.
5. An unbelievably perfect visual depiction on screen as a treat to eyes and the art of storytelling.
Coming to the most appreciable and indisputable merit of the project - its stunning visual appeal. The film once again establishes the fact that Sanjay Leela Bhansali is one of the most creative and visionary director of the present times, when it comes to the visual depiction on screen and the songs picturisations in particular, not allowing anyone to leave the theater for even a minute. In fact if you dare to walk out during the songs in a Bhansali movie for any reason whatsoever, then that simply reveals you neither know the director nor his earlier works for which he is widely known for.
Summarizing his entire career span, Bhansali has always chosen different, difficult and rather unusual storylines for almost all his films except RAM-LEELA (which was based on the much repeated saga of Romeo-Juliet). At the same time, he mostly remained unable to connect with the general audience or the masses in terms of storytelling as seen in his KHAMOSHI, BLACK, SAAWARIYA or GUZAARISH. Also ‘the big director’ never accepted or revealed his Indian and foreign sources of inspiration (read copying) boldly as an honest creator. But whenever he was able to visualize the film beautifully along with an impressive storytelling, he got a hit as in HUM DIL DE CHUKE HAIN SANAM, DEVDAS and RAM-LEELA (though personally I consider both DEVDAS and RAM-LEELA not anything great in terms of entertainers.)
Coming back to the present, thankfully in BAJIRAO MASTANI, Bhansali excels both in visuals as well as storytelling for most part of the film except its final 30 minutes. As a matter of fact the director surpasses all his previous films in visual appeal and makes a solid impact through the stunning grandeur, aesthetic looks, magnificently choreographed songs, a worth appreciating background score, breath taking production design, amazing detailing, eye-catching styling and a highly enjoyable cinematography offering numerous picture perfect frames successfully transforming you back in time of the brave Marathas. As an example, just try to catch the flickering lighting in some of its indoor sequences representing the light coming from the then used oil lit Laaltens and Deeyas.
As a pleasant surprise, instead of going for the ‘expected’ over-stuffed and teasingly colourful sets in his films as always, the director wonderfully displays the much required elegance with an utmost simplicity equally focusing on the characters along with their extremely well-crafted backdrops and natural colour correction. In short BAJIRAO MASTANI is not only Bhansali’s most ambitious project (waiting since more than 12 long years) but it’s also his most visually gorgeous and worth watching film till date that can easily be called ‘a modern day fictional-historical must watch’ by all means.
In the scripting department, this time Bhansali and his team of writers come up with many convincing confrontations and absorbing sequences right from the start forming a tight grip over the audience, except the final hour when they deliberately try to incorporate some familiar dramatic twists and filmy dance sequences. So breaking the set pattern of Bhansali films since long, BAJIRAO MASTANI has an appealing body as well as an emotional soul too that is capable of finding that lost connection with the viewers (except the stretched climax discussed ahead)
6. The two halves, the dialogues and its key sequences.
Beginning right away at a great speed with the narration by Irrfan Khan, BM introduces every character in the script quickly without any substantial stay. The first half successfully holds the viewer with many impressive sequences and post intermission the strong hold continues till it comes to the final hour with a filmy war sequence, a familiar family drama and a forcibly added song leading to the lengthy climax. Though the final narration does bring forward the question – What religion has to do with love? in an effective manner. Yet the second half turns out to be a mixed bag with something added for the masses and classes together along with a strong visible hangover of DEVDAS.
Dialogues remain one of major highlight of the film throughout, especially in the confrontations scenes and though you might have already heard many impressive lines used in the trailers and TV promos, just sample this as one of the simplest yet highly meaningful phrases written as, “Kehney Ko To ‘Aam’ Phalon Ka Raja Hai, Par Sabsey Zyada Patthar Ussi Ke Hissey Mein Aatey Hain!”
In the worth mentioning sequences, just look out for the opening battle scene, the projection on a ‘parda’ through the reflection of a mirror, Deepika’s dialogues with Tanvi Azmi, Priyanka’s silent moments with Ranveer, their scene where they blow off the ‘deeyas’ together, Deepika fighting with the attackers carrying her kid, Priyanka slapping the young Nana Sahib, Ranveer’s scene with Tanvi Azmi saving the Purohit and the finale focusing on Priyanka and Tanvi in particular.
7. Its fast pace edit without any stay on individual characterization lacking the romantic depth.
As a downer, BAJIRAO MASTANI runs towards completion in the first two hours and then goes slower in its overlong climax creating a sort of imbalance in the end. The romance between Bajirao and Mastani happens too fast and thus cannot be felt in the desired manner. As a result the ‘silent’ relationship between Bajirao and Kashibai turns out to be a more heartfelt one, strongly reaching out to the viewer making a deeper impact.
On a personal note, I feel historical movies need to be around 3 hours or even more. Because when the director tries to squeeze so many important developments of such a grand scale into a 150-160 minutes format, then every character cannot be given the required time individually, resulting in many underdeveloped supporting characters and depth-less romance on screen as experienced in the present.
8. The overly-done artistic climax.
This is one feature of BAJIRAO MASTANI that is sure to find more mixed reactions than anything else. No doubt, filming it in this manner must have been a highly satisfying experience for the director that will also be liked by a certain (smaller) section of viewers ready to accept an artistic representation of the tragedy (including myself). But such over-indulgence in a single sequence stretching it to a painfully longer length is bound to have a strong negative response from the general viewers, especially when it’s a climax coming after more than two hours.
9. The soundtrack
Right from his first film KHAMOSHI, Sanjay Leela Bhansali had clearly proved his noticeable sense of lyrics, music and even sound recording. The reputation further got strengthened with the next ventures particularly HUM DIL DE CHUKE HAIN SANAM and DEVDAS (that had an exceptional sound quality in that particular time period). Later though I could never appreciate his decision to turn music director (all of a sudden) but the soundtrack of BAJIRAO MASTANI forces me to accept the mistake made. Because (assuming this is actually Bhansali’s own vision) if a person can come up with an immensely rich soundtrack like BM, then he certainly has a blessed musical sense without any slightest of doubt that needs to be applauded loudly.
Here apart from the lyrics and rendition by various talented singers (including the living legend Birju Maharaj), I would specifically like to mention and whole heartedly praise the musical arrangement and sound recording of its various tracks along with the mesmerizing execution on screen such as ‘Mohey Rang Do Lal’, 'Deewani Mastani', 'Albela Sajan', 'Pinga', ‘Aayat’, ‘Gajanana’, ‘Ibaadat’ and especially ‘Malhari’. In all a soundtrack that actually compelled me to buy the audio cd of a Hindi film music after a long gap.
10. The crucial casting
A film like BAJIRAO MASTANI largely or rather entirely depends upon the crucial choices made in its casting. The fact I earlier mentioned strongly in my review of JODHA AKBAR, when Ashutosh made us believe Hrithik as King Akbar and Aishwarya as his Jodha so convincingly. Interestingly Bhansali announced making BAJIRAO MASTANI many years back with probably Salman and Kareena in the lead (if I am not wrong). And with due respect towards the actors, it was indeed a great play of destiny that it never got made at that time and kept waiting to be conceived with the perfect trio of Ranveer, Deepika and Priyanka. On a lighter note, had BAJIRAO MASTANI been there before DEVDAS, then the song ‘Pinga’ would have been the first to hit the screen with the two lead actresses dancing together much before the hugely famous ‘Dola Re’.
11. The performances
The film no doubt talks more about the lead pair i.e. Ranveer and Deepika once again displaying their delightful chemistry on screen. But the lady who actually wins your heart deserving a big appreciation for her wonderful, selfless act remains Priyanka Chopra who not only accepts the second lead so sportingly, but also turns it into a big opportunity putting her sincere efforts with highly likable natural looks, humour, pain and heart-piercing face expressions conveying the unsaid so gracefully.
Ranveer Singh, with his powerful portrayal of the warrior both through his physical appearance and fiery spirit simply makes you believe in the character of Bajirao. He strongly demands your attention right from the first scene to the last and the stiffness adapted for the portrayal actually works perfectly. Plus it’s really amazing to see that the actor who always seems to be so ‘over the top’ in all his promotional appearances & interviews, gets into a completely different avatar onscreen so impressively.
Deepika Padukone as Mastani powerfully represents the women-power both on the home and battle ground. She is just terrific in all her fight and confrontation sequences coming at regular intervals. But also lacks that required pull due to the ‘quick romance’ happening in just no time and a completely one dimensional character that makes you feel like something missing affecting her otherwise passionate performance.
In the supporting cast, though we have commanding characters like the mother superbly played by Tanvi Azmi, but the rest don’t really come out as potent as they should have been mainly due to the quick progression of the script squeezing many characters in the limited time span of only 160 minutes. Still Vaibhav Tatwawdi, Aditya Pancholi, Milind Soman, Mahesh Manjrekar and Raza Murad play their given short roles well making their own small contribution in the fictional-historical representation.
12. The questionable promotional strategy.
The one question that keeps annoying you for hours after watching the film is that when the actual movie had so many powerful sequences to be used as promotional clips in its trailers and TV promos then why Bhansali kept promoting it with a typical DEVDAS look alike song ‘Pinga’ focusing on a similar dance sequence featuring the two heroines. In fact that was exactly the reason why many started speculating the film to be a repetitive kind of attempt with the same looks, tones and content close to DEVDAS.
A questionable move generating a strong negative impact before the film’s release, that strictly should have been avoided focusing on some more powerful scenes.
13. Other noticeable features.
The film has a scene showcasing a tiger sitting beside the Nizam’s throne with a text coming at the bottom right corner of the screen saying ‘Tiger scene shot abroad'. Now here a simple question arises that what this information has actually to do with the viewers? If there are some Censor conditions to be fulfilled by the makers regarding ‘use of animals’ in their films then that is a matter between the Censors and the makers. But why we are being told these kinds of production details on screen so prominently? In fact these are all unnecessary insertions being forced by our respected censor boards having no relation with the audience whatsoever.
For all interested readers from Punjab or belonging to Sikh community, Bajirao Ballal Bhat was the 18th century Maratha General, the ‘Peshwa’ meaning the prime-minister of the King. He lived a short life span from 1700 to 1740 with a majestic historical account of fighting 40 battles and winning all of them with the aim of expanding and creating a united Bharat. Before him his father Balaji Vishwanath (1662-1720) was the first Peshwa of Chhattrapati Shahu fighting against the Mughal Empire headed by Aurangzeb during the end of the 17th century. The same period when the Sikh Gurus were fighting against the injustice and terror of Aurangzeb in the regions of Punjab and adjacent areas, which is indeed a matter of more comparative study by the keen students of Indian history and religious sects of the country.
Summing up, we cannot really relate or compare any present historical film with the ones made before the 70s without any existence of computer graphics and technological developments in terms of filmmaking. But if we consider the majestic movies made in the recent past, then BAJIRAO MASTANI certainly asks for a respectable place despite its exhaustive finale and a willful tempering with the facts that doesn’t allow you to rate it as ‘a true classic’.
Having said that, films like BAJIRAO MASTANI need to work and earn big at the box office too, since we don’t wish director’s like Sanjay Leela Bhansali to get discouraged and stop conceiving such gigantic attempts (rectifying their deliberate mistakes) in the coming future. Personally speaking I am not a big fan of SLB and didn’t really like his last many attempts due to various reasons. But with BAJIRAO MASTANI, its like a visionary director making a strong comeback with an outstanding epic spectacle that deserves to be seen as a must by one and all applauding the courageous effort made by the entire team.
In fact I would surely like to call it as ‘the most picture-perfect film of the recent decades’ where when a person is supposed to be at the center of the frame, then he is exactly standing in the center and you can go ahead measuring that manually.
In other words if you are one of those persons who gets annoyed by finding a picture hanging wrongly on the wall tilting towards one side and tries to rectify the tilt himself without caring about anyone else standing in the room, then you are sure going to enjoy the perfection on screen a lot in BAJIRAO MASTANI.
However ending on the same important note as in the start, by just attempting a majestic venture of this stature, one doesn’t earn any right to charge more from the general public fearing a probable public rejection or a big failure (and it was never done in the last century before the 80s as confirmed by a few respected veteran film enthusiasts personally). Giving you a fair idea, just imagine what would have been the response, if the makers of MUGHAL-E-AZAM or PAKEEZAH would have announced that since we have put so much money, time (decades) and efforts in making these rare attempts, we will be charging more from the public by increasing the ticket prices by 25% at all theaters.
What would have been the public outrage then?
Just give it a thought!
Gross Rating : 4 / 5 (including a big 1 just for the soundtrack and picture perfect frames alone)
Net Rating : 3 / 5 (Deducting a big 1 for the uncaring, unchecked and sick business tactics of increasing the ticket price charged from the general public. To my amazement, the prices were not reduced even in the weekdays, forcing us to watch the movie again on the same increased prices on a Wednesday.)