Think Sanjay Leela Bhansali and your mind invariably rushes to his inimitable magnum opus style of cinema. And Padmaavat is no exception. Sudeep Chatterjee’s impeccable cinematography transports you to the land of Rajputs and Mughals. The beautiful shots of the grand Rajput palace, the in-your-face opulence of Alauddin’s world and menacing moments from the battle ground set the tone for the epic saga. Costumes by Harpreet-Rimple, Maxima Basu, Chandrakant and Ajayare breathtaking. But perhaps the pace and narrative don’t quite do justice to this visually perfect film. Bhansali definitely wins us over with his magnificent set direction and larger-than-life characters, but was that enough? Maybe not.
The tale takes its inspiration from history books. Maharawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) marries Padmavati, a princess whose hypnotising beauty and magnetic charm leaves everyone in her presence mystified. One such prey to the Maharani’s allure is Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh), whose obsession to have her leads to him waging war against the Rajputs.
In this maniacal state of doing everything in his capacity just to see Padmavati, Ranveer delivers a moving performance. Every time the actor is on screen, you forget the superstar essaying the role. All you see is the savage beast Khilji. In a portrayal that could’ve easily gone plain ‘crazy’, the actor manages to gives depth and complexity to the villain. And it is for precisely this reason that we craved more and more of Khilji. Not to forget, his brilliantly choreographed solo song highlighting his madness and obsession.
Deepika is beyond stunning and delivers some strong dialogues while Shahid gives a sincere effort into nailing the famed bravado of the Rajputs. But somehow both actors don’t quite match up to the ferocity of Ranveer.
Speaking of standout performances, definitely look out for Jim Sarbh, who playsMalik Kafur. As the Senapati of the Rajput army sarcastically commented, Sarbh’s character is basically Khilji’s ‘Begum’ and this unique dynamic definitely leads to intentional and even a few unintentional laughs. Aditi Rao Hydari also makes an impact in her short role as Khilji’s wife Mehrunissa. These two underrated characters convincingly stood out in the multi-starrer.
Crisper storytelling would’ve done wonders to lift the pace of the film. One also wishes the relationship between the Maharaja and Maharani would’ve been explored deeper. While their characters may have come across as royal and enigmatic, they fail to win us over with their chemistry and love for one another. A lot of their scenes involve them longingly staring at one other instead of actually interacting. Unfortunately, we leave the theatres feeling neither thrilled nor connected.
While it may have looked picturesque, will Padmaavat stir up your emotions? Probably not. But should you give Ranveer’s thrilling portrayal of Khilji a miss? We’d say don’t.