Padmaavat: My least favorite​ Bhansali film after Saawariya

Disclaimer: This is not a review but just my view on the film, Padmaavat. And I am writing this so late because I was in Jaipur, where the film hasn’t released. 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is one of India’s finest filmmakers and he has proved the same over the years from Khaamoshi and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam to Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani recently. And even though he has let us down with Saawariya and Guzaarish, you still have faith in him and his cinema every time you walk into a theatre to watch his films. Over the years, we have learned to love his grandeur, no matter how unbelievable or unrealistic it may be.

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With all due respect to the master filmmaker, Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapoor, Jim Sarbh, Aditi Rao Hydari, Anupriya Goenka and the entire cast and crew of Padmaavat, I have my problems with the film and they aren’t religious at all. I do appreciate the effort that has been put into making the film – the sets, costume, music – the performances by each and every actor and the battle they have fought to release this film, but there were certain things that I just couldn’t appreciate.

And unfortunately, the number of ‘what did not work for me’ is larger than that of ‘what worked’. 

Firstly, the film is too long and there is very little between the start and end credits. Not at a single point in the film was I looking forward to what is going to happen. I always knew what would happen – how would Singh’s Khilji respond to an insult, how would Padukone’s Rani Padmavati react to her husband being held captive, what would Aditi Rao Hydari’s Mehrunissa do or even say on meeting Padmavati and so on and so forth. Of course, it is not a suspense film and it shouldn’t technically keep me on the edge of my seat but if you don’t want me to get bored, give me ‘something’. That’s all I ask for.

The performances by each and every actor are spectacular, barring Shahid Kapoor. Or maybe I – personally – couldn’t buy him as a Maharaja. Kapoor seems to have put his heart and soul into the character of Maharawal Ratan Singh, but he doesn’t have the poise that perhaps Hrithik Roshan had as Akbar (in Jodha Akbar). I’m not complaining about Kapoor, but there definitely was an alternative. Aditi Rao Hydari comes and goes but the few times she is on screen, it is her show! Hydari’s eyes are way too expressive and emotive to make the viewer experience the same amount of pain that she is in. We last saw Anupriya Goenka in a brilliant performance in Tiger Zinda Hai and even in Padmaavat, she does justice.

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Deepika Padukone as Rani Sa is brilliant too, but she hasn’t been given much to do. When you name a film Padmaavat(i), she is supposed to lead the show. Though story wise she does, but you find her missing from the first half, except in a few scenes. Though she beautifully takes charge of the film and Mewar in the second half, where her talent is done justice to. Padukone can express so much with her eyes alone that is is unbelievable. But she isn’t in charge of the film. Alauddin Khilji is.

Ranveer Singh is possibly the best actor in the film. You hate Khilji because he makes you hate him, despise him even. He is drunk with power and this sexual urge to have and own Rani Padmavati. But his best scenes are not his alone. he shares them with the wonderful Jim Sarbh who plays Malik, possibly a homosexual character, deeply in love with Khilji. In fact, at one point he is even called Khilji’s Begum.

One of the many problems I have with the film is the casting. Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone are terrific actors who have proved their worth again and again, Deepika – twice with Bhansali alone. But they didn’t seem to organically step into the shoes of their characters. Rani Sa needed something more – something much more than what Leela and Mastani did. And also, if Rani Padmini was one of the most beautiful women in the history of humanity, an actress like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan could have done justice to the part much more than Padukone. I am, in no way, stating that Padukone is not a beautiful woman. Of course, she is. But just that Bachchan is a step ahead. Plus, we have already seen her add so much character to Jodha as Mallika-e-Hindustan (in Jodha Akbar).

And, where were the dialogues? Except a few – most of which are in the promos – the film goes without outstanding dialogues. When I say there are no dialogues, I don’t mean it’s a silent film but that there is no iconic dialogue, like this one:

Also, I am very sorry but I did not see any chemistry between Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. There was more of a spark between Ranveer Singh and Jim Sarbh. Which reminds me, why would you add an Arijit Singh song just in the middle of nowhere? And why would you not give Alauddin and Malik a moment of themselves? Their scenes felt like a painting, waiting for the last stroke. They were brilliant nonetheless, though.

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Credit where it is due, the set designs and cinematography (by Sudeep Chatterjee) are wonderful. The palaces may look a little set-like, and the skies definitely weren’t real, but let’s not complain that much. The costumes by Rimple and Harpreet Narula also deserve praise. Basically, the film looks good and is definitely an experience. But is ‘looking’ all you want in a film? I’d rather look at a painting! No?

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Lastly, I completely agree with Swara Bhaskar. Quoting her,

Women have the right to live. Period. 

Mr. Bhansali, like Bhaskar, I agree that the film is based in the 13th-century and at that time, Jauhar was a custom practiced to save the dignity of women but we live in 2018. As a filmmaker, you have a certain responsibility towards the society. The Jauhar scene may have looked extremely poetic and Deepika Padukone shone in it, but how do you defend yourself as a social being in terms of right to life? Again, I agree with the 13th-century point and that you put a disclaimer before the film that said that the film doesn’t support or encourage or glorify Jauhar. So would you make a film on Honor Killing? Would you make a film on Female Infanticide? Would you make a film on Marital Rape? Surely not!

But you do realize that the customs and practices of Jauhar and Sati lie in the same periphery as that of rape and all the above-mentioned crimes and much more? Who are we to blame after all?

And even if your protagonist wants to commit Jauhar, why does she have to seek permission from her husband? As stated by you and your team of writers, she doesn’t seem to have a say and even control over her life (and death). You portray these hundreds of women, impeccably dressed in red as Durga but you forgot to give them the power…

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With this, I look forward to your next film!

 

 

 

 

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One Comment

  1. shakya5

    I liked your review and you made some good points…there were no outstanding dialogues and I couldn’t quite find any chemistry between Deepika and Shahid. At the same time Deepika has done justice to her role, even though as you correctly state as the titular character she ought to have received more screen time. As for Jauhar, it is completely unjustified but to the makers credit they stated it right in the beginning that the movie doesn’t encourage it. But one must grant Deepika that her enactment of that scene was absolutely top-drawer.

    Liked by 1 person

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