Why You Should Catch Padmaavat This Long Weekend
Having just watched the film, I came away wondering what all that brouhaha and agitation was about – for the way it pans out, and its finale proves, this movie is a lavishly mounted ode to Rajput honour. So, honestly what was the question about Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat trampling their dignity, in any way?
The prominently put disclaimers right at the beginning position the movie as a work of fiction – and that should silence all carping critics. As a film buff, one should view it as the product of a creative mind – and no one will doubt that Bhansali ranks amongst the best of the best in cinema. Even though as a modern, educated, thinking woman – so how would I know what women, especially royalty of the 13th century felt and thought – personally I flinched at the tragic end of the movie, I would not hesitate to doff my hat to a film-maker who dares to follow his inner dreams and vision to create a celluloid tale filled with drama and extravaganza.
A tale of love and lust: Pare the plot to the bone, cut out all historical overtones and Padmaavat can be simply described as a tale of honourable love in a clash with dishonourable lust – the focus of both being the supremely beautiful, graceful and stately Rani Padmavati. Her tale has been transmitted through folk songs – but reportedly the earliest text to mention her is Padmaavat, a Sufi poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 from which the movie is said to draw. Bhansali’s fictional rendering is replete with all the drama and high intensity that would accompany emotions that rage wildly in the human breast. For the edification of the uninitiated – and I am sure there are but a few after all the discussion and controversy in the run up to its release – Rani Padmavati is the wife of Maharawal Ratan Singh. A woman renowned for her beauty, grace and valour in the 13th century, who unfortunately captures the eye and fancy of Alauddin Khilji – and that triggers the events of this epic.
The glamorous spectacle: For those who have seen and revisited Bhansali’s previous films, especially the last two – Goliyon Ki Raasleela, Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani – Padmaavat draws heavily from the canvas of an epic extravaganza, but, and this is possible as is evidenced by the movie, moves into a grander scale than his previous offerings. The period drama is spectacular – how could it be otherwise? The costumes, the jewellery, the sets, all combine to create poetry in motion. There is a sensitive beauty in the way Bhansali conjures up each scene and creates his frames, every single one of them. Even the last jauhar scene, as the queen leads a huge group of women to their end is filmed poetically, too poetically for a modern thinking mind. And if you do, as I did, watch the film in 3-D, it further heightens the glamour and opulence.
The songs: They play their part in the Bhansali bonanza, as always. And while Ranveer’s crazed dance Khalibali is infused with his characteristic, intense energy, it is the more graceful Ghoomar by Deepika Padukone that stays with me.
The cast: Each actor plays his/her role with more than due diligence. Deepika Padukone as Rani Padmavati is naturally stunning. She exudes grace and courage, even in the most difficult of situations. Ranveer Singh – cast for the first time in an out and out negative role – as Alauddin Khilji, brings his unique sense of passion to the libido-driven Sultan. His passion for Padmavati, if one can call his obsession that, is animal-like, almost Satanic, and his scarred face, kohl-lined eyes add to his manic impact. Both Deepika and Ranveer are old Bhansali faithfuls and shine once again in this latest offering from the director. But, it is the new entrant to the Bhansali brigade, Shahid Kapoor, who, as Maharawal Ratan Singh, the ruler of Mewar, effortlessly epitomises Rajput pride and an undying love for his beautiful queen. In fact, the chemistry between Shahid and Deepika is palpable even in their smallest scenes together. And right from the hunting scene where Shahid makes an appearance to the final battle between him and Ranveer, the actor plays his part with a quiet restraint that proves to be the perfect foil to Ranveer’s flamboyant rendition. In fact, it is interesting to see the emotional and moral contrast between the two characters in scenes that bring them together – as both men stand on distinctly contrasting sides in a black versus white battle, morally speaking. And lest I forget two others who caught my eye – Aditi Rao Hydari in a sensitively rendered cameo that goes right through the film is effective as Mehrunissa – Khilji’s wife, who, as she realises the abhorrent tenor of her husband’s desires, graduates from being a woman in love with her husband to one who will not tolerate the bespoiling of another. And Jim Sarbh, the menacing terrorist in Neerja, returns to form as Mallik Kafur, Khilji’s ‘begum’ slave and confidant.
I would say, if you love your movies – and I definitely do – go watch it – for its grand canvas, directorial vision and deft acting. And, of course, most importantly to celebrate creativity – on celluloid or in any medium that should know no bounds!