I am not an expert first to review any film as I have no valid certification to critique a movie ( Do you need a certificate to be a critic?). I also thankfully don’t work for any newspaper or film magazine to suffer insufferable movies. But, I can certainly do it as I am a film student. I am reviewing Padmaavat as it is slated as the most controversial film in recent times. Though, my disclaimer here – I am not a follower of Sanjay Leela Bhansali films anymore. I very much stopped watching his films in theatre after Saawariya; not because he is not a good filmmaker in my eyes, but, I don’t learn very much from his films anymore. Moreover, I have lost the appetite for painted frames and posed acting. But since I happen to watch his Padmaavat recently, I decided to review it.
Why should I see Padmaavat?
I was anyway not going to watch Padmaavat even if it was associated with controversy and no; I am not a Rajput. I don’t follow much of period films as almost all historical facts are twisted as per writer’s / director’s whims and fancies. That goes for all the period movies in the world. I do watch some, if the mentions of its excellent writing, acting or directing reach my ears. So, similar mentions happen to reach my ears about Ranveer Singh’s terrific performance, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s masterful work and everything that was not at all controversial. Despite my hesitancy and prejudices, I decided to watch Padmaavat.
I very much knew what was to be expected in the film. SLB ‘s films don’t WOW me anymore as I expect nothing different from postcard like picture frames, theatrical posing by the actors, surreal hue driven setups, melodramatic acting, meticulous hair and makeup, contemporary designs in periodic costumes. Opulent song and dance sequences and One shrieky old lady.
So, whats wrong in that you may ask. Isn’t it a part of great Bollywood magnum opus? Yes, Bhansali manages to pull it off quite well, though it fell few notches down in Padmaavat. My concern was, as a student, I will gain nothing from watching Padmaavat. It looks like a Bajirao Mastaani in Rajasthan. But my near ones were appreciating it and that’s when I decided to watch it I sincerely hoped that Padmaavat should crush my pre-conceived notions about SLB’s films, and it should really do something out of his zone than staple shifting of the cultural and artistic milieu.
Will my Padmaavat Review be Biased?
Now, as the movie began, nothing surprised me really. Padmavati’s highlighted shampooed hair, green revolution in Rajasthan, Buddhist like scriptures in Rajputana interiors, innundated waterbeds by the deserts, Savage Khilji’s Pepsodent teeth, all embellishments as expected in a Bhansali movie, Damn the period.It is a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. Also, this is Bollywood. You expect such escapism. So am I doing a biased review, I questioned myself. But, I am a Manmohan Desai fan, I still love his over the top fancy creations whenever I watch them.So I can’t be biased.
The film began with lots of promise, and the story moved forward quite well. I only felt the lack of depth in writing. Bhansali’s approach to characterizations was half-hearted. Maharawal Ratan ‘Shahid Kapoor’ Singh’s and Deepika’s (Padmavati) characters were half-baked. Bhansali focussed too much on Allaudin ‘Ranveer’ Khilji, giving him meatiest of scenes.In fact, raj purohit Raghav Chetan and Khilji’s eunuch general Malik ‘Jim Sarbh’ Kafur had more flesh in their characters. Shahid’s Ratan Singh was just allowed to throw Rajput ki Shaan lines without a twitch to his facial muscles. I was confused whom to root for. The story had the chance of drama, but Bhansali’s ornamented approach diluted it. The conflicts were just on paper. Deepika acted her Padmavati to the best she can, and Ranveer once again was quick to sink his teeth into Khilji but, when the story started to slip in its writing, Khilji too found himself on slippery turf.
Too much of dialoguebaazi dipped the pace, and at one point I thought maybe I am watching ‘no interval’ show. To my utter dismay, intermission faded in to set me up for a long ordeal. For me, the story was almost over. Khilji too was getting restless running out of ideas to show his menace and hold on to his libido.Even the homosexual under or overtones missed the mark. Rajput pride was becoming more verbose than their display of valour. The unimaginative Lord of the Rings hangover in war scenes and Khilji’s Sonny Corleone (The Godfather) like sexcapades on his wedding night had some flashes of Hollywood influence. Overall the film was just touching bases with not much of conflicts and tensions till we reach the Johar climax.
Johar Karenge! Johar Karenge!
Johar like Sati would have been a despondent act of fortitude in those times. I really doubt whether the moment needed a long ramp walk to the pyre with all the women decked up in bright red costumes straight out of the stores, led by a ghunghat less Padmavati seen to all except Khilji.The sheer indulgence that made such stark, terrifying gut-wrenching moment into that of an ornate celebration where the salivating Khilji finally loses his candy.
Though I don’t support Swara Bhaskar, take on Vagina comment ( all our history and mythology are full of vagina wars), but I do agree that it was a false glorification of Johar. Yes, the climax and the Rajput pride needs to be honoured and glorified, but somehow the way climax was designed failed to arouse any emotions and empathy for the Johar women. My take is purely from the engagement point of view. Some magic happen and some not; this time the magic didn’t happen. The reason may be, it was not set up well. It came across as a flippant act of feebleness.
Bhansali’s Padmaavat is not path-breaking cinema, but it is breaking records in the box office, earning some serious booty for the producers. After so much bashing from the Karni Sena, it was all worth it for them. Bhansali’s hard work at least succeeded in reaping rewards for him. Yes, I may find the film a mere extension of Bajirao Mastani or the makers failed attempt to mimic a Mughal e Azam-like epic, but Bhansali sticks to his kind of cinema and treads on his strengths. The auteur’s uncompromising vision is rare in Indian cinema, and that is why audience respects his work and visits his films time and again.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the Padmavati Connection
I accidentally got my hands on something interesting but I can’t validate the authenticity. Watching Bharat ek khoj – the Padmavati episode, just to have Shyam Benegal’s take on the story, I happened to see a name on the rolling end credits. Sanjay Bhansali credited as one of the editors of the episode. So, whether it is him, I am not sure but the coincidence is striking. Bhansali is an FTII alumnus and was an editor during his earlier days. I am sure, if he edited this episode, the seed of Padmaavat was sown sometime then. Check out this image and decide for yourself.
Please leave your comments below and let us start a discussion whether you agree to my views on the film or not. I will highly appreciate it. Thanks
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