Their’s was a romance fit for Bollywood. From action to drama, to romance to rejection, it had all the ingredients that make for great cinema. So, it was only natural for their story to take centrestage in director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s mammoth canvas.
While Bhansali captures Bajirao’s heroism on the battlefield, framing two of his 41 glorious wins, he quickly shifts focus on his passionate affair with Mastani. A tale that’s fragmented and vaguely remembered, but one that Bhansali insists of exploring. While some parts of their story is sourced from history book, majority of ‘Bajirao Mastani’ is fiction, one that Sanjay acknowledges before lighting up his first frame.
While all’s fair in love and war, (and Bollywood), snatching the sword from Bajirao and prompting him to dance feverishly with his soldiers appears detached from the story we want to hear.
Or, when Sanjay forces Bajirao’s wife Kashi and Mastani to happily share the dance floor, despite history recording their hostility, appears distracting and hugely manipulative.
Like all his work, Sanjay’s obsession with staggeringly stunning frames (by Sudeep Chatterjee) translates into a weak edit, with innumerable music tracks and side stories that are plugged unnecessarily. If, he had, instead, remained true to Bajirao and Mastani, and their romance, it would’ve been gripping.
Despite Sanjay’s flamboyant trademark tactics, ‘Bajirao Mastani’ rides beautifully on its three performers – Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, each pitching a stellar act.
Ranveer owns Bajirao, fervently. Whether it’s slicing his enemies maniacally or fighting his family for not giving into his fantasy, or romancing his women, Ranveer nails Bajirao’s charisma and fervor extraordinarily. From the physicality to his mental framework, Ranveer’s got it pitch perfect.
The moment towards the grand finale, when he fights the raging waters and thundering clouds, is deeply disturbing.
His relationship with both his women is interesting, as well as intriguing. Even when he’s fiercely promoting Mastani to his inner circle, he continues to love Kashi, possibly exposing his inability to choose between them. “Mastani’s my heart, and Kashi’s my strength,” we are told, almost cementing that thought delightfully.
Deepika and Priyanka lend beauty and charm to Mastani and Kashi. They are equals and win us over, much like they did with Bajirao. You feel for Kashi’s angst just as deeply, as you feel for Mastani’s rejection. Deepika excels in action, as well as romance, tackling each emotion with remarkable flair. Even, Priyanka packs a punch, with some seriously wicked lines.
Among the supporting cast, Tanvi Azmi gets the chunk as Bajirao’s menacingly calculating mother who refuses to let her son forget his religious roots, and Vaibbhav Tatwawdi as his unforgiving younger brother. Mahesh Manjrekar, Milind Soman and Aditya Pancholi fill in with parts that aren’t lengthy but impactful.
While Bajirao and Mastani’s love story is fascinating, no doubt, directing more of the screenplay to his military accomplishments could’ve turned it into a far more credible watch. For now, it’s a pretty picture that stops short of being great cinema.
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