Bajirao Mastani review: This gloriously epic Priyanka, Deepika and Ranveer-starrer is the best film of 2015

Subhash K Jha

December 19, 2015 08:45:55 IST

You sense you are in the presence of something extraordinarily creative the minute you step into the world of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani, a costume drama clothed in the conceit of the times when royal arrogance permitted social injustices as a birthright, and brought to incandescent life by a filmmaker who understands the layered language of opulence better than any contemporary filmmaker.

By now everyone knows Bajirao Mastani is the story of forbidden love between Peshwa Bajirao Ballal and Mastani, the warrior-princess who falls in love after he comes to her kingdom’s rescue. It’s also the story of Kashibai, Bajirao’s gamine-like wife who’s the most interesting character in the tempestuous triangle. The three roles are infused with infinite irradiance by Ranveer, Deepika and Priyanka. They bring to the director’s passionate palate an inner conviction that eventually leave us spellbound and hankering for more.

The magician who uses colours to convey emotions Bhansali conceives the Bajirao-Mastani liaison as a striking fusion of the saffron and green colours. The two colours dominate Bhansali’s palate, spilling over in streams of drama. The spoken words are at once colloquial and royal, so that the audience don’t get isolated from the cascade of rhetorics. Indeed Prakash Kapadia’s dialogues are, in many vital ways, the plot’s backbones. The characters exhale a verbal vitality that never slips into verbosity. We can’t imagine them speaking in any other way.

I specially liked a sequence where Deepika’s Mastani, armed with the confidence of a woman consumed by love no matter how forbidden, barges into the christening ceremony of her lover’s legitimate baby boy. When taunted for tainting the occasion with green, Mastani gently reminds the congregation that saffron and green, are at the end of the day, blood brothers used in Hindu and Muslim religious events.

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A still from Bajirao Mastani.

This is a film to view many times, once just for the way colours are used to convey emotions. When Bajirao heads home after a war victory his buoyant wife dances with a gigantic saffron flag unfurling in tandem with her joyous heart. The visual and emotional impact of the moment is so exhilarating , you want to clutch Kashibai’s ecstasy close to your heart.

In another moment when colours talk, we have Bajirao’s wife and mother sharing a bonding based on mutual grief sewing saffron flags, the mother( the brilliant Tanvi Azmi)  wryly laughing about Bajirao’s sudden eruption of passion for Mastani and saying, “We might as well be sewing green flags from now on.”

The uncontrollable mutual passion between the Maratha warrior and half-Muslim princess is unleashed so fast and furiously that you sometimes wish the indefatigable narrative would slow down so we can catch our breath. Rajesh Pandey’s editing leaves no room for punctuations in the relationships as they crisscross across the compelling canvas with battle-like urgency.

The war sequences so crucial to the efficacy of the plot, are done with splendid skill. Even here Bhansali focuses more on the emotions underlining the desperate aggression rather than just the grandeur. Whether it is Mastani gazing at Bajirao with an adoration that Madhubala had last shown for Dilip Kumar in Mughal-e-zam or Bajirao the warrior tearing through a field of wounded soldiers, cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee mines the epic canvas for human emotions that lie buried too deep for tears.

The films looks and feels gloriously epic. The songs composed by Bhansali come on very frequently never intruding on the theme of love and war but rather enhancing the theme with sumptuous supreme supplementation.

The Mughal-e-Azam legacy looms large over Bhansal’s narration. It is no coincidence that Ranveer Singh resembles the young Dilip Kumar from K Asif’s film and that Birju Maharaj’s exquisite choreography for Deepika’s Mohe rang do laal dance number echoes Madhubala’s Mohe panghat pe nandalal from the Asif’s war-romance epic. And when Deepika is swathed in chains of captivity she is as much a figure of tragic grandeur as Mahubala singing Beqas pe karam kijiye sakar-e-Madina in Mughal-e-Azam.

Deepika looks downright beautiful and acts with increased poise and skill with every film. Here she is as statuesque as Madhubala, riding horses and destiny with equal grace and dignity. But Deepika could have done more with her part. She is way too subtle and silken, and not steely enough as the firebrand warrior-princess who will love her man, come what may.

She is too much Waheeda Rehman, too little Mumtaz.

Priyanka Chopra, on the other hand, is the better performer of the two in this film. Priyanka’s Kashibai loves her husband to death. Each time Priyanka looks at Ranveer Singh her face lights up like a brightly-lit skyline. When Bajirao falls in love with another woman Kashibai doesn’t surrender to destiny. She is no walkover. She protests. She sneers. She is angry. But finally for the sake of her husband’s happiness and the larger good, she accepts the situation. Kashibai teaches us the most important lesson of this film. Acceptance of injustice is sometimes the opposite of cowardice. Priyanka conveys all these emotions with near-flawless comprehension of her character’s inner world. This is her best to date.

As for Ranveer Singh, forget his habitual flamboyance and over-the-top image. The actor surrenders to his character, building for Bajirao a world that is utterly credible and convincing. Ranveer owns Bajirao’s character in a way very few Indian actors know how to. The way he delivers his dialogues with a tinctured texture of Marathi accent never over-doing it, is a joy to hear. Other very effective performances come from Tanve Azmi’s as Bajirao’s self-willed mother, Yatin Karyekar as a priest outraged by the pure Hindu wrrior’s unstoppable passion for a Muslim girl, and Vaibhav Tatwawdi as Bajiarao’s younger brother.

Bajirao Mastani is a masterpiece that teaches us many important lessons on love and and life. Most of all it shows us that another Mughal-e-Azam is possible in this day and age because there is a filmmaker who possesses the epic vision of K Asif.

If K Asif were alive he would smile at what Sanjay Bhansali has achieved in Bajirao Mastani. This is by far the best film of 2015.

Updated Date: Dec 19, 2015 08:46 AM