Padmaavat has been marred by controversy and has even had its name re-christened. Hence when it finally got the green light to release, the first thing that I was interested to see was whether it was worth the ruckus that it stirred up. The next point of interest was whether it was any good and my very own inclination was to see Ranveer Singh’s act.
This is easily my favorite Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. I have never liked his films that much as I found them too melodramatic, long and shallow. Some I found intolerably boring. My previous favorite of his was Bajirao Mastani which was incidentally another period piece. Padmaavat starts smack in the middle of the action as we see Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) growing up with an insatiable desire for carnage and womanizing. These bits establish him as the kind of man who would later be-siege a city for a married woman.
In another part of the world, Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) and Padmavati (Deepika Padukone) meet in the most unusual fashion and being floored by her beauty and poise, Ratan Singh asks for her hand in marriage. She agrees and accompanies him to Mewar. Khilji, on the other hand, conquers vicious enemies to help his uncle sit on the throne of Delhi and then overthrows him to become the Sultan of the whole country.
In Chittor, Ratan Singh and Padmavati commit a fatal error when they send a perpetrator Raghav Chetan, who by the way, lusts for Padmavati, out of the country instead of beheading him for invading their privacy. Raghav Chetan arrives in Delhi, jilted by his banishment and entices Khilji to go after Padmavati. And so begins the great siege of Chittor by Khilji in the name of love (as he calls it).
Padmaavat is an opulent and grandiose spectacle that never ceases to amaze you with its visuals. As I sat through this film I constantly tried to look through that thin line between on-camera and VFX and for the greater part of it, I couldn’t find any. Therein lies the biggest victory of the whole VFX team as the best VFX are the ones that you never notice. The film is richly colored and sensationally mounted. The camera work is impeccable. Be it the action sequences or simple shots of people walking through doorways, the visuals never cease to amaze you. Add to that the sparkling 3D and you have the kind of visuals that can make you watch the film twice.
The scene where we are introduced to Padmavati reminded me of an equally stunning piece from a film called “House of Flying Daggers” by Zhang Yimou. The scene I am referring to is a chase sequence through a forest in that film. In Padmaavat, I got a very similar vibe from the aforementioned scene but it was done without giving any homage or taking inspiration (if you understand what I mean by that). This is an original rendering that is just beautifully done. The movements, the color combination, the sound design and the manner in which the whole sequence is shot and executed is brilliant. This is not the only one worth a mention. There are multiple sequences sprinkled throughout the film that will make your jaw drop.
Padmaavat is a long film but thankfully there is so much happening on-screen that chances are you will not feel a thing. It’s breezy, it’s fast and above all, it never bores you. Yes! It has to be agreed that the film after a while does get a bit repetitive but that’s obvious considering the fact that its source material didn’t have much meat. What made the film so entertaining were the enterprising acts of the leading stars, Ranveer in particular.
This is a film which is more about Khilji and less about Padmavati. Ranveer Singh gets the catchiest lines and the lion’s share of the screen time. But I am not complaining as that I believe was a very good idea. Let’s admit it, neither Ratan Singh nor Padmavati are interesting enough characters to see for 2 hours and 40 minutes. The only issue that I had with Ranveer’s essay was his momentary bursts into dance numbers like the “Khalibali” song. They just took me out of the feel of the character which otherwise he maintained wonderfully. The “Khalibali” song, especially felt like a recreation of “Malhari” from “Bajirao Mastani” and I believe it was.
Deepika Padukone embodies the larger than life image of Padmavati with magnanimous grandeur and serene composure. When she is on screen you are confused weather to drool over her attire or bask in the glory of her intellect. But that too quickly gets repetitive after a while. I got goosebumps in the final sequence where she goes ahead and commits Jauhar (Self Emollition).
Within fifteen minutes of his first appearance, Shahid Kapoor starts getting belittled by Ranveer and Deepika. His Rajputi accent too is a problem. I have been in close contact with Rajputs and I know for sure that they never sound so forced. The biggest problem with his character is that it is written in such a way that he is forced to play second fiddle to Ranveer. Even in the scenes where the two share screen space, Ranveer, thanks to his utterly, hilariously, the crazy act takes over Shahid’s more straight-faced act.
Padmaavat stays true to its lore for most of the part apart from a few tiny deviations here and there. Sanjay Leela Bhansali cleverly avoids every major battle sequence symbolizing it sometimes with a savored head on a Rajput warrior whose headless body is still swaying swords and sometimes showing a severed head on a pike being carried by Khilji with a dust storm in the rear view. Even the climax is reduced to a one-to-one fight in the fashion of the Achilles-Hector duel from Troy. That is something that has been repeated ample number of times in Bollywood.
Now for the biggest question of them all, does Padmaavat have anything to offend anyone at all? The answer is a resounding no. It is Infact a film that shows the Rajput in the highest order and with never seen before reverence which quite frankly speaking I have to question considering their current spree of violence on school buses shuttling children protesting this film.
Padmaavat is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s best film till date. It is ripe with stunning visuals, terrific performances (atleast from Ranveer and Deepika) and has enough meat in its story to keep you interested throughout the runtime. If it was not for the meandering song and dance routines and somewhat weak writing of certain characters and pulling some situations unnecessarily, this could well have been an epic. For all this and more, Padmaavat is still a definitely watchable film. Just make sure you watch it on the biggest screen possible and in 3D.
Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)