Very few movies in the recent history have stirred public imagination in such unsavory ways as Padmaavat by Sanjay Leela Bhansali has done. Even before it was released, during the shooting phase itself, the director was slapped and then after the movie was made effigies were burnt by people who believed they had been wronged by the making of the movie. Arguments were put forward for and against the movie. People were barred from seeing shows and people lost their lives as well. So, normally there would be a lot of interest in seeing how the film turned out eventually. Now that the first premiere of the film is out, it can be said that the film is normal fare being turned out recently by Sanjay Leela Bhansali into a historic magnum opus.
The technical aspects
Like Baji Rao Mastani, Bhansali is able to create an epic world in this film as well bringing back a bygone era of kings, queens, and conquerors lusting to capture all that they can see. It looks and feels magnificent to say the least – the battle scenes are especially great with all the details well attended to. As far as music is concerned it was one of the highlights of the previous film but here Ghoomar is perhaps the only song that would stay with the audience after the film ends.
This is one of the problematic areas of the film in the sense that the characterization is too stark, too black and white. Nowhere is this more evident than the portrayal of the two male leads. The villain, Alauddin Khilji, is a complete monster in every sense of the term. He does not have any redeeming character whatsoever and this is evident in all that he does. On the other hand, the hero, Maharawal Ratan Singh, is a paragon of virtue, who is also depicted to be a military dunce of sorts in the sense that he takes an age to decide on military action against Khilji.
Padmavati is easily the most redeeming aspect of this film from the point of view of characterization. She is someone who is shown to be much smarter and practical than her husband something that is evident when in the final stages of the movie she asks for her husband’s permission to commit Jauhar and thus preserve her honor in death, ruefully stating that she cannot even do so without his permission. In another scene, upon being chastised by her husband’s first wife for the capture of Ratan Singh, she counters the claim that her beauty is to be blamed for it. She says that the gaze and intentions of men should be blamed for this.
No film review can be complete without a few words on acting. Deepika Padukone is charming and perfectly cast as the beautiful and witty Padmavati who comes to the desert land of Rajasthan from her island home of Singhal (Sri Lanka). In many ways, this act could be deemed an extension of what she did in Baji Rao Mastani as well but then she does it really well. Ranveer Singh does the best he can in a one-dimensional role and the same can be said of Shahid Kapoor as well. Perhaps the best actor in this generation, he is burdened with an even more one tone character and that perhaps stops him from showing his full range as an actor like he showed in Haider.
The film is definitely worth seeing if you like watching historic films or if you are fan of Bollywood fare in general. The movie has been shot wonderfully as is the case with all the films of Bhansali and this is one more reason why you can watch it. It is a usual Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, a grandiose exercise in moviemaking – one that has something for everyone.