Reviews of an Acute Cinephile.

Bajirao Mastani (2015) (Hindi) Movie Review

Bajirao Mastani is the latest period offering from Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It follows the story of Peshwa Bajirao (A buff-as-usual Ranveer Singh), a general under Chathrapathi Shahu of the Maratha Empire, and the love triangle between his wife, Kashibhai (Played by the indomitable Priyanka Chopra), himself, and his Mistress, Mastani (Played by the always reliable Deepika Padukone)

Now, what I’ve given above is the basic plot summary and nothing else as I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. Now, onto the review.

Opulent, Extravagant and Beautiful have always served as the best adjectives to fall back on when one is describing how Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films look like. From the critical darling “Black” to the much derided “Saawariya”, His exceptionally well mounted set design and lavish costumes are rarely, if ever, criticized; and this film is no different. I especially adore his use of wide-shots, which lends the film an epic and majestic feel, sometimes even to the detriment of the film itself, but I’ll get more into that later.

The actors, for the most part, have done a tremendous job here with the material that they’ve been provided, with Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra being the stand-outs. I say “for the most part” because I wasn’t as enamoured with Deepika Padukone’s performance as I was with the former two. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t terrible, but quite honestly, I feel that most of the problems arose from the way the script required her to play the character.

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The writing in the film is serviceable, but it is classic Bhansali, in the way that none of the dialogues ever seem natural and actually serve as monologues and nothing else. It is the quintessential curse of the period drama rearing it’s ugly head once again. What is the curse, you ask? Well, in my opinion, I’ve always noticed historical period drama films, in terms of dialogues and writing, to be of two camps – The first is the kind of period films that feel natural in the way that their characters speak and behave (Case in point – Gandhi, Lagaan etc.) and the other is the kind where characters relay the plot through monologue with a lot of historical language and conotations woven in, almost like a filmed play. (Case in point – Baahubali, although a really good film, had this problem ) and the curse here is apparent, when most period dramas, in trying to achieve that epic feel and scope through dialogue, gets unfortunately stuck in the latter camp. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; for if you enjoy such exposition driven dialogue, Bajirao Mastani is going to be your cup of tea.

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The direction here is great, with Bhansali going here for maximum visual impact, and as mentioned earlier, he definitely captures the beauty offered by the scenic backdrops extremely. The problem though, is that, at times, he does this at the expense of the story and actors involved, and the battle sequences are perhaps where this is most evident – A lot of quick edits, slow motion and questionable CG took me out of the cinematic reality that Bhansali has otherwise beautifully established in such sequences. Direction notwithstanding, the execution of the plot could have been improved a little bit as well. The reason I specify this, is because, as the title of the film suggests, this is supposedly a story where we’re intended to root for Bhajirao and Mastani to overcome all the odds and unite in their love; but here’s the problem – I never for once bought the relationship between Bhajirao and Mastani. Matters are not helped when Priyanka Chopra as Kashibhai gives such a varied and versatile performance that by the end, I was on “Team Kashi” more than anything else. Mastani, in the film, to me atleast, felt more like a homewrecker than anything else, and when Deepika’s performance only involves a lot of teary-eyed glances toward Bhajirao, plus a couple of angry faces when the situation calls for it (again, I don’t think it’s her fault. It’s probably the way she was written), I found myself not invested in their romance whatsoever, which is quite unfortunate because that’s the exact thing that film was supposed to sell. I must emphasize though, that Ranveer Singh’s performance in the film as the troubled and emotionally complex general is excellent; With subtle nuances peppered throughout his acting, It’s quite apparent that a lot of work went into fleshing out his character.

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I probably sound more negative in this review than I would like, but make no mistake, Bhairao Mastani is definitely a good film. It just wasn’t as good as I’d have liked it to be.

Rating – 6.0/10

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