Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 38 minutes
Director : Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast : Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Tanvi Azmi, Milind Soman
Kid rating: PG-13
Bajirao Mastani is a very Bhansali-esque film; it has big, lavish sets, gorgeous costumes and plenty of theatrical flourishes. The flourishes are easy to come by given the dramatic story of the film.
Brave warrior Shrimant Peshwa Bajirao Ballal Bhat (Singh) falls in love with Rajput King Chhatrasal’s half-Muslim daughter, the warrior princess Mastani (Padukone). When he leaves her father’s kingdom, Mastani follows him of her own accord knowing that he is already married to Kashibai(Chopra) and already has a son. As expected she is spurned by Bajiao’s powerful mother Radhabai (Azmi) and Bajirao despite his love for her cannot accord her the respect she deserves as his consort. A Bhansali-esque love story is born.
Bajirao Mastani is loosely based on the book Rauu, but is not historically correct. The emphasis is on the love story. Now, I’m all for romance, but historical stuff like this with love and second wives and such sets my teeth on edge. While Bajirao Mastani features some interesting “strong” women, their strength ultimately does not better their circumstances – Mastani is spurned, Kashibai must accept her husband’s infidelity, and Radhabai despite the power she wields in Bajirao’s household cannot prevent him from taking a second wife. Mastani is said to be an intelligent woman, a great warrior, skilled and learned, and yet she chooses to follow a married man because Bajirao gifts her a dagger, a custom which indicated a promise of marriage in the Bundelkhand clan (although Bajirao was unaware of this). Boggles the mind.
But such was history. Not a great time for female empowerment. A lot of historical tales feature powerful kings with multiple wives, some who were “gifted” to them in lieu of war-time favors – so not Bhansali’s fault; he just made the film. And to his credit he portrays the anguish of Mastani, Kashibai and Bajirao in equal measure.
My favorite character of the film was Kashibai. Chopra does a really good job of portraying Kashibai’s trying circumstances with poise and dignity, so you feel her hurt and betrayal and get a sense of her personality. Ranveer Singh nails the Marathi accent and is quite believable as the valiant Bajirao. Mastani’s character was not as finely delineated as the other two, and given that she was this amazing woman, we don’t get the low-down on her personality. What was she really like? What was she thinking?
With all the pomp and bling that Bhansali brings to his projects, Bajiao Mastani didn’t do it for me because it lacked soul, and ended up being little more than a costume drama, a well done costume drama. It aimed to depict this large than life love tale, but faltered. Despite its grandiosity I don’t get a sense of the extraordinary, overwhelming love the two shared. I can’t get behind them because of feminist objections, but it would have helped if Mastani’s character had not been as flat.
Sure, it is a lovely film to watch, with its tasteful, opulent sets and the beautifully pictured song sequences, but 2 months down the line, would I see it again? I think not.