Film review: Padmaavat (5/5)
Originally slated for release last month, the controversial subject matter of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s epic has just been made available to cinema-goers.
Padmaavat (based on the poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540) has been ten years in planning and was something of a passion project and complete nightmare for its director.
Facing a number of protests, particularly from the Rajput caste organisation, Karni Sena felt that the film was historically inaccurate and created an unflattering portrait of Queen Padmavati despite not seeing any script or footage.
Sets were vandalised and burned, costumes destroyed and Bhansali himself was assaulted on set. The Karni Sena also declared that they would burn down theatres and called for the head of lead actress Deepika Padukone. No matter what promises Bhansali made, those who opposed the film were not willing to compromise.
Still, after being subjected to various cuts, edits and statements before the opening credits declaring that the film does not claim to have any basis in fact, Padmavaat (previously named Padmavati – the title was one such change) achieved release.
The story is simple: Rajput ruler Ratan Singh is struck by the arrow of Sinhala princess Padmavati. The two then fall in love and he takes her home to Chittor to be his queen. But at the same time the vicious and bloodthirsty Sultan Alauddin Khilji hears of Padmavati’s legendary beauty and comes to believe that he will succeed in conquering all of India (and the world) with her by his side. With singleminded determination he lays siege to Chittor to take down the king and capture the queen.
The first thing that comes to mind when discussing the works of Sanjay Leela Bhansali are the wonderful visuals. He sees everything in incredible detail and creates opulent, intricate worlds that hypnotise and stun. Padmaavat, while more subdued in palette than most of his previous films, is no less. In fact it is hard to think of anything currently released, or upcoming, that could possibly match it.
As a director with a passion for beauty, he surely found the perfect Padmavati in actress Deepika Padukone who looks ethereal throughout and manages to present great emotional strength and backbone despite having the least to work with out of the three leads. As Ratan Singh, Shahid Kapoor is full of valour and heroism. Perhaps he is a little dour, but that is due to the writing and no fault of his.
The true star of the film, in the meatiest and showiest role, is Ranveer Singh as the villainous Alauddin Khilji. He possesses an excess of screen presence and dominates not only every scene he is in but even the ones he is not. Fierce, masculine and nearly insane, he gives the performance of his career so far and his is the role you will remember long after leaving the theatre.
The haunting score by Sanchit Balhara perfectly enhances the splendour onscreen and the individual songs are all melodic and memorable, particularly ‘Binte Dil’ which is strikingly visualised.
That’s not to say there aren’t any problems. The opening scenes were a little shaky and there are some minor moments of not so great CGI, as well as a few places where the cuts made are quite obvious. However, when presented with such spectacle these are easy to ignore.
Padmaavat is big, bold, beautiful and overwhelming. Seeing it on a cinema screen (also playing in IMAX) is a must. Well worth the wait.
Running time: 163 minutes