Opting history for film-making is always a risky idea as a story is remembered as a history only because of the emotions it had. Each film-maker has his own style of portraying emotions. Among all, “Sanjay Leela Bhansali” has a “peculiar” style of portraying emotions. If such Bhansali opts an emotional history then that results in “Bajirao Mastani”. It’s the story of a Maratha Peshwa (Prime Minister) “Bajirao Ballaal” and his second wife “Mastani”. Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone acted in the lead title roles while Priyanka Chopra acted as Bajirao’s first wife “Kashibai”. Along with Bhansali, Eros International produced this film.
Peshwa Bajirao Ballal (Ranveer Singh) is a brave and successful prime minister of Maratha Empire ruled by Chhattrapati Shahu (Mahesh Manjrekar). Once Bajirao happens to save Bundelkhand from Mughal invasion where he meets king Chhatrasal’s daughter Mastani (Deepika Padukone), a Muslim. They fall in love with each other and get married. The rest story is about how Bajirao struggled to let his first wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra), his family, kingdom to accept his decision of having a Muslim wife in Hindu community.
Story wise, this is a great history which was not well known to many. Jodha-Akbar and Bajirao-Mastani share a similarity, Hindu-Muslim unity but the story transformations were different. While the former transforms from political to emotional, the latter transforms from emotional to political. Comparatively, Bajirao-Mastani’s story had a lot of emotion when came to silver screen. It’s acceptable that Bhansali had projected it well on the screen by making necessary dramatic changes to the story.
Good things of Bajirao Mastani…
The story has got enough dramatic changes required for a film. Bhansali’s cast were absolutely perfect for the roles. He came up with a poetic narration for a historical film. Songs like “Mohe Rang Do Laal”, “Deewani Mastani”, “Pinga” were so grand on screen with an awesome choreography and performances by actresses.
Bhansali had a team which researched on erecting grand sets like Aaina Mahal (palace of mirrors). “Deewani Mastani” song shot in this set, choreographed by Remo D’Souza appeared to be inspired from “Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya” of “Mughal-e-Azam” where Anarkali dances declaring her love for Saleem.
The plot’s emotion was conveyed well in most of the scenes. The intermission scene could be said as the best scene of the film. Bhansali’s dramatization of the scene where Kashibai puts off all the lamps in her room and relates her situation with Rukmini of mythology was good. This scene had extracted the best of Priyanka Chopra and it’s very touching and conveyed a lot of things when Bajirao also starts putting off the lamps. I also liked the scenes where Mastani criticizes why colours are considered religious and the one where Kashibai invites Mastani to the event by gifting a saree. The war scenes and the political games of Bajirao were convincing too. The fact that Bajirao won battles of the throne but lost his own battle was conveyed well visually.
Flip side of Bajirao Mastani…
Bhansali’s style of making films in darkness hasn’t changed. Most of the scenes happen in night environment and their visuals aren’t clearly visible unless you’re watching the film on at least a 2k screen. There is a big blunder did by Bhansali in this film’s narration. While the story is about Bajirao and Mastani and their love story, there was no proper scene which shows the relationship or love between them. Instead, Bhansali shot one such scene between Bajirao and Kashibai. When it comes to Mastani, he just portrayed the kingdom’s politics and religious intolerance. We know why Mastani falls for Bajirao but there was no proper scene that explains why Bajirao has fallen for Mastani apart from the gratitude that she saved his life. This wasn’t easily acceptable. Had there been scenes portraying Bajirao and Mastani’s relationship or a scene where Bajirao falls for Mastani should’ve made the film complete.
Besides this, the narration was very sluggish and the scenes were so lengthy. The climax had lost its effect due to this. In fact, it had a lot of emotion and conveyed the characters’ pain well but the lengthier visuals showing struggling Bajirao made the emotion overflow. This should’ve really been trimmed so that the ending could be perfect.
On the whole, Bajirao Mastani had a very good content and grand production values which got damaged by Bhansali’s dim visuals and sluggish screenplay.
Coming to performances, Ranveer Singh has won the hearts with this involving performance as Bajirao. His performance showed how much he loved doing this film. Deepika Padukone has got complete improvement in her performance. She has stolen the show with her dance movements and charm too. Her performance in the climax was stupendous. Priyanka Chopra has got enough prominence and she lived the character too. Her performance in the scene where she puts off the lights and in the climax struggling for Bajirao was very much appreciable. Tanvi Azmi as Bajirao’s mother was apt.
- Characterizations. Bhansali was successful in establishing and dramatizing all the lead characters well for the film.
- Artists’ Performances. As said, all the lead cast were stupendous and lived their roles. This film can be watched for their performances at least.
- Sanchit Balhara’s Background Score. His work elevated the film’s emotion especially in the scenes of declaring Bajirao as Peshwa.
- Bhansali’s Music. Songs composed by Bhansali were apt for the film’s genre and situations.
- Sudeep Chatterjee’s Cinematography. Though there’s a poor lighting in the film, the visuals that were shot in the day light were rich.
- Choreography. Pandit Birju Maharaj, Remo D’Souza and other choreographers have done their part very well and made all the songs eminent.
- Art Direction. Sets erected by Sujeet Sawant, Sriram Iyengar, Saloni like Aaina Mahal (palace of mirrors) were very attractive.
- Production Values. Bhansali and Krishna Lulla of Eros International’s production values were responsible for the film’s grandeur.
- Bad Screenplay. To establish every character well, Bhansali had written a sluggish screenplay. There wasn’t a proper scene to convey why Bajirao and Mastani love each other so much.
- Poor Lighting. As said, Bhansali hadn’t changed in this aspect and made most of the visuals unclear with the poor lighting. This blame should be imposed on cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee too.
- Runtime. This film lasted for 158 minutes which is a bigger one for such poorly lighted visuals. Editor Rajesh G. Pandey should’ve really worked on this with Bhansali.
What should be learned from Bajirao Mastani and Bhansali?
- Having grand sets and grand scenes aren’t just enough. Audience should be able to watch it clearly by having a good lighting on them.
- If history is opted as your film’s plot then you should transfer that emotion to the audience well.
- A film shouldn’t be technically rich but it should’ve a racy screenplay to not to let the audience feel bored.
– Yashwanth Aluru