The stunning Bajirao Mastani Sanjay Leela Bhansali's film is a class apart
Going to a film with several big names attached to it, there is always a fear of what you'll see and whether or not it will be up to the standard the person in question has set in the past. This dread is even more pronounced if the big name is of someone known not only for their innovations but also for a reputation of delivering the highest quality entertainment. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is undoubtedly one of those names and his latest epic, Bajirao Mastani, does not disappoint.
Bajirao Mastani tells the story of Peshawa Bajirao Ballal as played by Ranveer Singh and his torrid love affair with the witty, pretty and warrior second wife Mastani, as played by Deepika Padukone. This period drama weaves a narrative of a warrior falling in love, set against the background of the Maratha expansionism, the weakening of the Mughal Empire and the ramifications thereof. Bhansali, a masterful storyteller that he is, does not neglect the present and actually plays the story as a parable for the modern day rise of intolerance in India as well. This brilliant technique of interpreting modern events against the background of similar historical incidents while also staying true to the original historical characters, is a difficult task that Bhansali makes seem effortless.
As far as the historical accuracy of the source material is concerned, it is largely a moot point. The movie has taken certain liberties with the historical characters and how they were portrayed, especially with the eponymous characters Bajirao and Mastani themselves, but that is the cost of an entertaining film. No one goes to the cinema looking for a history lesson and if someone actually does think that what is shown on the silver screen is exactly how everything happened is living in a fool's paradise. The source material also happens to be the novel "Rau" by N S Inamdar and some creative license is to be granted here as well.
The movie's story follows all the traditional formulas, but does it well. The film has a strong opening with a short prologue where the titular Bajirao is introduced. Everything from the music to the dialogues screams power and attention to detail. With this strong an opening, the cynics might expect the quality of the movie to taper off, but it does nothing of that sort. The movie continues to amaze us and build more excitement until the denouement where you see some extensive symbolism, down to the delirious ramblings of Bajirao and the restlessness of Mastani. The entire story builds into a frantic crescendo, never slowing down enough for people to get bored.
I have praised Deepika's acting as a carefree manic pixie dream girl in Tamasha before, and I would like to compliment her again now as she has outdone herself as Mastani in this film. Her character is layered and so is her performance. Whether it is the warrior who would stop at nothing to deliver the message she was tasked to deliver or the gentle lover who can fall madly in love with the handsome young warrior that saved her life, Deepika embodies every bit of the character effortlessly. Her classical dance moves are as good as her fight choreography.
Ranveer Singh portrays Peshwa Bajirao Ballal, the Prime Minister to the Maratha Emperor and a fearless, brilliant and witty warrior. Ranveer embodies his role as if he is Peshwa Bajirao; Bajirao himself would probably find it difficult to find fault in his performance. His dialogue delivery, timing and acting are all well done. Especially in the final scene where we see Bajirao in throes of delirium, fighting off the imaginary demons, Ranveer Singh's performance was