Eros International and Bhansali Productions’ Bajirao Mastani is a historical. It is the love story of ace Maratha ruler Bajirao Peshwa and Muslim warrior Mastani.
Bajirao Peshwa is a happily married Maratha ruler, brave and with an extremely sharp mind. He has won several wars and he dreams of winning over the whole of India for the king of Maharashtra. He lives with his mother (Tanvi Azmi), wife, Kashi (Priyanka Chopra), and son, Nanaji, besides other family members.
One day, Mastani, whose father rules Bundelkhand, comes to Bajirao, seeking his help to fight the enemy. Bajirao obliges and helps save Bundelkhand from the enemy. Aiding him in the war is Mastani herself. Seeing his bravery, Mastani falls head over heels in love with him. Baijrao, too, falls in love with her. After the war, Bajirao returns to Poona and shifts into a new palace, Shaniwarwada, made for him and his family.
Smitten by Bajirao, Mastani soon follows him and comes to Poona. Bajirao is unaware of her undying love for him. Seeing red, Bajirao’s widowed mother orders that Mastani be made to stay with the lowly dancing girls. Why, she even tells Mastani that the maximum she can hope to be is a dancer in Bajirao’s court. On her part, Mastani is so madly in love with Bajirao that she accepts her position as a mere dancer just so that she can be close to her beloved. It is not long before Bajirao learns from Mastani about her true love for him. Despite their different religions and in spite of the fact that he is a married man, he marries Mastani, much to the dismay of his wife and mother. Soon, Mastani, whom Bajirao doesn’t allow to be a dancer girl any longer, gets pregnant with Bajirao’s child. Kashi is also pregnant with her second child. As luck would have it, Kashi and Mastani deliver baby boys on the same day. Of course, since Mastani has not been accepted by Bajirao’s family as the daughter-in-law, her child is also not accepted into the family. Mastani stays in a separate house with her son. Bajirao now spends a lot of time with Mastani, ignoring Kashi, in the process.
Tension between Bajirao and his mother keeps escalating till one day, Bajirao wants to transfer part of the area ruled by him, to Mastani. His mother is livid. She does not accede to his request and so, Bajirao leaves the family and renounces his leadership. Kashi, on the other hand, accepts life as it comes and continues to love Bajirao like crazy, in spite of his unfaithfulness.
Soon, circumstances force Bajirao to once again fight in the battlefield to keep the Maratha flag flying high. But his mother and elder son, Nana (Ayush Tandon), play a dirty trick on him when they take Mastani and her little son and hold them captive. Bajirao is shattered when he learns of this game while he is at war.
Does Bajirao save his second wife and their son? Or does he bow down to his mother’s wishes? Do Bajirao and Mastani ever meet thereafter? Do they unite? Does Bajirao recover from the shock about the game his mother had played on him?
The story is based on N.M. Inamdar’s novel, Rau, which is about the conquests of Bajirao Peshwa on the battlefield and about his love life with Mastani and about how his mother refused to accept his second wife as a daughter-in-law.
Prakash R. Kapadia’s screenplay and Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Mallika Dutt Gharde’s additional screenplay are very interesting and engaging, though class-appealing. The screenplay keeps unfolding layer by layer and the juxtapositioning of the battle scenes with the romantic and family drama is excellent. The writers have concentrated almost completely on the love story of Bajirao and Mastani, and have not dwelt too much on the relationship between Bajirao and his wife, Kashi, before Mastani came on the scene. This, coupled with the fact that Kashi is not shown to be suffering humiliation after Mastani enters Bajirao’s life, except in her own eyes, which too, she copes with stoically, is probably the reason why the audience is not emotionally shaken, shattered or moved in the entire film. The weak-hearted may feel for Kashi in her scene with Mastani but they won’t cry or weep. The grandeur of the sets is so overpowering and both, Kashi and Bajirao’s mother, conduct themselves with such dignity that the viewers do not feel miserable for them or their plight. Had there been room for overwhelming emotions, the drama would have been more enriching and heart-touching for the viewers.
There’s another reason why the audience does not feel empathy for any character in the film, by and large. In traditional Indian upbringing as much as in our growing up on Hindi films, one has come to accept some stereotypes. For instance, it is a given that the first wife is the nice one, the ‘heroine’, whereas the other woman or the second wife is evil or, in that sense, a ‘vamp’. Based on the same analogy, a man who marries his mistress even though he has no problem with his first wife is considered to be a ‘villain’. Given this thought process of Indians, Bajirao and Mastani will be viewed by a section of the audience (read, mainly masses) as villain and vamp. One’s sympathy naturally cannot go to them. One’s sympathy also does not go to Kashi because she is not shown to be in a pitiable state (as explained above) or with Bajirao’s mother (who is a very strong lady, again, as mentioned above). So, a chunk of the audience will not know whom to empathise with, which will probably alienate them from the film’s content. Of course, the classes, the elite audience and even a section of the mass base of audience will overlook the above argument because it will be taken in by the grandeur of the film, its making, takings, sets, costumes etc. But a section of the audience (more so, among the masses) will not be able to overlook this point which, therefore, will come in the way of its complete enjoyment of the film.
Prakash R. Kapadia’s dialogues are among the high points of the film. Each dialogue is a gem and many of them pierce the heart. The dialogues could easily pick up awards because they greatly add to the dramatic impact of the film.
Ranveer Singh gets into the skin of the character of Bajirao and delivers a memorable performance. His Maharashtrian diction is lovely and he seems to have worked very hard on getting it right; the best part is that the effort doesn’t show at all. His physique is excellent and his get-up suits him and the character wonderfully. His expressions are splendid. Whether in romantic scenes or dramatic ones, whether on the battlefield with his enemy or in the bedroom with his partner, whether in emotional or light scenes, Ranveer is exceptional. Deepika Padukone looks beautiful, gorgeous, glamorous and regal, as Mastani should look, and does the fullest justice to her role with an outstanding show of talent. Every inch of her being appears to be smitten by Bajirao. Her costumes are extraordinary. Her dances are supremely graceful. She is especially mesmerising in the ‘Deewani mastani’ and ‘Pinga’ songs. Priyanka Chopra is fantastic as Kashi. She acts with a rare understanding and doesn’t once go overboard. Her intelligence lies in not trying to overshadow anybody, which makes her performance even more appealing. She looks fetching. Her Maharashtrian diction is flawless. Her dance in the ‘Pinga’ song is terrific. Tanvi Azmi lends outstanding support as Radha Maa, mother of Bajirao. Her dialogue delivery and hand gestures are superb. She delivers an award-winning performance. Ayush Tandon leaves a mark as Nana Saheb. Mahesh Manjrekar (as Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj), Milind Soman (as Ambaji Panth), Vaibhav Tatwawadi (as Chimaji), Yateen Karyekar (as Krishna Bhatt) and Zila Khan (as Ruhani Begum) provide great support. Raza Murad (in a special appearance as Nizam of Deccan), Aditya Pancholi (as Panth Pratinidhi), Benjamin Gilani (as Raja Chhatrasaal), Ganesh Yadav (as Malhar Rao), Sukdha Abhijeet Khandkekar (as Anutai), Anuja Anil Sathe (as Bhiutai), Snehalata Vasaikar (as Bhanumati), Kartik Ahuja (as Nasir Jung), Anmol Bawdekar (as Shiva Bhatt), Sachin Rawal (as Tukoji), Shabbir Ali (as Bangash), Tejashree Manohar Dharne (as Shalubai), Swarangi Mukund Marathe (as Jhumri), Mrunmayi Arun Supal (as Gopikabai), Vivek Ghamande (as Veer Singh), master Rudra Soni (as young Nana Saheb) and master Jason D’Souza (as little Shamsher Bahadur) are suitably adequate.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s direction is brilliantly imaginative. He has made a painting on celluloid. Each frame is a visual masterpiece. His narrative style is excellent. He has extracted the best out of his actors. His handling of the story, devoid of comedy or light moments, may find less favour with a section of the youth and with a section of the masses but that is not a fault; rather, it is his honesty to the script which has made him keep the drama absolutely to the point. Music (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) is extremely melodious but that mesmerising quality is missing in the songs. The ‘Deewani Mastani’ and ‘Pinga’ songs are the best. Lyrics (Siddharth-Garima, A.M. Turaz, Prashant Ingole and Ganesh Chandanshive) are heavenly. Picturisations of the ‘Pinga’ and ‘Deewani Mastani’ songs (by Remo D’Souza) are absolutely outstanding. Other song picturisations (by Pandit Birju Maharaj, Ganesh Acharya, Pony Prakash Raj Verma and Shampa Gopikishan) are eye-filling. Sanchit Balhara’s background music is extraordinary.
Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography is par excellence. Production design (by Sriram Kannan Iyengar, Sujeet Subhash Sawant and Saloni Ankush Dhatrak) is mind-numbing. The sets are rich, luxurious and a veritable visual treat. Sham Kaushal’s action and war scenes are terrific. Rajesh G. Pandey’s editing is super-sharp.
On the whole, Bajirao Mastani is a visually delightful entertainer and a cinematic masterpiece. Unfortunately, it holds more appeal for the classes and multiplex audiences and less for the masses. This will reflect adversely in its commercial report card because a film with an investment of the kind made in this project needed to be universally appealing, nothing less than that. Its collections are bound to pick up due to positive mouth publicity. In commercial terms, however, its very high cost on the one hand and an ordinary initial on the other, coupled with the fact that it has released in direct opposition of Dilwale, will not see it making profits. Rather, this masterpiece could, quite unfortunately and tragically, even entail losses to the persons concerned.