Sanjay Leela Bhansali was determined to make a film on the lives of Peshwa Bajirao, Kashibai and Mastani for quite some time now. The supremely talented raconteur kept vacillating between numerous actors, before he chose on the present star cast of BAJIRAO MASTANI. Although historicals were well-liked -- and commercially feasible, if I may add -- at a point of time, the swelling budgets and comprehensive study and research that went into making a historical compelled quite a few present-day film-makers to abandon their dream projects and opt for contemporary themes. Bhansali stood his ground and waited for the opportune time to commence the project in question.
It's a pre-requisite to possess a mega budget, have exhaustive knowledge of the subject matter, possess nerves of steel to handle the gigantic cast/crew and last but not the least, the vision and fortitude to bring a historical to life on celluloid in today's times. You can face instant rejection from the paying public or face controversies and protests for deviating from facts. The film-maker has to walk a tight rope.
BAJIRAO MASTANI is Bhansali's most ambitious project to date. The love story, the conflict, the dramatic altercations, the battle sequences and of course, the ostentatious setting... BAJIRAO MASTANI is an enthralling period film that transports you to an era you had only read about in the history books. At the same time, Bhansali introduces the on-screen characters and the sequence of events with utmost simplicity so that the enthusiastic spectator is able to get the grip of the goings-on effortlessly.
Final word? Fit BAJIRAO MASTANI into your agenda of films to watch this weekend. Bhansali could've easily opted for a modern-day love story, but the fact that he chose to make a historical and one that keeps you hooked for varied reasons deserves applause and encouragement from cineastes. Sure, it's a damn good looking film, but, most importantly, it has soul too.
The plotline: BAJIRAO MASTANI takes off with Bajirao [Ranveer Singh] being appointed the Peshwa. Soon, Mastani [Deepika Padukone] seeks his help to save her kingdom. Although Bajirao is already married to Kashibai [Priyanka Chopra], love blossoms between Bajirao and Mastani.
Bhansali along with his team of writers [screenplay: Prakash R. Kapadia; additional screenplay: Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Mallika Dutt Gharde] adorn the film with fascinating characters and inspirational sub-plots that advance into a stunning culmination. Despite a run time of almost 2.40 hours, Bhansali also sees to it that the writing is taut, the pacing is just right and at no point does the screenwriting deviate into unnecessary tracks.
Clearly, Bhansali seems to be motivated by the classics helmed by the Hollywood counterparts. He has a splendid sense of narrating an epic tale, which is evident when you think of the gigantic scale of the film. The battle sequences [action director: Sham Kaushal] are awe-inspiring and have been executed with magnificence. The production design [Sriram Kannan Iyengar, Sujeet Subhash Sawant, Saloni Ankush Dhatrak] is eye-filling and makes you acknowledge the effort that must've gone into recreating the long-gone era. The apparel as well as the styling of the characters is truly majestic.
Bhansali seamlessly weaves music in the historical. Filmed with care, the songs [also composed by Bhansali] are mesmeric and have been choreographed with precision. The ones that stand out are 'Deewani Mastani', 'Albela Sajan' and 'Pinga'. The background score [Sanchit Balhara] is wonderful. BAJIRAO MASTANI is gorgeously lensed, with the DoP [Sudeep Chaterjee] capturing the colors, setting and emotions meticulously. Editing [Rajesh G. Pandey] is crisp.
Bhansali makes sure the actors get major acting opportunities this time. Ranveer Singh is stupendous and clearly in top form. He holds you attentive right from the first frame till the penultimate moments. The effortlessness with which he gets into the skin of the character is noteworthy. In addition, the chemistry with both Deepika and Priyanka is delightful. It must be said that this is his finest work to date. Deepika is enchanting as Mastani and displays the strength as an actor in several pertinent episodes. The year 2015 clearly belongs to her for choosing diverse parts and delivering winning portrayals in PIKU, TAMASHA and now, BAJIRAO MASTANI. Priyanka Chopra's portrayal of Kashibai deserves brownie points. She interprets the character with brilliance, proving yet again that she's amongst the finest actors we have today.
The supporting cast is top notch, especially Tanvi Azmi [terrific], Milind Soman [wonderful], Vaibbhav Tatwawdi [superb] and Yateen Karyekar [competent]. Mahesh Manjrekar, Raza Murad are Aditya Pancholi enact their respective parts well.
On the whole, BAJIRAO MASTANI is a cinematic gem that you just cannot miss. Tremendous performances, deft direction, power-packed screenwriting and dialogue, melodious soundtrack and of course, the lavish mounting -- this film has it all. Strongly recommended!