The culture of India is filled with innumerable stories of bravery and valour. Sadly, a few of them have been lost in the pages of history or only have local awareness. Tanaji Malusare is one such great man who is credited to have fought a decisive battle in the Battle of Sinhagad in 1670.
Roman Polanski, the acclaimed storyteller, once remarked: 'Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theatre.' Director Om Raut's Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior does exactly that. It raises the bar of films made in India. At a time when most dream merchants in Bollywood are concentrating on mindless entertainers that kiss goodbye to logic, Om Raut and Prakash Kapadia's story strike the right balance between logic, history, heroism and entertainment in Tanhaji. The scale of the film is colossal, the plot is invigorating and the outcome leaves you mesmerized. Without an iota of doubt, director Om Raut is a sheer genius for creating a film that sweeps you off your feet and leaves you awe-struck. After watching Tanhaji, it's not just admiration, but respect and reverence as well for Om Raut. It wouldn't be erroneous to state that you haven't watched anything like this on the Hindi screen ever in 3D. Also, as a cinematic experience, Tanhaji takes gigantic strides, taking Indian cinema notches higher… over and above the standards set by several skilled raconteurs in the past. This film will most definitely go down the annals of history.
It requires foresight, guts, vision and of course, the financial muscle to bring to life a lavish spectacle on the giant screen. And Om Raut uses his strengths and opportunities to accomplish what a majority of storytellers can only talk about or dream of. Let me add, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is not merely a visually enchanting experience, but also a well-structured film that engulfs you into its world. Director Raut belts out a story that rests on the age-old adage, good triumphs eventually and he carries a huge burden on his shoulders: He knows that the canvas, VFX and entertainment quotient has to be bigger and better than most of the historical films churned out recently. It's a daunting challenge actually. And Tanhaji delivers and how!
Several sequences leave you tongue-tied and the film has no dull, tedious or mind-numbing moment. The highpoint is the concept. The writing is smart and clever, the episodes are ingeniously integrated into the screenplay (Om Raut, Prakash Kapadia) and the culmination to the tale leaves you spellbound. I'd go the extent of saying that Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior has an unfaultable start, immaculate middle and impeccable end, which is a rarity as far as Indian films go. The film is seeped in Indian ethos, while the drama is garnished with several awe-inspiring sequences and jaw-dropping visuals. The screenwriting vacillates between light moments, high-voltage drama, tension-filled confrontations and luminously filmed and brilliantly crafted action sequences, resulting in a movie-going experience that doesn't insult your intelligence. The content is desi, while the packaging has an international feel.
There's no doubt that Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is Om Raut's most accomplished effort to date. His choice of the subject over the years has been diverse but Tanhaji is truly the big-ticket entertainer that leaves you awestruck by its powerful storytelling and meticulous detailing. Any deterrent? The soundtrack could've been better. Also, the editing (Dharmendra Sharma) could've been sharper at places.
Another prime reason why Tanhaji stays with you is, well, watching the story unfold in 3D. We have watched 3D films and also 2D-converted-to-3D films unfold on the Hindi screen. But, Tanhaji takes a leap by Indian standards and the technology adds a new dimension to this film. The background score (Sandeep Shirodkar) is electrifying. The breathtaking, larger-than-life frames (DoP: Keiko Nakahara), grandiose and opulent production design (Sujeet Subhash Sawant, Sriram Kannan Iyengar) and stunning visual effects impart sheen and sparkle. The action portions (Ramazan Bulut, R.P. Singh) provide ample exhilarating moments and I must add, it commands repeat viewing.
Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is powered by strong performances from the skilled cast. Having said that, the eyes are on the protagonist and antagonist all the while. You can sense the tension when the two gladiators clash and collide. Ajay Devgn is electrifying and gives his character the authority that they deserve. The undeniable presence and winsome act add weight to the magnum opus. Ajay seems born to play this role and he enacts it with such precision, such flourish, such confidence that it leaves you asking for more. A mind-boggling performance without a doubt! Saif Ali Khan is menacing, ferocious and nails his part with precision. His physical transformation -- a prerequisite for the character -- makes him look powerful and unshakable. He's most menacing in a role that must've been a herculean task to accomplish. Kajol gets limited scope this time but invests purity, valour and strength into her character and emerges triumphant. Sharad Kelkar uses his eyes to convey intensity and owns every sequence he's in. Luke Kenny is ruthlessly manipulative and pitches in a tremendous act. Padmavati Rao, as always, is impressive. Jagapathi Babu is unmistakably earnest. Devdatta Nage and Ajinkya Deo are impressive as well. Neha Sharma is perfectly alright.
On the whole, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is, without a shred of doubt, a landmark film. This period drama has all it takes to prove the first blockbuster of 2020. You haven't watched anything so opulent, so magnificent like this in a long, long time on the Hindi screen. It's a feast for moviegoers and has the trappings to make all generations its fan. It shouldn't come as a surprise if it goes down as a textbook on how to make a solid entertainer. EPIC BLOCKBUSTER!