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#UKAsianReview: ‘Bajirao Mastani’ – Magnum Opus or Mixed Bag?

bajirao

It usually doesn’t take me that long to write a film review but ‘Bajirao Mastani’ genuinely left me confused.

Was it a history lesson (too many inaccuracies for that)?  A love story (maybe but not quite there)?

Or is it a commentary on the futility of religious divides but which remain relevant in contemporary India?  Puhlease!  Spare us.

But even as I untangled the mystery, I couldn’t shake the feeling of déjà vu.

And then after three hours the penny dropped and I realized – “Oh damn! ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, ‘Devdas’, ‘Navrang!’”

Of course.  I have seen this before.

If heaven had internet connectivity, K. Asif would be tweeting, “Credit nahin diya Bhansaliji… Theek hain.  But shukriya tho bol diya hota #justsaying P.S: V Shantaram also had similar sentiments”.

The experience of watching this movie was a bit like when I upgraded my iphone – it is awesome looking, you have to have it (or see it as in this case), people have worked very hard to bring new elements to it, the packaging is better and the camera is definitely superior and will give you better pictures.

But it has been there all along.

A lot of effort has gone into ‘Bajirao Mastani’ as well.  It is technically brilliant with outstanding cinematography, a fabulous background score and even better costumes.

It really is hard to miss the attention to detail.

But, alas, you have seen it before.

Whether it is Deepika’s graceful twirls to the song “Mohe Rang Do Laal” that is reminiscent of Madhubala’s sway in “Mohe Panghat Pen Nand Laal” or the iconic scene where the lovers embrace each other as the furious parent watches – I had to wonder why it took Bhansali 12 years to perfect his magnum opus only to blatantly copy some of Indian cinema’s most iconic scenes!

The uneven pace of the script that sees the first half of the movie gallop and the second half slump into a weepy saga doesn’t help matters either.

But it is not all bad news.

The stellar cast keeps you mesmerized.  I am really glad that nobody else chose to play Bajirao for so long, because you cannot imagine anybody else could bring the raw energy Ranveer Singh has brought to this.

His inherent sex appeal is spiced up with a Marathi accent.  It is like that first bite of raw mango – it makes your toes curl with its tanginess but you cannot wait to take the second bite.

Deepika Padukone is easily the weakest of the three principal actors as she struggles a few times with the heavy dialogues, but she looks so gorgeous, you don’t pay attention.

However, it is Priyanka Chopra with her nuanced performance as the wife who fights a losing battle between her pride and her love who steals the show.

You cannot take your eyes off her face as she welcomes Deepika into her marital home and it is a pity she doesn’t get more screen time.  The ensemble cast of Milind Soman, Vaibhav Tatwadi and especially Tanvi Azmi make it worth your while to watch this.

As a stand alone piece of cinema, ‘Bajirao Mastani’ suffers from an uneven narrative, but the presentation is so opulent and the performances so stirring, you are willing to overlook these flaws.

However, when you look at it through the prism of some of the best cinema India has offered to the world you can’t help but feel – twelve years and the best you could come up with was a copy Sanjay?
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