Direction: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Lead Cast: Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, Ranveer Singh
Runtime: 163 minutes
RBN Rating: 3.5/5
Let me begin with the technicals first. Padmaavat is a quintessential Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. A minute into it and you know this is a visual spectacle in every sense. Each scene has been shot, edited, and reedited with such clinical finesse that even without any twist in the end, you wait for the next scene to unfold. Sudeep Chatterjee’s camera weaves magic in 3D, especially in the battle scenes where the expanse and grandeur is overwhelming. The colour correction is spot on. The kesar tint of Rajput pride and honour is there in every second frame, except the scenes where sepia-dark tones have been used to highlight the sadomasochism of the ruthless Turko-Afghan ruler Alauddin Khilji. And trust Bhansali to make even a jauhar (self-immolation) scene look spectacular.
Padmaavat, based on Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s poem Padmavat, is a cinematic experience. There perhaps could not have been a better casting than Deepika Padukone as Rani Padmavati. She doesn’t have much dialogue in the film. It’s her eyes that breathe life into the role. She speaks and emotes with them. Deepika forges a superb combination of beauty and brains and is almost invisibly present in every scene. She is a strategist at times of conflict which also exposes her inner tussles. Shahid Kapoor puts up a controlled act as Padmavati’s husband and as the righteous Rajput king Rawal Ratan Singh.
But the film only and only belongs to Ranveer Singh who injects adrenaline into the role of Khilji. He is evil and arrogant and you begin to hate him the moment he appears on screen for the first time. As the lecherous Delhi Sultanate ruler, Ranveer is overbearing and steals every scene that he is in. Here is a man who is overfed on self-consuming power and fiefdom, and tears you apart with his stone cold expressions. He is morbid sans being loud and strikingly brings out the vulnerabilities of Khilji when he realises that he can’t win over Padmavati. If black ever had a darker shade, it’s Ranveer Singh in Padmaavat.
That aside, Aditi Rao Hydari as Khilji’s wife Mehrunisa does justice to her role with limited screen presence. Jim Sarbh is perfect as the eunuch salve-general of Khilji’s army, though he tends to get overboard in some scenes.
Padmavati and Khilji never share a single frame in the film. Yet, their forbidden love story stays on with you long after the end credits roll. At one point of time you begin to find reason behind the madness of the plundering ruler. Your hatred for Khilji turns into pity. And therein lies Bhansali’s success. He has told the story from Khilji’s point of view.
Padmaavat is not entirely without flaws. With a running time of 163 minutes, it becomes a tad lengthy. It could have been a good 30-minute shorter. There’s not enough meat in the story to keep the audience engaged. But that is largely compensated with the technical brilliance. The music, uncharacteristic of Bhansali, is a letdown. Also, the constant reminder of Rajput pride and valour, soon becomes arduous.
But these are minor negatives. Padmaavat is a grandiose 70mm experience rarely seen on Indian screens.
Go watch it.