Direction: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Starring: Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Anupriya Goenka, Aditi Hao Hydari, Jim Sarbh
Runtime: 2h 44min
Historical dramas are often the toughest to bring to the celluloid. Since history cannot be modified so it is always difficult to deliver the element of surprise. The entire weight is then on the shoulders of the film’s presentation and more importantly acting. Padmaavat ( earlier named as Padmaavati), is based on a historical account of the same title by Malik Muhammad Jayasi narrates the tale of Rani Padmini, who has a god-like stature among the Rajput and Hindu community for demonstrating valour and being an epitome of beauty and wisdom and chronicles the episodes of her royal life and how the arrival of the Khilji ruler Alauddin Khilji makes a marked change and how she and her husband Raja Ratan Singh of Mewar resist the tyrannical motives of Khilji, who is completely enamoured by Rani Padmini’s beauty forms the rest of the story. No more surprises beyond that.
Let’s start with the positives of the movie. The movie is lavishly mounted, and every scene is meticulously crafted with finesse. The cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee, costumes by Rimple and Harpreet Narula and others and the art design are truly pitch perfect and give the movie a totally classy look. Bhansali has invested a lot of time in presenting the set pieces and costumes with perfection and the hard work can be seen on the screen. The visuals will definitely arrest your attention throughout the film. The background score is also fine, but not the strongest point of the film. The editing team has tried its best to make the proceeding racy (but, failed at some parts).
Now let’s concentrate on the negative sides. After delivering quite a compelling one with Bajirao Mastani, Bhansali’s story for Padmaavat appears stale. The screenplay befits more of a historical documentary movie that is shown on History Channel HD or Discovery Channel and less of a celluloid extravaganza. The issue with the screenplay is Bhansali has only treated scenes individually and not cohesively together and thus makes it a non-engaging offer, in the sense the scene might be fine but does not seem to evoke many emotions as the screenplay is not engaging enough. As mentioned earlier, owing to the controversy the story is now familiar to everyone, so it was up-to the screenplay to engage the audiences and I must admit it was a disappointment. Now coming to the acting, Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji has attempted to be menacing and his efforts can be observed. But then again, the issue is there is only sparks of terror as he takes centre stage, but no dread that we would except from him. He has tried to be an overwhelming villain and though his efforts can be appreciated, it fails the mark that was necessary for this movie. Shahid Kapoor is a misfit as the Raja and appears too stoic. His abs and torso are perfect, but his acting was bummer. Deepika as Rani Padmini looks angelic and ethereal, but also with her the acting is not fluid and her emotions in the end seem stifled in the climax. The best show was by Malik Gafoor played by ( Neerja-man) Jim Sarbh. He was a treat to watch. The rest including Aditi Rao, Raza Murad and Anupriya Geonka are okayish with their parts, nothing much to comment. The action sequences are dull and should have been taken care of much better given the fact the drama in the movie is truly weak. Final nail-on-the-coffin comes in the form of Sati sequence; maybe it’s a part of the historical account, but given the fact Bhansali has fictionalized certain parts he could have added a more appropriate sequence. Personally, Sati was not what I wanted as the ode to Rani Padmini. Even the Sati sequence falls flat and has no emotions raised and some of the antics by the ladies, to be honest appear way too lame. There is nothing controversial in the movie, other than over-the-top (at times, stupid) Rajput valour and pseudo-honour.
Finally, Padmaavat will fall in the bracket of the historical drama that had the extravaganza but lacked the soul. It will not be one of those movies that will have an eternal shelf-life. Padmaavat had the opportunity to be a classic of how a king and queen bravely faced the advances of an evil tyrannical ruler and protect their kingdom but gets itself relegated to being more of a costume drama.