I watched Padmaavat ( Padmaavati) by Sanjay Leela Bhansali towards its 3rd week of release. By that time both the euphoria and the resistance to the movie was waning. Another few days and it would have been a thing of past with no regrets. However, as I have been writing about the film and my wife wanted to watch it the second time, and I was just back from Mewar (Udaipur) with added interest, I ended up in a hall that was surprisingly full on a Thursday evening show. It was a demonstration of the audience giving it a thumbs-up.
The storyline of Padmaavat is well known. It brings alive the Sufi poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540. Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji comes to know of the beauty of Rani Padmavati – the wife of Maharawal Ratan Singh and is obsessed with her. He tries to get her by any means and when the Rajputs are killed in the battle of honour the women ( led by Rani Padmaavati) do the Jauhar. Burning themselves in a pyre instead of being captured by the enemy.
So, there was not much to new for the movie to present. However, Sanjay Leela Bhansali created a magnum opus of a scale that you got absorbed in the story.
Ranveer Singh playing the truant Alauddin Khiliji was absolutely magnificent. The transformation and his getting into the character was an absolute delight to watch. After a long time, there was a character that the audience will love to hate. He does not seem the Ranveer we are accustomed to seeing, and that is the most significant compliment and a victory of his talent.
Deepika Padukone playing Maharani Padmavati stands by the character and delivers a performance you can’t find fault with. But then you have seen her in such attire and strong role in past. There is no newness to her.
Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh is superb. He seems as regal and royal as a king should be. He manages the body posture and the language of eyes as brilliantly as Ranveer does in the polarised role. Respect for their talent rises many notches with Padmavat.
I am surprised and don’t understand the controversy about Padmaavati. In fact, the Rajput body including the Sena that protested against it, should pay and award Sanjay Leela Bhansali for projecting a glorious history of them. What difference did changing the title from Padmaavati to Padmaavat make?. All the time in the movie, Rani is called Padmaavati.
It is history or folklore is for others to define and decide. But the situation then demanded Jauhar. So where was the question of glorification? Dance, rituals, colour, and music are part and parcel of the Rajasthani culture, and the dance anyway was all women dance with just Maharawal Ratan Singh as a male audience. So WTF was the issue.
The arena of royalties, Valour, opulence, and beauty, is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s familiar territory. The war scenes are not that grasping. Nowhere the movie rises to enhance audience anxiety that is essential to make them empathise with the characters. Here is where Sanjay Leela Bhansali fails.
PADMAVAT is still an experience worth indulging in!