Two years ago, in November 2013, to be precise, Sanjay Leela Bhansali had Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Ram Leela
. There was nothing wrong with the lead pair; there was no script! In Bajirao Mastani, Bhansali gets the same lead pair to create magic on screen.
Credit must be given to the director who very rightly puts out a disclaimer before the start of the movie. He informs us that he has spoken with historians and tried as much as possible to get the facts in place. However, the disclaimer says, the film does not claim to be historically accurate.
This is a good way to start a movie which goes back in time. Recreating history to the 'T' is never possible; will never be possible. No one in our present time has been present to witness the past. The most they would have access to would be references of the past through historians and books. But that too, has come down the ages, and the accuracy of it can always be debated.
Putting to rest the accuracy debate, Bhansali gets into his own. The creative wizard who has a tremendous eye for detail is once again in his elements recreating breath-taking sets, magical moments, dazzling dances with good music juxtaposed with delicate close-in and far-off angles captured creatively by the camera. The whole cinematography (Sudeep Chatterjee) and lighting and mood Bhansali creates is worthy of applause. It takes immense creativity to get the detailing right.
For that alone, the director needs a standing ovation!
Now for the script - the one element that was missing in his last movie; it's there and very much guided skilfully into the eye-catching sets, dances, performances, costumes and what have you.
Ranveer Singh as Bajirao throws in his hat for the Best Actor Award. The guy is in tremendous form. His body language as the Maratha Warrior who loses no battle [only the fight for his love], his dialogue delivery with the pitch-perfect tone to match the mood of the scene, and his expression is a delight. So is his celebration of his battles. Watch his dance in 'Malhari', a celebration after meeting Nizam and taming him in his own den..
This is an item song without any cleavage show or mindless, raunchy lyrics. There is just one word to describe it WOW! The music and choreography are brilliant and the way Ranveer dances, which is captured by the camera, is a lesson in delight! The actor is having the time of his life here and does not seem to be performing for the camera at all.
One more round of applause for Ranveer Singh!
Milind Soman as Ambaji Panth, Bajirao's counsel and Tanvi Azmi as his mother are the other actors who add weight with their measured performances. So do the extras who are just there with their costumes but say a lot in the whole reading of the scene.
Deepika Padukone as Bajirao's second wife Mastani, is good but could have been better. Priyanka Chopra as Bajirao's wife Kashibai passes muster. But there is more these girls could have done performance wise. Something 'authentic' in the dialogue delivery and body language is lacking. There is that 'it' factor that they fail to put in, which Ranveer pumps in gleefully.
The dialogues written by Prakash Kapadia need special mention here. Every line is tailored to suit the moment and celebrate the occasion. On one occasion Bajirao aims his knife at his brother Chimaji Appa (Vaibhav Tatwadi) who talks degradingly about Mastani in front of everyone. ''You missed the mark,'' says Chimaji. To which Bajirao replies. ''I did not miss the mark; our relationship came in the way.''
There are other dialogues which highlight Hindu-Muslim thoughts between Mastani and a Hindu priest where the colour green and saffron are put in perspective. Bhansali does not only recreate history, but even throws in a lesson or two about love, life, religion, hate and relationships.
As the movie ends, a voice-over says, ''Mohabbat ka koi dharam nahi hota. Woh khud ek dharam hai.''
That is how Bajirao and Mastani fall in love. She comes for his help and after he wins the battle for her father, he gives her his dagger for saving his life. In Bundelkhand, this is a form of a marriage ritual. She accepts it. But Bajirao (a Maratha warrior) is unaware of this custom. When a persistent Mastani lands at his palace, and inspite of insults from his mother, continues to long for him, he accepts her! He even stands up for her!
Bajirao Mastani celebrates love, life, the longing of a man torn between three women (including his mother), his loyalty and his helplessness when faced with religious diktats!
Bajirao Mastani also celebrates the mood of the moment!