By Neeraj Nanda
MELBOURNE, 24 January: From ‘Padmavati’ to ‘Padmaavat’, Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial cinematic marvel is a milestone of sorts. Its technological dazzle dominates the screen amidst the drama of Delhi’s Muslim Sultan Allauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) invading Chittor, ruled by a Hindu (Rajput) King Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) to get hold of his beautiful Queen Padmaavati.
Allauddin lays siege of Chittor after Ratan Singh’s royal priest Raghav Chetan defects to Allaudin and inflames him about Padmavati’s beauty. An agreement allows Allaudin to meet Ratan Singh and have a glance of Padmavati. Ratan visits Allauddin and is taken prisoner but freed by Padmavati with the help of Allauddin’s wife Mehrunisa. Allauddin attacks Chittor and breaches the fort but Padmavati commits Jauhar (self-immolation) with many others.
One cannot but condemn the portrayal of Jauhar in this big star cast movie despite the producers in a disclaimer declaring they do not support such an act. They also declare the movie is not intended to hurt any community. In fact, there is no question of hurting anyone as the movie has enough stuff which hypes one community and their pride. One wonders what is all the Karni Sena fuss about. The soft Hindu Raja and the bad Muslim Sultan is evident as the movie progresses. This fits well in India’s current political climate.
Having said this, I feel, despite all this the movie is technologically superior to similar films made in India. Though there are people who feel ‘Bahubali’ was as good. The Ghoomar (Rajashani folk dance) song with Deepika on the screen (sung by Shreya Ghoshal) laced with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s mesmerising music and a glittering magnificent set reminds one of K. Asif’s Mughal e Azam. Interestingly, at one place it is said Padmavati will dance only in front of her King husband but later we see her dancing in an open court.
Deepika Padukone and Shahid Kapoor do justice to their roles, it is Ranbir Singh as Khilji who steals the show. One has to see the movie to get a feel of that. Allauddin’s attraction for his slave Malik Kafur acted by Jim Sarbh (Hijacker in Neerja), is a high point of the controversial film.
One would also have liked the English subtitles done properly. ‘Loha Lohae Ko Katta Hi’ is translated as ‘Diamond cuts Diamond’.
The movie now released is racing fast to become a blockbuster in India and worldwide. I saw the movie during a media preview one day before the release on 25 January 2018. I had mixed feelings.
Malik Md. Jaysi wrote the fictionalized poem ‘Padmaavat’ (1540-1541) and created Padmavati which most historians doubt never existed. Still, the legend is considered a true tale and being used as a political handle. No doubt, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has consolidated this legend.
I give it three out of five stars.