If period dramas are considered an art, then there are very few artists who can shape the drama and narrative as intricately as Sanjay Leela Bhansali. His works, embellished by the grandiosity of sets, larger-than-life characters and cinematic excellence, have always had a distinguishing nuance to them, be it Devdas or Ram Leela, but what he achieves with Bajirao Mastani is certifiably an experience that can’t be missed.
Set in the India of the 1700s, Bajirao Mastani explores the intricately built wadas of Maharashtra, the mahals of Bundelkhand and war camps of historic warriors. The set designers, Sujeet Sawant and Sriram Iyengar have payed attention to every detail, be it the domes of the palaces, to the woodwork inside the houses of Pune. Gold embellishments, velvety curtains and candle-lit interiors have also been used to beautifully create the interiors of pre-Independence India.
The locations, the camerawork and the art lay groundwork for the exceptional performances of Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra in the film. Ranveer Singh as Peshwa Bajirao evolves from a novice warrior to a distraught peshwa with precision, subtlety and empathy. He becomes the brave Maratha warrior not just through his appearance but dialogue delivery bellowed with the fearlessness and confidence of a fighter. Bhansali is able to give Peshwa Bajirao multiple layers to his personality by showcasing his soft side with Mastani and Kashibai, and his brutish elation through interactions with his troops or songs like Malhaari.
Where Singh essays ferocity and intelligence, Deepika Padukone explores the heart wrenching struggles of a woman in the yesteryears. A trained swordsperson and performer like her gives Indian audiences’ musical masterpieces like Deewani Mastani – where the shine of gold falls short compared to her glow. Padukone’s Mastani chooses to endure the pain, the insults, the trials and tribulations of being a lover to a monogamous Bajirarao, and her skill as an actor do justice to the described historical figure with great finesse.
If one were to assess what makes this movie exceptional, you can attribute it to characterization, beauty in the atmosphere or elaborately choreographed action sequences.
“Aap humse humaari zindagi maang lete to who bhi de dete, par aapne to humse humaara ghuroor cheen liya.”
However, in the end, it is the dialogues like these that leave the viewer with empathy for figures that bore little resemblance to us.