Battling a long hue and cry, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s much-awaited epic, Padmaavat, is finally out with a limited release. The movie starring Shahid Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, and Ranveer Singh is based on a poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi about Alauddin Khilji and the latter’s obsession over queen Padmavati, who was married to the Rajput King of Mewar, Ratan Singh. The story talks about the braveness of Queen Padmavati who lost the fight literally but was, still able to win the fight, morally. And like every other film, Padmaavat has its own fair share of everything good and bad. And at the very outset, Padmaavat, definitely, doesn’t disrespect the Rajput community. Let’s take a look.
Good: The Cinematic Artistry
Sanjay Leela Bhansali has proved it time and again that he is more than just a director. He is an artist who has painted this extravagant masterpiece while honoring the beautiful fictional queen named Padmavati. Whether it’s the oiled six-pack abs of Shahid Kapoor or the choreography of Ghoomar or the sets showcasing fortress of Chittorgarh, Bhansali has given extra detail to each and every shot to make this film look enchanting as ever. The film is successful in showcasing the utter beauty of Mewar, Delhi Sultanate and the Singhal kingdom of that era which is bound to capture your attention.
Bad: Marginalisation of an LGBTQ character
Whether Alauddin Khilji had a relationship with Malik Kafur (a prominent eunuch slave-general of Alauddin Khilji) in real life or not is not the debate. The way the character of Malik Kafur has been written raises issues. He is in love with a ruler who does not love him back, slaps him and throws him away from the bed when he is singing a song for him. He is sometimes a laughing stock because of his distinct behavior and speaking patterns. He is a cardboard cut-out character of how Bollywood sees gay men in 2018.
Good: The Sheer Acting skills showcased by the Cast
Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji steals the show. Even though there are problems the way his character has been written (which we’ll talk about later in the article), he has perfectly depicted the pure evil with God complex who might be the epitome of a villain. Shahid Kapoor as Ratan Singh – the Rajput ruler of Mewar was more about bold outlooks and strong dialogues than acting. It also felt as if he was not given the due screen presence to add gravitas to his character. Deepika Padukone as Padmavati had some strong moments, especially in the second half. She, skilfully, plays the character of a beautiful brave queen. She conveys a thousand unspoken words through her eyes. Aditi Rao Hydari as Mehrunisa ( First wife of Alauddin Khilji and Queen of the Delhi Sultanate) is pleasant to watch too. You empathize with her helplessness and her pain. Jim Sarbh as Malik Kafur is fine.
Bad: Lack in Depth
It feels like the writers hardly tried to develop the 1540’s poem Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. The characters have no complexity. You almost feel as if every other character were written hurriedly beside the poster actors. The characters have no redeeming quality about them. Alauddin Khilji is nothing more than a compulsive, obsessive and a stubborn king who gets whatever he wishes for. He is ruthless, despises everyone and eats like it were his last meal. Padmavati is no more than a brave beautiful queen and Ratan Singh is no more than an idealistic, moralistic king who can never cheat. The set design, makeup, and lighting department run parallel to creating the same idealistic environment for these characters. The script is, unfortunately, the weakest point of the film.
Good: The Music
The music by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sanchit Balhara is bang on. You don’t just watch the movie, you listen to it too. The beauty of every scene is personified by the amazing music that it has been paired with. The music holds your equal attention with its lyrics and enthralling presence throughout the movie. The beautiful scenery of Mewar and Singhal kingdoms, the emotions of the characters or the love between the king and the queen, are not just a spectacle for the eyes and but also symphony for the ears.
Bad: Romanticisation of ‘Jauhar’
Even though the director is trying to show the words of Jayasi in the most poetically way possible, it still feels like it is nothing but glorifying the old ugly Hindu custom of mass self-immolation by women. The dialogues that imply Padmavati’s winning over Khilji by burning herself with other pregnant, old and young women are difficult to digest. It fantasizes with an idea that was a nightmare for many women, a practice that we have finally left far behind for good.
Good: Design and Cinematography
The visually stunning film wouldn’t have been possible with the mesmerizing costumes, set design and the artistic cinematography. Sudeep Chatterjee as the director of Photography and Ajay, Maxima Basu, Harpreet Rimple and Chandrakant Sonawane as costume designers and Preetisheel Singh as the make-up artist are the secret weapon of the film. They bring a whole new era alive on screen. They have done a commendable job and I won’t be surprised if Padmavat wins all the awards for technical perfection in 2018.
Bad: The Black and White Narrative
The movie is a centuries-old narrative of Good V/s Evil that we’ve been hearing since we were young and just like those stories, the movie gives no depth to the characters or a specific reason as to why someone behaves like the way they do. The narrative is dry and looks a bit biased as well. It makes no sense as to why the Rajput community is so offended by the movie because it’s nothing but a tale of Rajputana honor and bravery. The fight and the characters are way too dramatized. Bhansali seems to have subscribed to the majoritarian rightist ideology, having shown the Muslim community in bad light. That might not have been his true intention but the final product that was showcased looked like an ode to Rajput community and in the process, he did forget to level the playing field for the other community.