Sunday, January 10, 2016

18th-century Bajirao Mastani on 21st-century screen!

If a film is based on a historic novel, how much of creative liberty can the filmmaker take? Is he/she free from any responsibility once a huge disclaimer is displayed in the beginning of the movie? Is it then okay to let one's imagination run riot and present the story any which way one wishes to?

I wondered as the saga of Bajirao Mastani was unfolding before me on a huge screen in a multiplex. Bajirao, the brave 18th-century prime minister of the Maratha ruler had fought and won many wars for his kingdom. And he deserved to be portrayed in exactly that light. But when he broke into a dance with his buddies, shaking his well-groomed tuft and mouthing 21st-century Mumbai slang "vaat laawli" I was taken aback. this was a fun-loving, dancing Bajirao who also fought wars as a hobby!

We would have loved to see how the warrior planned his battles, how he made his strategies, how he dealt with his fellow warriors and adversaries. Instead we were treated to this dancing spectacle. Not even for a moment did I think I was looking at Bajirao, all I saw was Ranveer Singh. Ranveer Singh playing the hero who was reduced to a lovelorn romantic once the beauteous Mastani entered his life. On that front too, it would have been in order to see what went through Bajirao's mind, and maybe a bit of turmoil as he embraced Mastani defying his mother and wife. After all, he is shown to be a loyal husband and a dutiful son to his wife and mother respectively. But why get into those nitty-gritties when you can impress your audiences with spectacular sets and rich costumes?

Deepika Padukone as Mastani gets to wear the loveliest of outfits. Her flowing garments in mostly muted shades are simply awesome. But somehow she fails to portray the woman of substance she was supposed to play, looking too demure and stylish to be someone who is adept at warfare. And Priyanka Chopra plays the lonely wife sporting low-waist nauvaaris (9-yard sarees) and skimpy blouses. Never knew high class Brahmin wives in 18th-century Pune were seen in such midriff-revealing attire. And that they could perform a perfectly choreographed dance with their souten in co-ordinated sarees. 

Sure, they have thrown in Marathi phrases and words for effect, but overall the lines mouthed by actors hardly leave any mark. Wish films with historical content were made with more care and sensitivity. Taking the ingredients and putting them in the mould of a big-budget commercial film is not enough!