The Shri Rajput Karni Sena can go and eat cake. And the Rajputs of Rajasthan can sleep peacefully tonight in their ancestral palaces, forts, castles and havelis. For the maverick Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who has been through the fires with this one, has made sure that his divisive period drama Padmavati, sorry – Padmaavat, has kept the “Pride of the Rajputs” intact after all the sound and dust settles at the end of his 2.44 minute work of art, music, literature and history.
If Bhansali was hell-bent on creating mischief and controversy by wickedly and wantonly distorting Rajput history as was widely suspected by the fringe caste groups, then the filmmaker got his act together after being rapped on the knuckles by the Censor Board. For what he has produced is nothing short of a masterpiece. Smacking of the grandeur with which he treated his earlier films, with a gripping screenplay, stunning visuals, stirring romance, war sequences meant not only to make you forget his earlier historical romance Bajirao Mastani, but also Hollywood’s epic Troy.
Does the story need to be repeated? Not after the Karni Sena went to town again and again with the legend of Rani Padmini, the beautiful princess of Singhal who marries Maharawal Ratan Singh of Mewar and becomes the object of desire of the all-conquering, power-obsessed Mughal sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi. It’s amazing how Bhansali stretched a wafer-thin plot lifted out of a Sufi poem and made it his film of a lifetime. Deepika Padukone as the coveted Rani Padmini justifies the hullabaloo made over her beauty in this film and reportedly way back in history.
Her love for Shahid Kapoor who plays Maharawal Ratan comes through as beautifully as the lust and madness of Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji does in his psychopathic desire to possess the out-of-bounds Queen. The performances are superlative. Ranveer’s and Deepika’s were expected to be but even Shahid holds up and will give the real Rajputs a thrill by showing them to not only be brave and courageous, but also righteous and unbending in their principles. He does not cheat and kill Khilji when the opportunity presents itself because that would be compromising the “Rajput ki Shaan”. Ranveer on the other hand makes it clear where he is heading right from his first frame in the film – to all the popular Bollywood awards later this year. Hopefully they won’t nominate him as the Best Villain because here is clearly an actor whose animal instinct and evil presence on the screen makes your skin crawl. What comes out in the end? What do you take home from the multiplex you went to for Padmaavat half expecting to be done in by the Karni Sena? You come away wondering if all of this really happened in history and is not just a figment of the wildly creative imagination of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. For the irony of the story of love, lust and war is that Khilji never even lay his eyes on Padmini – much lest got his dirty hands on her. She kept Rajput traditions and honour till the end by choosing to kill herself in the all-consuming holy fires before he could possess her body and soul. The Karni Sena should keep that in mind. As for Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he should remember not to play with fire himself again, and to more tightly edit his films and pack them with songs that obliterate the memory of his earlier film.