4 Years Of Bajirao Mastani: A dream of Sanjay Leela Bhansali powered by Ranveer, Deepika and Priyanka
Bajirao Mastani was a grand, gripping, and galvanising love saga that pierced straight into the hearts.
People who dare to dream are the ones who grin like a Cheshire Cat when they are fulfilled. In Bollywood, it's deeply unfortunate success continues to get measured on the canvas of commerce, and posterity seems to be fading away. In 2015, a formidable filmmaker of Hindi Cinema finally translated on the celluloid what was his most ambitious and anticipated piece of work ever. The subject de jure is Bajirao Mastani, helmed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
The period drama was supposed to be made all the way back in 2005, and the reclusive filmmaker even revealed the same in the first season of Koffee With Karan that he wanted to make the film with Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. But destiny had other plans. It was destined to be made with Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, and Priyanka Chopra. And the dream was always destined to be transformed into a reality.
Not too many filmmakers in the country understand grandeur and grit the way Bhansali does. He doesn't stage a scene to just show-off his technical finesse and extravagance, he humanises his actors, gives them an arc, and ultimately throws at you romance and war in equal measure that you cannot stop rooting for their victory. Bajirao Mastani was one such film, the moment we first meet the titular character, played magnificently by Singh, we know he's a man who cannot be overpowered, at least not in fights and speeches.
Bajirao has been etched in history as the most fearless and ferocious warrior India ever saw. This Maratha Warrior was undefeated in all the 40 battles that he fought. He was infallible and indestructible. But Bhansali also showcased his vulnerabilities in his celluloid portrayal. He fell in love with two women, Kashibai and Mastani, one was his strength and the other his weakness. We see his romance with both Chopra and Padukone, filmed with warmth and care, and both the actors ignited the right dose of passion with their performances.
Ever since Guzaarish, the filmmaker also discovered his penchant for creating music for his films. He spoke how he learned from all the music directors he collaborated with in his career, from Ismail Darbar to Jatin-Lalit to Monty Sharma. Because this was his magnum opus and a decade-old dream, he gave the music of the film his all. It had a celebratory song that fantastically captured the essence of the protagonist, the thunderously staged Malhari, it had an equally contagious Pinga track, which showed how two women in love with the same man can come together to unshackle their pain and anguish. And it also had a romantic number, Aayat, which displayed Kashibai's unrequited love for her husband.
In what is arguably their most spectacular performances yet, Singh and Chopra became Bajirao and Kashibai. Bhansali's cinema may receive polarised reactions for the way the filmmaker essays the essence of romance, he has the knack for picking the right actors who can breathe life into complex parts. Singh was both ferocious and fragile in one of his most heroic characters, making Bajirao an unforgettable hero. He may have been undefeated on the battlefield, but lost a battle at his own kingdom.
Chopra played a woman scorned, she was shattered when she discovered Bajirao's infidelity and love for another woman. The gifted actor let her eyes do the talking and has never looked as gorgeous before or after. This is one world she should revisit soon. But the film wasn't perfect, the finale was debatable, a valiant warrior was reduced to a helpless and pining lover, Padukone as Mastani was equally alluring and audacious, but her performance paled in comparison to the piercing portrayal of the other two characters.
But Bajirao Mastani was always a bonafide blockbuster in the making. It had the right actors at the filmmaker's disposal, every frame was staged with breathtaking beauty, and the war scenes had an unexplainable thrill to them. Be it fragility or fury, Bhansali carried both the drastic emotions seamlessly. The historical is far superior and a lot more layered and complex than Padmaavat, Bhansali's other magnum opus. It pierces into the hearts, hooks you with its grandeur, and jolts you with its heartbreaking end.
Post the cult of the Baahubali films, filmmakers in the Hindi film industry continue to fetishise this ambitious genre, but it's only Bhansali that has justified its commercial prospects and critical validation. As stated, his cinema isn't driven merely by outrageous budgets and eye-watering frames, he adds his emotions to these stories that make them what they ultimately become. His films speak a lot about him and his past experiences. The one thread that binds almost all his films is heartbreak and broken souls.
In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Nandini reunites with Vanraj, her husband, but Sameer ends with nothing but loneliness. You exit the cinemas with mixed emotions, you smile for Vanraj but also cry for Sameer. In Devdas, Paro and Devdas, two childhood lovers, are separated by their respective economic divides and the saga concludes by the hero's tragic death. And even in Saawariya, the filmmaker ends the romantic tale with an unexpected twist that separates Raj and Sakina.
And there's similar palpable pain in Bajirao Mastani, the two souls unite in heaven but are separated on earth. Even when they didn't live happily ever after, they united forever in the skies. There are two ways to look at Bhansali's finales, you can either describe them as sad climaxes or go beyond and observe how they actually happen to be happy endings, with the hero and the heroine forever together, with no conflict in between. And after music, it seems he has mastered the art of metaphors too!
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