I decided to take the film maker’s word for it and suspended disbelief as soon as he mentioned it was his interpretation. Instead of being nitpicky about whether or not the real characters behaved that way I allowed myself to be drawn into a world where every frame was picture perfect and a story that made an illicit affair sound cool with the line, “Mastani se aiyashi nahi, mohabbat ki hai!” Who cared what historians said when Bajirao said that dialogue. For many it was a pure “seeti bajao” moment and there are such moments aplenty.
It was a visual treat from the word go because instead of wondering whether or not zippers were invented during that period, I rejoiced in the gorgeous costumes that Mastani wore, the vibrant silks in every hue and the sensuous drape of Kashibai’s sarees. Mastani with her glorious mane flowing unkempt on a horse and while brandishing a sword is sheer magic. No one ever wondered why the Vikings never had crew cuts in battle then why should Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Mastani be subjected to this scrutiny?
But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me begin at the beginning with Milin Soman. Despite the salt and pepper moustache, he is as dishy as ever. This movie makes you remember why you tried to catch the “Made in India” song every time it played on TV. Aditya Pancholi never had a trustworthy reputation or face. And casting him as a naysayer and enemy of the mighty Peshwa Bajirao was a perfect call. The rest of the cast is just as perfect.
Tanvi Azmi as Bajirao’s mother is impressive, especially in the scene where she tells the Peshwa that she is proud of a son who respects women, but she can’t let him follow his heart. Everyone went gaga over Ranveer Singh chopping of his locks to play Bajirao, nothing has been written about her going bald.
Vaibbhav Tatwawdi as Chimaji Appa is a delight. I loved him in Coffee ani Barach Kahi and as the Peshwa’s brother he has outdone himself! Even the tiger who fails to intimidate the Peshwa is spot on. Kudos to Sanjay Leela Bhansali got these awesome artists together for his magnum opus. Irfan Khan’s narration is gentle and not overpowering.
This movie is all heart. It brings back the romance of conveying love and desire with a look and a gesture. Bajirao beckons his Mastani while standing in a little pool and Kashibai seduces her husband in the same way as she realises he is falling in love with another woman. Priyanka’s dialogue as she talks about the love between Krishna and Rukmini is another one of those “seeti bajao” moments. The love triangle tugs every heartstring and he goes for your gut in the scene where Mastani protects her son by singlehandedly fending off the thugs sent by the Peshwa’s enemies. She looks like an avenging Goddess as the Ganpati Vandanam plays in the background.
It is a movie where Tanvi Azmi chants, “sharanye triyambike gauri” and Deepika prays with her arms outstretched. These little things somehow assume a significance in today’s “intolerant” climate. Especially the part where Mastani verbally rips the Brahmin to shreds with her take on the religious use of the colour saffron and green. These dialogues are going to stay with people for a while.
I just felt the ending could have been a bit tighter. The drama and theatrics would have held more punch if it had not been slowed down towards the end. I am not going to talk about the battle scenes because whether or not it was Bahubali-esque or like the TV Mahabharata doesn’t mattter. Ranveer Singh is ripped and looks ready to take on the world. Deepika is every inch the royal warrior princess and Priyanka is towering as the Peshwa’s legal wife.
It is a movie worth watching in the theatre. Go and revel in the sheer opulence of the sets, the drama and the love. Yes, love. It is a movie that will make every woman in the audience go weak in her knees as she imagines herself in Mastani’s place as her dream Bajirao adores her and longs for her.
P.S. Just realised I haven’t spoken about the songs — the ode to Mughal-e-azam and his Singhamish Vaat lavli. What can I say? There is no comparison to Madhubala and wondering whether the Peshwa used that kind of language is a small price to pay when you step into Bhansali’s dream world. Then there is the powerful Gajanana vandanam to make you forget all this and revel in the music as you get goosebumps watching Mastani wielding her sword!