Padmavat- review

‘PADMAVAT’….

 

Medieval Rajasthan is imbued with many tales of  chivalry and valour.  Where  men and women, wear martyrdom as a badge of Honour. Facts which have over a period of centuries acquired legendary hues.  Padmavati is one such historical fact.

Bhansali’s film not only narrates Padmavati’s short life but also enumerates the way of life during those times and dissects the characters of the two men directly linked to her name; her husband Rana Rawal who ruled Chittor and Alauddin Khilji who ruled Delhi.

The Story

Alauddin is the nephew of Sultan Jalaluddin Khilji who rules Delhi. This ambitious man bides his time and thru crafty means marries the Sultan’s daughter Mehrunissa and soon, with gold looted from the Deccan kingdom he buys off the Sultanate and   assassinates his father in law . Alauddin is now the new Sultan of the Delhi sultanate and has everything he wished to possess;  the most of Northern India under his command, immense wealth, and a large harem. But a challenge soon emerges in the form of a disgruntled sorcerer-cum-priest from the Court of Chittor who has an axe to grind by exacting revenge on the Rana and his beautiful wife Padmavati.  His instigation works well enough to spur the sultan in invading Chittor. The army of Rana Rawal singh is no match to the superior army and weapons of the Sultan. Forced in to a cul-de-sac, the Rana and his army ride out to fight their last battle while their wives led by Padmavati embrace death by committing ‘jauhar’.

The Film

Deepika Padukone as Rani Padmavati exudes Royal charm. As the young princess from the land of singala she is quite comfortable as an agile warrior princess wielding a bow and sufficiently demure as the girl in love with the young prince who has come to her father’s kingdom in search of some rare pearls. Her quick transformation as the Queen of Chittor is grandly portrayed in the richly choreographed ‘Ghoomar’ song.  Her gentle movements put forth queenly demeanour and not of a courtesan.  Her moment of triumph, though, comes in the climax when to the beats of cymbals, chanting of shlokas, looking ethereal in a blood red ghagra  she walks head held high holding the print of her husband’s palm on a shroud, as she fearlessly  enters the giant pyre.

Shahid’s perfectly sculpted body cloaked in exquisite tunics, strong arm clasping a broad hilted sword  indeed completes the regal persona of the ‘Rana’…as the stern, yet soft spoken Rana Rawal singh he underplays his role , yet stands out when he proclaims  aloud the necessitates of rajput valour and  grabs your ears thru dialogues such as this :

“He how impales worries on the tip of his sword…is a rajput”

“he who is beheaded yet goads his torso in battle…is a Rajput”

But it is Ranveer Singh as Alauddin who is in top form as the maniacal, barbaric Sultan.  Led by the director he is greatly aided by the entire back end; the dialogues, the make -up, choreography, script writer, action and the director . For a villain, he receives an apt makeover thru a get up that consists of shoulder length hair, unkempt beard and tell-tale scars on his face which gives out a repulsive feel.

Here the director swings a loop. The supposed ‘villain’ is not only given equally powerful dialogues but also makes him appear in almost the entire screen play. He woos a princess, loots gold, ravishes women with devilish glee and chomps like a glutton on heaps of meat. He burns historical parchments, tries his hand in composing some self-serving verses and then , sets his sights on the fabled queen of Chittor.  Ranveer Singh  as ‘Alauddin’ acts like the Devil, frowns like a tyrant, fights like a lion, sways like a dervish and dances like a blood thirsty wolf     in a song filled with Arabic words  with emphasis on the word ‘Habibi’ which means love and ‘Khalbali’ which means disturbance or anarchy. (The energy certainly appears as an extension from a song in  bajirao-mastani). This song-dance actually reveals a restless spirit residing within Alauddin as he grapples with the responsibilities of a ruler, unbridled greed, fighting off conspiracies and love proving elusive. The director also delves in to a humane side when Alauddin considers himself to be ‘unlucky in love’. He asks his confidant “whether his palm has the lines of love ‘. So did he want to ravish Padmavati like he did to innumerable women or he wanted to make her his queen ? Was he not in love with Mehru whose betrayal in the form of helping his foe ,the Rana escape , jolts his heart?

The title perhaps, is a misnomer; it should have been ‘Alauddin”

 

Scenes worth Rewinding:

  1. The question and answer session where the Queen intelligently replies to questions posed by the priest.

 

  1. The ‘Ghoomar’ song inside the Chittor fort with Ghagras of many patched colours twirl in rhythmic synchronization to the old ballad. With maybe thousand or more lamps glowing bright from every corner of the fort , you are almost transported to that Era.

 

 

  1. The battle scene between Alauddin ‘s forces and the Mongols. From the gigantic clouds of dust rising under galloping hooves, Alauddin rides out with the chieftain’s head impaled on his spear.

 

  1. The induction of Malik Kafur as Alauddin’ s slave. He proves his unquestionable loyalty immediately by swiftly killing his new master’s opponents and moves up the scale in palace intrigue by becoming his confidant. Malik who is an eunuch secretly nurses an attraction for his master but he knows that his handicap can never help him gain coital alignment . This fact is clearly brought out  in the song ‘Dil te dil Miseriya…” when his master makes love to a woman from the harem, Malik faithfully draws a curtain with a longing look betraying his desires !

 

  1. When the ground of Chittor trembles under the advancing army of Alauddin, rattling mirrors inside Padmavati’s chambers setting in motion battle stations all over the fortress.

 

  1. During peace overtures which lead to a symbolic lunch inside the fort, Alauddin quickly scans every inch of the walls around hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful Queen. Emboldened by the courtesy shown by his host he makes the cardinal mistake of enquiring about her to be rudely shaken apart by the unsheathing of several swords encircling his neck.

 

  1. After the gruelling duel with Alauddin, the Rana is almost getting the better of his opponent when a hail of arrows pierce his back. With life  ebbing away , he still wears his rajput badge of honour by  attempting several  thrusts to strike down his foe

 

  1. Alauddin standing on the desert plains below the fort as his massive army with  giant catapults wait behind for his signal. Like a besotted puppy he keeps waiting expectantly for Padmavati  to emerge from the fort. As the truth dawns in the futility of his patience, he whispers reluctantly: “Yalgaar Ho !”

 

 

Bobby Ghatak