Today I watched Padmaavat. I love history, especially the Indian history. I always wonder how our ancestors, kings, queens of the past were like, what did they wear, how did they walk, talk, eat, etc. However, history is a very delicate subject and one cannot take the liberty to play with historical figures. I have been fairly disappointed with Bollywood’s previous attempts on historical movies (there has been only a handful of them). Many of the past movies are downright false and offensive. For example, I can bet more than 99% of the people you know think Jodha was Akbar’s wife. She probably wasn’t. She was the mother of Shah Jahan according to many historical texts.
From Satish Chandra, History of Medieval India, part of NCERT’s old curriculum
This is a controversial issue. Jodha Bai like Padmavati is a part of Rajput’s history and their pride. That’s what made the Rajput community lose faith in Bollywood and one of the major reasons for the whole drama (there are many other reasons but I will not get into that topic).
Coming back to the movie, I have divided my review into positives and negatives.
The whole movie is visually stunning. We expect this from Mr Sanjay Bhansali (SB). This movie is worth watching just for the visuals. 3D is surprisingly decent. The movie embraces the history in its most glorious form. The camera transitions make sure you have the best field of view for the whole galore of a particular scene. The attention to details is remarkable. From the Rajputana jewellery, clothing, palaces, swords to Khilji’s clothing, their way of walking, food. Many people complained about the extravagant jewellery shown in the movie. My advice to them is to visit National Museum in Delhi and have a look at Rajput jewellery for themselves. If any, the original Rajput jewellery used to have more precious stones.
The background score is another big positive. It’s spot on and makes you feel like you’re in 13th-14th century Rajasthan. The best part of the score comes at the climax and the departure of Padmavati feels like a Goddess entering into the fire.
The story and the depiction did justice to the Rajput culture, though I am not so sure about the Khilji’s (which I will cover later).
Rana Rawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) was the most accurate portrayal. My only disappointment was him getting a bit lesser screen time.
The story of the movie was fairly accurate (considering previous blunders of the Bollywood).
Deepika’s performance as Padmavati was as expected. She manages to create a strong impact in the minds of the audience. Her looks, clothing and her body language and gracious movements greatly enhanced her performance. I still think, there are many lesser-known actresses who would have nailed this performance even better.
Negatives (my issues):
- The Disclaimer: The movie shows a disclaimer in the beginning which tells the audience that the movie is based on a medieval poem which is considered fictitious by many historians. I know their intention of putting this disclaimer is to avoid any controversy and hurting sentiments, but that was just pure BS. Ratan Singh was a historical figure, Jauhar was a historical practice, Khilji’s were barbarians, murderers, plunderers, rapists with no ethical or moral values. The poem itself was inspired by historical facts. The movie makers could have and should have said, “The movie is inspired by historical incidences and characters. However, we don’t claim it’s historical authenticity. There may be some historical inaccuracies.”
- The dialogues: Persian words started mixing with the North Indian languages during those medieval periods. I am sure, the language used by Rajputs that time was devoid of any Persian or Urdu words. I felt the writers could have used pure (Shuddh) Hindi (though Hindi itself was developed later) for Rajput dialogues and the Persian Hindi for Khiljis.
- Over dramatization: Many scenes were overly dramatized and cheesy. This, in turn, made the movie longer than expected.
- Alauddin Khilji: My biggest issue with this movie. Many reviewers are praising the performance of Ranveer Singh. If this was any other fictional movie, I would have done the same. But it isn’t. Alauddin was a historical figure. As I said before, he was a barbarian, plunderer, murderer, paedophile, rapist, bisexual with no ethical or moral values. This movie shows parts of his characters in brief. Then, why am I complaining?
Let’s take a detour and examine how Ramsay Bolton was shown in the Game of Thrones series. He was universally hated by the audience. He was barbarian, rapist, plunderer. Now comparing to Alauddin, you can say that Alauddin is a hybrid of Joferry and Ramsay (you will get this reference after watching this movie). The movie, however, fails to develop the character of Alauddin in that fashion. Yes, he has been shown as a coward, a lustful barbarian. However, his character development failed completely and didn’t do any justice to the Alauddin of the 13th century. Ask any audience of GoT, how much they hated Joferry and ask the same to the audience of Padmaavat in the context of Alauddin. Considering that a major portion of the audience is a novice, and virtually ignorant or ill-informed about our pasts, this movie will certainly fail to convince the audience that Alauddin was a barbarian. Although SB tried in this regard, but he failed. The major reason for this is the casting of Ranveer Singh. There is a reason, we have specialist actors for negative roles (Amzad Khan, Amrish Puri, Paresh Rawal, etc.). Considering how much our younger generation (which are mostly ignorant about our history) admires Ranveer, his portrayal may create an impression that Alauddin was a romantic, crazy dude who used to live his life to his fullest. He may become anti-hero in the minds of some. Even I wasn’t hating Ranveer much at any point. This for me is the biggest failure of the movie.
It is worthwhile mentioning that SB made a similar mistake in Bajirao Mastani. His character development of Bajirao was flawed and had many inaccuracies. He was shown as a romantic Devadas like character. The director used his own imagination in that movie, especially in the climax. While imagination leads to creativity, it is not recommended to try too much imagination with historical figures. For example, can you show a movie with a romantic affair of Hitler with a Jewish girl?