Movie Review: Padmaavat

There’s an ad for Maruti Suzuki that has stayed with me ever since it was first aired on TV. A kid plays with his toy car, driving it across every surface he can find. On the sofa, on the bed, on the floor, on someone’s tummy, in front of the dog, on the kitchen counter, in the fish tank – everywhere. When he gets to his father’s stomach, the father puts down his paper, exasperated, and tells his son, “Oye chote, bas kar yaar!” To which the son replies, “Pappa ki karaan! Petrol khatam hi ni hunda!”

Padmaavat is like this car – khatam hi ni hunda!

Padmaavat is the story of Rani Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), a queen in the early 1300s. A brave woman with the right sense of justice, administration, and genteelness, Padmavati went on to marry Rajput Raja Maharawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) of Chittor. On the other hand, there is the vile and ruthless Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) who stops at nothing to get what he wants. He married Mehrunnisa (Aditi Rao Hydari), his uncle Jalaluddin Khilji’s daughter. He later murdered his uncle to gain the throne, much to the chagrin of his wife.

When the banished Rajguru of Chittor, Raghav Chetan turns up at Khilji’s doorstep saying that Rani Padmavati is everything that Khilji looked for in a woman, Khilji is overcome with want and invites Maharawal Ratan Singh to Delhi. When the Rajputs snub his invite, Khilji attacks Chittor and later demands to see Padmavati. What the Rajputs do, what Padmavati herself does, and whether anything is enough forms the rest of the story.

Like all of his magnum opuses, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has made sure that Padmaavat too has everything that awes us. There is grandeur in sets and story, there is emotion, there is sense, there is courage – there is so much that comes together beautifully to show us a part of history that defines courage in its own way.

The best part of Padmaavat, however, is not the queen herself, but the villain. Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji is absolutely scary. His performance as the ruthless Khilji will give you goosebumps and leave you with no doubt as to Ranveer Singh’s credentials as an actor. He may be a happy-go-lucky, quirky man in real life, but onscreen, he sets everything on fire. He owns his role with an intensity that nobody else could have pulled off. I liked him earlier, but now, after Padmaavat, I have a newfound respect for the guy. There’s nothing he cannot do. And for that, I am thankful. Because not many people will get to this level of perfection.

Deepika Padukone is the majestic Queen Padmavati. She is good as the doting wife, and fierce administrator in the absence of her Rawal-sa. Deepika exudes the strength of the character and it’s hard not to agree with her. In the end, though Deepika was good, I wouldn’t say it was better than her role in Bajirao Mastani. Moreover, Ranveer steamrolled everyone in the film.

Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh is everything that’s required of a Rajput king. He’s tall, bearded, and strong, and has his values clean and clear, though that would finally be the end of him. There isn’t anything that you can actually put a finger on to show that he was not good. But somehow, as with Deepika Padukone, he gets majorly overshadowed by Ranveer Singh.

One special appearance that stood out was that of Aditi Rao Hydari as Mehrunnisa, Alauddin Khilji’s wife. She brings out the heartbreak in her eyes, as she watches her husband lust after another woman and go on a rampage in every walk of life. As in that age, she is the submissive wife, unable to do much, though she does come through in the end. Special applause for Aditi Rao Hydari for a stellar role.

Another performance that was lauded in the media was Jim Sarbh’s role as Khilji’s slave-general, eunuch Malik Kafur. But though I felt that his performance fit well into the movie, I didn’t find it extraordinary. But hey, that’s just my opinion. Maybe that is what is enough acting in today’s time and age.

Padmaavat has been mired in controversy ever since it was announced. Sets were attacked and destroyed, and the actors and the director were threatened. Someone even threatened to cut of Deepika’s nose if the film released. It all made me angry. Are we still living in the Stone Age where there is no common sense at all? Whatever was shown in the film actually happened. It is not Bhansali’s opinion. Merely a retelling.

It is unfortunate, yes, that people decided to take a historical event and turn it into something that’s completely stupid. But that is their stupidity. People in this time and age are easily offended, even with a topic that is currently irrelevant. Instead of focusing on the courage that Padmaavat teaches us, people decided to go ahead, belittle themselves in their head, and then blame the director. It is your problem if you feel reduced to a vagina. By saying that, you yourself are belittling yourself. You cannot ‘reduce’ to a vagina. I don’t have to tell you that without a woman, there is nothing in the world. So how can you put a vagina to the lowest level of respect there is? Is that all your self-esteem and self-worth allows you to be and do?

It is infuriating how people will go to any lengths to stay in the news. They’ll get mortally offended at a topic such as this, call themselves ‘Sena’ (army), and then turn around and say the exact same thing that the sane part of the community was trying to put into their heads. Why can they not understand that the events in the movie happened centuries ago. You cannot just go and apply them as lessons now. If you do, you are stupid. There’s no two ways about it.

It took a movie as gorgeous and well-made as Padmaavat (even though it is such a long movie) to make me realize I’m ashamed that I live among people who are so thick-skinned they don’t want to listen to what the other has to say.

Here’s to hoping that this changes in the near future!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Matters India.

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