Based on a Sufi poem of the same name written in 1540 by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has added his own flair and interpretation to ‘Padmaavat’, giving it a fairy-tale sheen. This makes all the controversy pointless, and pale in comparison to the spectacle that unfolds. Bhansali reunites with two of his favourite leads in recent times – Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, but adds Shahid Kapoor to complete this trio of commendable acting talent.
The casting of the film is quite a lesson in perfection. The three lead characters get deep into your skin, even though they are etched very differently when it comes to the extent of expression. Deepika Padukone is wonderful as the beautiful and courageous Rani Padmavati, Shahid Kapoor is understated, just as his character demands him to be, but the dream role in the film has to be Ranveer Singh’s. His portrayal of the evil Khilji, complete with the menacing look and mannerism, is brilliant.
Shahid plays a steadfast and calm character as Maharawal Ratan Singh – the ruler of Mewar, brimming with Rajput pride. He brings a regal aura to the character that warrants him winning the confidence and loyalty of the Mewar kingdom and more importantly, Rani Padmavati’s heart. Deepika is radiant as the Rajput Queen whose beauty, brains and valour moves the entire plot along once Alauddin Khilji becomes obsessed with her. Alauddin Khilji sees Ranveer as an unhinged, barbaric Sultan, who is consumed with a ravenous drive for power and flesh. He unleashes an animal magnetism on screen with a scarred face, kohl-lined eyes and a greased torso.
The scenes between him and Shahid are some of the most engrossing, as both are at opposite ends of the moral spectrum. Besides them, Aditi Rao Hydari stands her ground as the naive Mehrunissa who gets a rude awakening when she discovers her husband Alauddin’s true nature. Jim Sarbh is somewhat misplaced as the Sultan’s slave-general, unable to generate enough menace to overshadow his master’s own but the incredible acting of Jim, who gets into the character of Khilji’s slave, delivers the performance of a lifetime.
The director’s expertise in heightening opulence and grandeur is well-known, further distinguishable in 3D. Cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee compliments him by beautifully capturing some jaw-dropping scenery. Though the effects in the action and war scenes do not meet the expectations raised by a film of this scale, the editing is crisp and each scene seamlessly flows into another. The visuals are meant to mesmerise, and they deliver, be it the delicate romantic scenes, the colourful Rajput rituals, or the larger-than-life war sequences. The songs don’t do much to further the narrative other than providing visual delight. Granted, it could do with a tauter screenplay and shorter run-time but ‘Padmaavat’ is an entertaining, large canvas experience, brought to life with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s stroke of visual brilliance.