The Common Man Speaks

26Jan/180

Padmaavat Review: Ranveer Singh walks away with glory

Over the years, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has evolved into another genre in itself. Big stars, grand costumes and sets, heavy use of colours, drama, songs and dances are some characteristics of his brand of cinema.

But despite such pleasing factors, there have been times when his films haven’t reached the pinnacle of cinematic satisfaction that it aims. Padmaavat (earlier titled Padmavati and later Padmavat) also falls in this list, unfortunately.

Padmaavat is based on the legendary poem by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. It tells the story of Rawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor), the ruler of Chittorgarh, who, while on an expedition down south, meets the stunning Padmavati (Deepika Padukone). He falls for her and makes her his second wife.

Meanwhile, Aluddin Khilji, ruler of the Khilji dynasty, has acquired the throne of Delhi after murdering his uncle Jalauddin Khilji (Raza Murad). He gets to know about the splendid beauty of Padmavati and heads towards Chittorgarh to set his eyes on her.

Padmaavat DeepikaPadmaavat is one of the most visually stunning films to have come from Hindi cinema. Bhansali’s obsession with minute details is visible throughout. His peculiar use of fire, which is seen in his earlier films, is at the optimum here.

Nitin Chandrakant Desai’s opulent production design too deserves huge amount of credit in recreating different areas of the subcontinent. Like Bhansali’s previous films, he has created a different world for every region. But at the same time, every region is believable.

Bhansali has also displayed his speciality in creating drama, which is ably supported by the background score. But it is Sudeep Chatterjee’s fine camerawork that stands out as far as the technical department is concerned. It adds to the visual quality. The veteran stunt director Sham Kaushal too makes his presence felt. The fight sequence between Rawal Ratan Singh and Khilji deserves mention.

But unlike the filmmaker’s most of the films, the music isn’t as impressive. Songs like ‘Ghoomar’ and ‘Ek Dil Ek Jaan’ fall in the average category. The second one becomes an obstacle in the narrative. ‘Khali Bali’ is an energetic number and the best of the lot. But the weird dance steps don’t let you look beyond. It makes Bajirao’s ‘Malhari’ appear simple and subtle.

Spoilers ahead!

The negative points in Padmaavat are such that they cannot be highlighted without giving away spoilers. Some of Bhansali’s previous films have been guilty of being self-indulgent. The treatment overtakes the main plot, which ensures you don’t feel much for the characters.

Padmaavat Shahid KapoorBut in Padmaavat, character sketches of Khilji and Padmavati and Bhansali’s idea of staying true neither to history nor the epic poem hampers the film the most. There’s nothing wrong with this if the end result is satisfying. It is not in this case.

Going by the historical texts available, Khilji, although villainous, was a ruler with a sharp mind. But Bhansali’s Khilji is an animalistic and impulsive moron who is absolutely incapable of thinking logically. He leaves his kingdom in Delhi and waits outside the vicinity of the Chittorgarh palace just to catch a glimpse of a woman he hasn’t seen ever and that too for months in the heat of Rajasthan!

This certainly doesn’t make him look like a ruler of a kingdom as important as Delhi whatsoever. In other words, Khilji’s portrayal in the film is exactly what Right Wing supporters would love, especially the fringe Rajput groups.

More so, because we are regularly given doses of Rajput valour through dialogues that become redundant an ineffective after a point. Ironically, people claiming to represent them are the ones who have turned violent against the film without even watching it.

The bigger flaw here is the glorification of suicide (even though it is sugarcoated as ‘jauhar’) and the regressive idea of a woman losing her ‘honour’ if held captive or touched by the enemy. It is questionable to see such ideas being dished out at a time when there is constant struggle to free the nation from such dangerous beliefs.

Moreover, the jauhar over here doesn’t go with the character of Padmavati. She is shown to be a warrior who even rescues her husband from the clutches of the enemy. So, to see such a bravehearted person commit suicide without even trying to fight is disheartening and disappointing.

Padmaavat Ranveer SinghPerformances:

Bhansali is known for extracting quality performances from his actors and this holds true for this film too. Ranveer Singh is simply outstanding! He stuns with his dedication to bring alive an animalistic creature every time he appears. Needless to say, his acting graph goes higher with this film.

Deepika Padukone has given one of her best performances, if not the best. It was necessary for her to be the soul of the film and she manages that. She also ensures that the aforementioned flaw in the character remains hidden to some extent. Shahid Kapoor too rises to the occasion and gives a strong picture of a brave ruler. He is clearly the underdog here.

Jim Sarbh also makes an announcement of his supreme talent. His homosexual behavior is so subtle, yet effective. Aditi Rao Hydari and Anupriya Goenka also chip in with decent support. The latter, who plays Ratan’s first wife, should have got more opportunity.

Rating: 2.5/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Producers: Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Viacom 18 Motion Pictures

Writers: Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Prakash Kapadia

Cast: Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapoor, Jim Sarbh

Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

22Jan/180

We have forgotten how this group did worse than Karni Sena just 5 months ago

As we are all aware how the Rajput Karni Sena is violently dictating terms while putting forth their demand to ban Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padamaavat. The protests began in Rajasthan last year but have now spread to various parts of the countries. In fact, there have been continuous reports of violence over the last few days.

Needless to say, they are being allowed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led governments in some states and center to dictate terms. There has been no strict action taken despite the goons creating havoc uncontrollably.

If violence wasn’t enough, threats are being given by Karni Sena women to commit jauhar (self-immolation). The group is led by men and the violence is also created by them but they wish to be safe. How heroic!

However, although the spineless attitude of the governments is sickening, it is certainly not surprising. This is simply because they had made their intentions clear as far as appeasing fringe groups is concerned just five months ago. Strangely, I have not heard anyone recalling this disturbing incident despite its massive similarity with the ongoing Karni Sena crisis.

Karni Sena Padmavati

Picture: Hindustan Times

Self-styled Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, known for his roles in and as MSG, was convicted of raping two girls in August last year by the Punjab and Haryana Court. Following this, his huge number of followers went on a violent rampage by randomly destroying public and state properties by either vandalizing or setting them ablaze.

What made it even worse was that 30 people were reported dead in the entire chaos by the supporters of Dera Sacha Sauda chief. See the entire timeline of events HERE.

Manohar Lal Khattar, the Chief Minister of Haryana (the same person who has given some shockingly chauvinistic statements and has taken the recent rapes lightly and labeled some as ‘fake’) came under severe fire for allowing thousands of Dera supporters to gather outside the court premises despite knowing their gruesomely violent nature.

You don’t even need to be half intelligent to predict how his mad supporters would react once their hero is pronounced guilty of such heinous crimes. Not just that, Ram Rahim was allowed an entourage of 200 cars while going to the court! The state acted only after severe damage to lives and property took place. The Dera chief is close to the BJP and his supporters are a big vote bank for them.

In fact, the party spokespersons were not even ready to speak against Ram Rahim on news chat shows that night despite him being convicted of rape (the charges against him are far worse, including mass castration). These are the same people who are ready to bash the opposition even for a tweet.

Similarly, right now they are not ready to condemn Karni Sena’s goons, leave alone take action. After all, Rajputs form a large vote bank in the northern and central areas of India.

So, those who are aware of the five-month old history shouldn’t be surprised to see it being repeated.

By: Keyur Seta

14Jan/180

Spielberg’s ‘The Post’ is a loud reminder of the state of media in India currently

Spoilers alert!

The basic message in Steven Spielberg’s The Post comes right at the end when a character says, “The free press is to serve the governed, not the governors.” The sentence provides an overwhelming effect for it summaries the excellent efforts of the film to showcase the true meaning of a free press.

But being an Indian citizen who has been following the media scenario in India over the last decade or so, it also reminded me about the rapid deterioration of the freedom of the press in the country.

The Post is based on a newspaper’s brave efforts in the early 1970s in obtaining and publishing classified documents that reveal how the US had been lying to its people with respect to the Vietnam War. The team of journalists is taken to the court by the government but, astonishingly, the media wins the case. In other words, they are allowed to point out their government's grave offence against the people.

Taking nothing away from the film and the fearlessness shown by the journalists of that era, I feel the challenges faced by the Indian media today are many notches higher (I am talking about true, genuine journalists).

The PostCan you even imagine news of such a humongous nature being reported by a mainstream newspaper or a news channel today? Well, leave alone that, one can’t even print a report about the possibility of corruption by a citizen who happens to be the son of the party head of the ruling party. On the contrary, the publication gets sued for defamation (by the way, the complainant hasn’t been able to prove the charges).

Just recently, an FIR was filed against the reporter of a well-known publication for carrying out an investigative report showing severe security lapse in the entire Aadhaar scheme.

But if you think this is bad, wait for the next. Few years back, a film journalist lost his job for reporting true box office collections of a well-known movie. He spoiled the party of the makers who were circulating fake collections through various mediums.

So, at a time when even film related news gets you sacked, what are the possibilities of our media being allowed to carry out something as earth-shattering as shown in The Post?

Unofficially government-run media:

Government crackdown on the media isn’t the only major hurdle that today. Over the last few years, the concept of unofficially owned news channels has cropped up. Those having watched such channels even for a few days would realize that their main motto is to show the government in good light even when they have been messing things up up left, right and center.

Their loud-mouthed anchors disguising as saviors of the nation would scream out lies till they start appearing like the truth. If a report of such magnitude gets published, these anchors would label the team of reporters as criminals. Anurag Kashyap’s recently released Mukkabaaz has a line which translates to, “Truth isn’t something you know. It’s something people believe to be true.” In fact, anyone having a contrary view is shouted down and labeled anti-national, naxalite, leftist; depending on their mood.

Being an era of internet and social media, the role of government run trolls also cannot be ignored. Its paid troll army would be up in arms and instantly manufacture fictitious links of their reporters with some criminal, terrorist or the opposition parties (opposition = criminals, by the way.) And if a reporter would have been a female, it gets worse.

The Post is a loud reminder of the sorry state of affairs with respect to the freedom of the press currently in India.

By: Keyur Seta