Making a historical on a personality like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on a large scale can be a major challenge for any filmmaker. In the case of writer and director Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande’s Har Har Mahadev, it was even tougher since there have been a series of films on the Maratha history in recent years.
Out of all these movies, Digpal Lanjekar himself has made four – Farzand (2018), Fatteshikast (2019), Pawankhind (2022) and Sher Shivraj (2022).
Har Har Mahadev tells the story of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (Subodh Bhave) before his coronation. It starts off with a feud between the Bandal warrior Bajiprabhu Deshpande (Sharad Kelkar) and Shivaji Maharaj during the latter’s youth phase. He wants all Marathis to unite and fight against Adilshahi’s atrocities. He finally succeeds in making Deshpande his trusted aide.
The movie features the famous incident where Shivaji Maharaj kills Afzal Khan. Later on, it focusses on Siddhi Jauhar (Milind Shinde) acquiring Panhala, the struggle for the safe evacuation of Shivaji Maharaj from there and, more importantly, the iconic battle of Pawankhind.
This makes it clear that Har Har Mahadev features the two events that were individually portrayed by Lanjekar in Sher Shivraj and Pawankhind.
But Deshpande’s movie still succeeds in being interesting through its entertaining narrative and some applaud-worthy heroic dialogues. The action sequences are impressive and they are enhanced by the music. In short, there is plenty for the masses to cheer, especially in single screen theatres.
Although Shivaji Maharaj is on the highest stature in Maratha history, Har Har Mahadev gives equal prominence to Bajiprabhu Deshpande as well. Hence, the film also works as one of those two-hero action films.
There is some powerful as well as moving chemistry between Bhave and Kelkar. They form a deadly combo that makes you go through various emotions. Bhave gets the act of playing a tough character of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj incredibly right. His body language is the highlight of his performance.
Kelkar lights up with screen through an energetic act. He is terrific in both action-oriented and emotional moments.
The other supporting cast, including Amruta Khanvilkar, Nishigandha Wad and Sayali Sanjeev score decent in roles with limited screen time. Raj Thackeray, the chief of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), generates impact as the voice of Sahyadri.
The movie, however, uses the usual trope of portraying the bad guys as weak and, sometimes, as laughing stocks. It is important for the villains to be powerful in such films, but that is far from the case here. This, obviously, affects the performances of Milind Shinde and the actor who played Afzal Khan.
Har Har Mahadev has other issues too. The film doesn’t start on a smooth manner in terms of the screenplay. The momentum slows down after a while in the second half. The finale fight sequence is stretched. The movie should have gotten over before 161 minutes.
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Also, you can’t help but realize that you would have liked the film more if there wouldn’t have been an overdose of films on the Maratha history in recent years.
Overall: Har Har Mahadev has enough going for itself for the masses.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Director: Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande
Producers: Zee Studios and Shree Ganesh Marketing and Films
Writer: Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande
Cast: Subodh Bhave, Sharad Kelkar, Milind Shinde, Nishigandha Wad, Amruta Khanvilkar, Sayali Sanjeev