- Movie Name:Panipat
- Critics Rating: 3.5 / 5
- Release Date: Dec 6, 2019
- Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
- Genre: Period drama
Back in 2013, Deepika Padukone had already done 'Race' and 'Cocktail' to nail her first Rs 100-crore films, but she needed a 'Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani' to have cinegoers remember her as an actress worth commending. Kriti Sanon, by that measure, is a DP-in making, who just like the latter, aces every emotion under the sun and looks like a dream in this hammy period drama.
There's a scene in the course of climax of 'Panipat' where Kriti's Parvati Bai and the other Maratha women are caught unaware by the Mughal sainiks, and she doesn't know how to fight. She still tries. And survives. She falls to the ground wondering how she did it; and how the sainiks made their way to the Maratha camp. Was Sadashivrao Bhau not okay? Kriti gives her all to the scene and makes it one of the high-points of the movie -- and eventually, her career.
Much of the credit for Kriti Sanon's spunk in every frame goes to Ashutosh Gowariker, who etches out a female character that is not there just to be in the family frame. She's strong, passionate, and stands tall with her husband, who probably has the toughest job at hand -- to fight the mighty army of the even mightier Mughals.
Epic war dramas sketched out on the cinematic silver screen have always invited attention -- there's a celebration of history, and more so, the courage and valour of the countrymen. 'Panipat' stands true to this dictum, and gives an almost-textbook detailing of the third battle of Panipat -- in light and colour, and graphics.
For those who skipped history lessons at school, the third battle of Panipat was Sadashivrao Bhau's mission to nip the Afghani ruler's, Ahmad Shah Abdali, ambition to scale his path to the Delhi throne in the bud. The Maratha army lost to the Mughals, but only to have Abdali never return to India -- a script that has all the masala of a Hindi potboiler on paper; a hero who loses but wins (Baazigar, anyone?), a barbaric villain (that too Musalmaan), a long-drawn struggle, and a series of several betrayals (reason enough for the tagline: The Great Betrayal).
Gowariker, hence, had a hero in the script itself -- the only thing left to him was the execution. And I cannot vouch for him being back in the game. 'Panipat', however, is a lot better than 'Mohen jo Daro'. It, still, cannot match the vulnerability of 'Lagaan' or the beauty of 'Jodhaa Akbar'.
In chronicling the events that led and built up to the war, Gowariker does take a few creative liberties. The film, however, still remains a textbook, line-to-line adaptation of history of the 18th century India. Gowariker does the most tedious job of presenting a team's valour on the screen and wins -- but only in parts. The parts, in which he loses, are the ones where his central characters ham their way to establish their heroism, and wickedness.
Sanjay Dutt's Abdali is a loud theatrical representation -- there's a scene where he literally shrieks to establish his anger. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Abdali would have been a lot more barbaric -- and perhaps, a lot more eccentric. Gowariker's Abdali has a self-deprecating side to him -- 'lagta hai mera khuda bhi inke saath hai,' says he when he sees the Maratha valour.
Dutt's mannerisms, in parts, look too hammy. His dialogue delivery too.
Talking of dialogue delivery, one cannot help but notice the slight lisp in Arjun Kapoor's diction when he says 'Mughalon'. His few other lines, and many expressions, reek of too much effort. Sometimes, a little is enough. And Arjun needed to let go of wanting to invest too much.
Arjun, however, is exceptional in the climactic war sequence -- even better that Ranveer Singh in parts, when it comes to aggression. The spotlight is almost always on his loyal, brave Sadashivrao Bhau, and he makes the most of it. He is earnest, and that alone makes up for the slight lacunae one may find along the trajectory -- of his character and the actor.
Gowariker gives the movie an emotional scaffolding with the romantic track of Bhau and Parvati, and excels. Arjun and Kriti share a crackling chemistry, and their romance is one of the highlights of the film.
The other cast of the movie includes Mohnish Behl, Milind Gunaji, Padmini Kolhapure, Suhasini Mulay, Nawab Shah and Mantra. The most disappointing cameo is that of Zeenat Aman's who looks (at least to me) expressionless for the intense moment that perpetuates between her Sakina Begum, and Parvati Bai.
Mantra as the conniving and layered Najeeb ud-Daulah is the most impressive -- and the portrayal his career-best.
Ajay-Atul's music, as everything else in the movie, makes for a conflicting listen. While the songs uplift the narrative, the background score (Ekta Kapoor-esque in parts) steals away from it. Kolhapure's Gopika Bai, for example, is always introduced with a vampish cacophonic prelude, evoking a TV show aesthetic -- so not required for a period drama.
Timelines may have changed, but the centrality and eccentricity of rulers and emperors remains intact -- till date. 'Panipat', by that measure, does give a lesson in the diverse history of India and stays true to its concept, narrative and characters.
Watch 'Panipat' for its large scale (courtesy CK Muraleedharan); Ashutosh Gowariker's almost-comeback direction; Ajay-Atul's songs; the climactic war sequence; Kriti Sanon's sprightly, career-altering performance; and perhaps, for an unlikely parallel with the present day political scenario in Maharashtra.
IndiaTVNews.com verdict: 3.5 stars