Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat probably had to wage more wars than his protagonist’s conquests on the battlefield before it succeeded in reaching the cinemas.
And finally when it did, Bhansali chose to put up a number of disclaimers on how the film and his characters were never meant to hurt anyone and why the film should be treated as a work of fiction.
But alas the period movie based on Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic poem of the same name neither raises itself to the gigantic canvas that the filmmaker often puts up for his audience nor does it offer anything new other than what the fables have told us over the centuries.
Alauddin Khilji, the sultan of Dilli who has a fetish for anything and everything that is exotic, wants to own Rani Padmavati whose tales of eclectic beauty reach him through the words of a banished priest. Khilji then sets out to wage a war with her husband Rawal Ratan Singh, the Rajput ruler of Mewar.
Though the premise here offers the filmmaker a chance to showcase some macho power on screen, Bhansali skips the part. Therein lies the biggest problem of the movie, it either seems to be too bored to explore the grandiose that a film of such epic proportion promises or the makers were threading the policing line so carefully that they missed out on giving the period saga the treatment it deserves.
Even the final showdown between Khilji and Ratan Singh that ideally should have had sparks flying ends in a whimper.
Ranveer Singh as the sultan of the Khilji dynasty, is at his menacing best, as he snarls and roars his way through the scenes. Deepika Padukone radiates beauty and grace as Rani Padmavati, and gives a controlled performance. But she is hindered by a script that seems to be rooting for the stereotypes.
Shahid Kapoor as the valiant Rajput ruler is left with a bewildered look on his face for the most part and is not exactly a match for the towering Khilji. Supporting cast of Jim Sarbh as the Khilji's eunuch slave and Aditi Rao Hydari as the sultan's wife give matured performances.
Bhansali, one of the best craftsmen when it comes to movie settings in recent times, has once again created a world to tell his fable with the mighty fort of Mewar and the dark corridors of Khilji’s dynasty. Some misgivings on whether they belonged to the 13th century are sure to rise in the viewers' minds but Bhansali had already clarified that he was not making any claims of authenticity (remember the disclaimer).
Bhansali, who has also handled the music department, gives you the foot-tapping number 'Ghoomar' that is also a visual treat.
The movie could have been much better if the director, known for his eye for detailing, had brought in more color and depth to his characters.
In the end, you get three caricatures of protagonists who sway in the exact manner in which the famed Khatputlis (puppets) would move on the puppeteer's bidding. It leaves you yearning for something more real.