What Bajirao Mastani proves is that Sanjay Leela Bhansali is the master of spectacle. Right from the first frame, opulence exudes off the screen and as a member of the audience, it really brings you into the experience. There are brief moments where Bhansali opts to go with CG which can be a tad bit jarring.
That doesn’t take away from the film though. Bajirao Mastani is at some points, an absolutely fantastic experience and in some, a bit of a drag.
Bajirao Mastani tells the story of the Maratha warrior Peshwa Bajirao I of the Maratha Empire and his second wife Mastani. After having answered Mastani’s call to arms in order to save her kingdom, Bajirao and Mastani fall hopelessly in love with one another with the latter, following him back to Poona, much to the bemusement of his first wife Kashibai(Priyanka Chopra) and his mother, Radhabai. (Tanvi Azmi). At this point, things start to go down for the star-crossed couple as religion and pride threaten to derail the very relationship they hold dear.
The film gets off to a terrific start and keeps the pace going on right till the interval, even if the slightly phoned in action does tend to take you out of the experience once every while. Post the second half, the pacing drops completely and after a point, one starts to check their watch out of sheer boredom. Never a good sign. The film grazes the three hour mark and a good fifteen minute trim would have done it a world of good.
But when it works, it really works. For the first time, it’s not the leading pair who chew up the scenery but it’s the three leading ladies in the film that truly steal the show. Ranveer Singh is terrific as Bajirao oscillating between the passionate and romantic, whilst bouncing off brilliant performances from Padukone, Chopra and Azmi who are the film’s standout performers. Each bring their own strengths to the table and it totally pays off, making them an utter treat to watch. It must be mentioned that Padukone here, channels her inner Madhubala to devastating effect. Heartbreakingly beautiful, she’s an absolute delight to watch every time she’s on screen and the same could also be said for Ms Chopra, who moves effortlessly between the playful and the heartbroken yet devoted wife.
Bajirao Mastani has been Bhansali’s dream project and he’s left no stone unturned in his pursuit to see it in film. It’s beautifully shot, has a terrific cast, a great setting and a premise, that is let down only by the film’s pacing and a running time that stays beyond it’s welcome. . It is without doubt Bhansali’s Mughal-E-Azam, and while being several leagues behind the 1960’s epic, it’s still a pretty good if, flawed watch.