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Bajirao Mastani: The film that silently blew the world away

Following rave reviews from the Guardian, rotten tomatoes and even Forbes, this epic landed gently amidst the hype surrounding the much-anticipated, Dilwale. A tale of love and dignity surrounding Hindu warrior Bajirao, his first wife Kashi, and the Mughal King’s daughter-com-warrior Mastani, is arguably the most beautifully crafted love triangle in the history of cinematic feats.

Carried by the charming Ranveer Singh, much-talented Deepika Pudukone and global star Priyanka Chopra, this film has already out-grossed Bollywood’s commercial blockbuster Dilwale, which was predicted as the movie of the year for Bollywood fans. Perhaps this is what has made director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s epic such a phenomenon; it left audiences utterly disarmed, viewers going to watch this piece based on word-of-mouth, as it didn’t carry old-school Bollywood Talent such as Shahrukh Khan and Kajol.

Yet, it somehow managed to capture the imagination and admiration of cinema-goers on a global scale. Bajirao (Singh) helps a Mughal warrior, known as Mastani (Pudukone), protect her village and in doing so wins her heart. However, the Hindu warrior’s people despise Mughals, and he returns to his city where his wife Kashi awaits. Chopra’s portrayal of Kashi makes it easy to understand why Bajirao loves her, she’s the personification of innocence and joy, and is his strength.

At this point the audience is somewhat confused by Bajirao’s character, as he seems to love Kashi despite his chemistry with Mastani during their short time together. It is only when Mastani arrives, having left her world of royalty behind in pursuit of Bajirao that matters get complicated. She is greeted by his mother and his advisors who refuse to tell him she is here, and instead insult the warrior by having her stay in the same quarters their dancers reside in. This is where the film hits its stride with Mastani telling her royal servant, ‘they’ve shown us the extent of their hatred, let us show them the extent of our love.’ And she takes the insults on the chin, over and over, not once dropping to their level.

It's only when Bajirao sees her at a party that he realises she has come here for him, moved by the gesture and aware of what she has endured to reach him he tells her the world will never let them be together, they will hate them, try to separate them, he has a wife and can never be entirely hers, yet she accepts. A salute to her strength as a character and her love for him. The two marry, with the world openly against them, the ugliness of his family’s intolerance takes its toll on Bajirao, but not Mastani; she silently endures.

As this tragic yet beautiful tale of love and loss is woven together with divine set pieces and a masterful script, it soon becomes clear that all three points of the triangle are the heroes.
The film skilfully shows Kashi as a reluctant companion of Mastani, the women are never reduced to squabbles over a man, and Bajirao is shown perpetually attempting to give equal rights to Mastani despite the anger of his family and their beliefs.

The ever-twisting plot is set against the breath-taking backdrops of the Mughal-Hindu empires, and though it is a tragedy at heart, in many respects it is a triumph of love and the beauty of having good character in the face of savagery. This elegant portrayal of betrayal and society, steals the show from Dilwale effortlessly, sending ripples through the Bollywood film industry and their view of what makes a bankable film.

Written by Hina Malik


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