Bajirao Mastani is another prime example of how capable Bollywood is when it comes to producing epic period films (like Jodha Akbar and Lagaan). The sets, music, costumes and performances are all brilliant and in perfect sync with each other in this film — it's little unfortunate to see all this hard work and talent playing out wonderfully on the big screen but without the support of a good strong story.
The film is a love story between Bajirao — a noted Indian general who served as the Maratha Peshwa (prime minister) to the fifth Chhatrapati (emperor) of the Maratha Empire — and his second wife Mastani. The basic premise is both the strength and flaw of the film.
The story of Bajirao as a great Maratha warrior is so rich and diverse that even if director Sanjay Leela Bhansali had woven some of those elements into the storyline — maybe as a backdrop against the love story — it might have helped make the plot more engaging. Instead, the film primarily focuses on the personal issues and relationship-related woes.
The movie's grand and opulent scale — a signature style of Bhansali — is present throughout, starting from the first frame where the Maratha court is in session and Bajirao is called to prove his capability to take on the role of Peshwa. The film is a visual spectacle. The director's effort and attention to detail is clearly visible in the sets created, costumes adorned and shots composed. Bhansali successfully manages to recreate a bygone era, giving an insight into the powerful and culturally rich Maratha kingdom of the early 1700s.
Priyanka Chopra — who plays Bajirao's first wife Kashibai — looks stunning and delivers another knockout performance. Her portrayal of a woman who loves her man unconditionally and then is faced with the situation of having to share him with another is subtle and powerful. Also, the fact that she played this role around the same time as essaying a dramatically different role of an FBI trainee in US show Quantico is commendable.
The two shining stars of the film — in every way — are lead actors Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. After watching them perform, it's next to impossible to see any other actor playing those roles (the film was initially conceived with Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai as the lead pair).
Singh IS the Maratha Peshwa Bajirao. Period. He holds and maintains the character in every single frame that he is in and acts his heart out. Moreover, it seems the actor really enjoyed himself while playing this meaty role. From the right look to the attitude and swag, Singh plays the role with a lot of conviction and belief. Also, don't miss the authentic and very subtle Marathi accent in his speech — it's part of what makes him a joy to watch.
Bajirao Mastani is another feather in Padukone's glorious golden cap. Her Mastani is gorgeous, fierce and immensely passionate. She handles the complex nature of her role with a great amount of maturity.
Apart from the fact that Mastani would always be considered Bajirao's second wife, she also has to deal with hostility and aggression from the disapproving Maratha family and kingdom. It's difficult to justify a role such as that but Padukone's superb understanding of the character along with the crackling chemistry she shares on screen with Singh makes her an absolute treat to watch.
Bajirao Mastani is a must watch for Singh and Padukone fans. Watch them light up the screen as individuals and as a pair in this one. Also, watch in the theatres for its cinematic opulence. Lack of story is the only factor that may work against this otherwise well-made film.