Inspired by Nagnath S. Inamdar’s novel “Raau,” Bhansali’s film “Bajirao Mastani” (2015) might be giving Hollywood a run for its money.
Set in India during the reign of the Maratha empire, “Bajirao Mastani” tell the story of Peshwa Bajirao Ballard and his second wife Mastani. The cast includes “Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra (Kashibai), Ranveer Singh (Baojirao) and Deepika Padukone (Mastani).
The film opens on a candlelit room filled with men in search of the next Peswha – the Indian equivalent of a prime minister. Bajirao nominates himself and is chosen after completing the task of splitting a peacock feather, thus proving himself mentally and physically able for the task.
On his way to Sironja, he is visited by a messenger from Bundelkhand who invades his tent. As the messenger fights off the guards, it is revealed that it is Mastani, the daughter of the Hindu king, Chhatrasal (Benjamin Gilani). Fascinated by her swordsmanship and courage, Baojirao agrees to help her fight off the army that is attacking her city. Grateful for his help, Chhatrasl insists that Bajirao spend Holi with them. Bajirao and Mastani begin to fall for one another, but alas, they cannot be together because he already has a wife and Mastani is half Muslim. Soon, he leaves for Pune but before leaving, he gives her his dagger, which means they married according to Bundelkhand culture.
With dagger in hand and love in her heart, Mastani follows her beloved to Pune but her arrival is not meet with kindness. Upon learning that Mastani is part Muslim Bajirao’s mother, Radhabai (Tanvi Azmi), treats her as an enemy and sends her off to a palace for women of lower status. Determined to succed in her quest, Mastani tolerates the insult and returns to the house of the Peshwa to perform a dance for the New Year celebration. Meanwhile Bajirao’s first wife Kashibai (Priynak Chopra) is sitting in the balcony watching her husband stare lovingly at another woman. Needless to say, when you watch this, you will be spending most of your time trying to figure out which woman they should side with: Mastani, the woman who just wants to love her soulmate, or Kashibai, the woman who will always know that her husband can never love her the way she loves him.
One of the many aspects that makes “Bajirao Mastani” worth seeing is the cinematography. Each second is more breathing taking that the next, which is pretty amazing seeing as this film was largely filmed on a green screen. Every scene draws you into a colorful and creative Mecca for the senses. As Mastani performs “Deewani Mastani,” it is not just Bajirao who falls in love with Mastani – it’s also the audience. Dressed in a gold-trimmed outfit and surrounded by the golden furnishings of the Hall of Mirrors, Mastani twirls around, giving a performance that is hard to forget.
Another noteworthy trait of this film is its music. Dipping his creative mind into nearly every aspect of this film, Bhansali produced each song on the soundtrack. My own personal favorites are “Pinga,” “Deewani Mastain” and “Mohe Rang Do Laal.” They each speak on a sense of new love beginning or an old love ending, to which any and every one can relate. Place the vibrancy of the music with the magic of Bhansali’s filming style and before you lays “Bajirao Mastani” in all its glory.