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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bajirao Mastani: A letter to Sanjay Leela Bhansali (includes spoilers)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Mumbai (possibly)

Dear Sir:

I paid to watch Bajirao Mastani today. Paid. I paid my hard-earned money. I did not wait for the pirated version to come out, for I thought Bajirao Mastani ought to be watched on the big screen.

This, after all, was supposed to be a magnum opus; a period drama that would stand the test of time; a welcome break from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas, movies that revolved around mush, chandeliers, mirrors, plenty of songs, women in colourful clothes, and extremely slow-paced storylines.

As expected, this was remarkably different, for this, was, well, mostly about mush, chandeliers, mirrors, plenty of songs, women in colourful clothes, and an extremely slow-paced storyline.

It could well have been another Devdas, for it even had a song (Pinga), featuring the two lead Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone, one of the lead singers of the song being Shreya Ghoshal. The women were, of course, evenly matched, unlike dola re dola, where you had pitted a mannequin against a legend.

Fortunately for you, there was Tanvi Azmi to save the day. Someone had to stop Bajirao Mastani from being worse than Saawariya. Someone had to stop it from being your worst movie, and she did whatever she could, proving how underutilised she had been all these years.

You deserve credit for casting her, and I give you that. You also deserve full credits for reminding the world that Raza Murad still exists. Accolades should also go to Ranveer Singh, for he has surpassed himself in the movie (which is not saying a lot).

You know you are not Rajamouli. Nobody is Rajamouli. Good Indian period movies, especially ones involving battles, do not exist. Hence you decided to devote 20 minutes of your three-hour yawnathon to actual war.

The problem was, the protagonist was Bajirao, not Devdas: and though Bajirao was usually the master-planner, he often rode to War himself. We could have done with some of that. But then, I assumed too much. I thought you were actually working on something serious on Bajirao. How wrong I was.

I am aware that this is a romantic movie (after all, it is called Bajirao Mastani, not Bajirao). But then, the lead character is not Romeo or Majnu or (insert random romantic character). This is Bajirao we are talking about. The greatest of all Bhat Peshwas, Bajirao was, unfortunately for you, no ordinary character.

I will not bore you with facts about Bajirao. I’m sure your team had done a thorough research on one of India’s greatest sons. To make sure that nothing goes wrong, you have also put a facts-may-have-been-altered disclaimer in the beginning of the movie.

Now that I think of it, you had to put that disclaimer there. You would have been ripped apart by a lot of people for inaccuracy (why, even the descendants of Bajirao and Mastani have slammed you!), but I will not go into all that.

I will not go into the fact that Mastani went to war with her hair loose.

I will not go into the fact that Kashibai got to watch live telecast of Bajirao and Mastani in each other’s arms on a screen (after all, there is no proof that she didn’t) in the 1720s.

I will not go into the fact Bajirao has an inexplicable tendency to walk on water throughout the movie (something Kashibai picked up later).

I will not go into the fact that Kashibai displays her waist with aplomb, something unthinkable, given her social status, the era, and the family.

I will not go into the fact that Bajirao actually sang a song that went dushman ki dekho jo vaat laavli in the 1730s.

I will not go into the fact that Bajirao uses the dandpatta with the efficiency of a Jedi brandishing a lightsabre; he actually deflects about a hundred simultaneous arrows (or thereabouts) without a shield, for I know you had to match Star Wars.

I will not add to the Pinga controversy (Google it).

I will do nothing of the sort.

All I want to tell you that it is a terrible movie. Of course, you are free to make any movie. It was not your fault that I fell victim to the hype.

But here is a humble request: stick to Devdas. Leave our heroes alone.


Yours faithfully,

Someone who still cares for Bollywood.

Watch Mughal-e-Azam if you have not. There is a reason people call it a wonderful movie.

Watch Bahubali as well. It has its faults, but you may learn a thing or two on how to make movies on war heroes, real or otherwise.


  1. A brilliant article :).

    Also, if you thought this was terrible (and no I haven't seen it - nor may I ever do so, thank you for your informative review :) !), then try seeing the *other* movie released that same weekend. In it RS has applied his superb physics knowledge not to cars or the "laws of motion", but to the storyline and to the laws of *e*motion.

    1. Thank you. BTW, the desi lightsabre was cool.

    2. Desi lightsabre is actually quite badass. While I admit that using a shield might make more sense, the projectiles being deflected by the daandpatta in the movie were arrows shoot from a rather long distance. They would have lost a reasonable amount of momentum by the time they reached him.
      On the other hand, the Nizam ordering a shower of arrows on a lone approaching warrior is supremely idiotic. Did he even know for sure that it was Bajirao behind the helmet on whom he was wasting this much ammunition?

    3. Na, but the Nizam (no, wait, not the Nizam, the king) had the advantage of height. The arrows would not have lost momentum.

      Had it been about deflecting ten arrows I would have bought it, but...

    4. The advantage of height works better for arrows when the target is at a closer range. For distant targets, canon balls work better. A shower of arrows is a fluke sort of an attack when the enemy is in large numbers. In the open field, arrows lose potency when you factor in wind direction and speed in the open. Pretty as it might look cinematically, it's actually quite ineffective in open field warfare.
      (Drop it, Bong. War strategy and techniques is not your thing. Go back to your books).

    5. Arre, if 200 arrows are aimed at a single person, probability is very high that a lot of them are accurate.
      (Drop it, Ghati. Statistics is not your thing. Go pack a vada paav).

  2. Who watches bajirao mastani?? And who expects a good historical film from bhansali?????

  3. SLB is, was and remains SLB. Uska kuchh nahi ho sakta. Do you realise this movie actually makes Jodha Akbar look good? But then again Jodha Akbar had Hrithik who makes the world look good... But I digress.
    Oh and talking of Tanvi Azmi, her character totally had the hots for Yatin Karyekar's character. Why do you think Bajirao goes completely cuckoo?

    1. I think I should agree with you here. BTW, it was refreshing to see Yatin Karyekar again. The last time I saw him was in Shanti, where his character's name was Kamesh.

    2. After Shanti you might have seen Yatin Karyekar in Munnabhai MBBS. And once again, can't agree more about Bajirao Mastani.

    3. Of course, how could I forget MBMBBS?

      And yes, nice to know that there exists a small population that agrees.

  4. Loved it . Exactly my feelings . Loved the water walking bit and the fact that I too saw SLB DOING a poor copy of mughley azam. Surely it was meant to be this . My bad that I heard sane voices praising it and heeded . As for dilwale, any day I will vote for as it was meant to be trash but full-time entertainment with kajol and srk. It lived up to trash being super fun

    1. Random question: how bad is Dilwale?

    2. Dilwale has SRK and Kajol's characters referred to for a *long* time as "Ramlal" the dhobi, and "Pogo" (as in the TV Channel). The sheer pointlessness and weakness of the story makes (any other movie) look like a storytelling masterpiece.

      Oh, and one more observation: SLB's Bajirao Mastani had a puriya dhanashri (part-)piece with a lead female singing+dancing to it; lavish sets and quite good music; a completely, horrifically pointless dance involving both lead females, and a hero who becomes a drunk and dies out of romantic sorrow at the end because his mother disapproves of his choice. Was he a general who won 40 straight battles, or was he a fictional character called Devdas?

    3. Parallels with Devdas are unmissable. The problem is, SLB could not distinguish between Bajirao and Devdas. The bigger problem is, very few people have actually read up on Bajirao.

  5. Appallingly enough, my expectations were so low that I actually enjoyed most of the film. I agree with your criticisms, especially about reducing a hero like this to a sorry Devdas-like figure. Anyway in the end I felt my money wasn’t totally wasted, not as much as when I watched Dhoom 3, for example.

  6. At least Peshwa is the central figure. Did you know about Kashi bai before? Hell, my history books did not even teach about Mastani. A fiction around something really happened is ok. If you accuse Inglorious Basterds of historical inaccuracy that would be foolish. Though Bajirao is no way in the league of Inglorious but you get the drift. Ok here is what I took:
    1) Every frame was a painting
    2) Music was soothing
    3) 2 beautiful women with immense acting abilities and dancing abilities
    4) Ranvir was ok
    5) The passion between Bajirao and Mastani was very real. The rumour is that Mastani committed sati, that means even in real life they had amazing passion.
    For me it was paisa vasool.

    1. To each his own, I guess. And, well, I did read up on both Bajirao and Mastani a bit when I heard there is a movie being made. I agree it was only a bit, but I did, and formed an idea of the stature of Bajirao.

  7. Great to know that there is still a portion of people who thinks logically. . Good and very logical article. I have written on the same line and would like to share. .
    Well, message I received yesterday was the trigger point to shoot this long pending article. . Hope it will create some impact. Thanks

    1. Thank you for the kind words. You wrote very well, too.