Well Played Ashutosh
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Writers: Chandrashekhar Dhavalikar, Ranjeet Bahadur, Aditya Rawal,Ashutosh Gowariker/screenplay
You have to grant it to Ashutosh Gowariker, he walks a difficult path with every film and irrespective of how it is received at the box-office, he continues with his creative journey. If Lagaan was about courage and conviction, Swades spoke of national pride and Jodhaa Akbar addressed religion harmony.
This time Gowariker chooses defeat not a victory because he believes there’s something special about the battle of Panipat and the journey that cannot be ignored.
In the 18th century, the Marathas emerged as the most powerful empire in the whole India but their happiness was short-lived as the Afghan king Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India and the Maratha Peshwa/ Monish Bahl ordered his nephew Sadashiv Rao Bhau/ Arjun Kapoor to stop him thus leading to the Third Battle of Panipat between the two armies.
All historical are eventually stories of palace politics and fragile kingdoms. Panipat reflects all that and more, it chronicles the time when the Peshwas traveled 1000 kilometers from Pune to up north to challenge the invaders. It was when they were unable to cross the Yamuna River that they traveled via Mathura and Agra to Delhi but were intercepted on their way to Punjab and needed to halt at Panipat.
Like all Gowariker films, this one is long too, also it is a difficult watch because it is content heavy. The subject is battleground so the violence is gruesome but the merits of the film by far outweighs the demerits – superbly cast the film features stalwarts like Zeenat Aman/ Sakina Begum, Padmini Kolhapure/ Gopika Bai, Mohnish Bahl/ Nana Saheb Peshwa, and Kunal Kapoor as Shuja-ud-Daula in supporting roles which is very sporting of the actors.
National Award-winning art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai who has worked with the director closely on his earlier films recreates the majestic Shaniwar Wada and Neeta Lulla who did Jodhaa Akbar now styles the Peshwas, the Rajputs, the Muslims, and the Afghanis.
India is a land of diversities and unity was an issue centuries ago and continues to be so today. Panipat is probably the first film that tells you how war is planned, the process, the paraphernalia, the economics, the production, and the hardships. There are elephants, camels, horses, cannons, bullets, guns, swords and loads and loads of kitchen ingredients that explain the participation of women at such missions.
For me, the best scenes in the film are those exploring the man-woman relationship between Sadashiv/ Arjun Kapoor with Parvati/ Kriti Sanon proving yet again that men were progressive and women were empowered in the olden days. Sadashiv extracts a promise from his bride that if anything happens to him on the battlefield she will not submit to Sati.
There’s always a magical moment in his films that lingers long after the scene is over. In Panipat when Kriti Sanon transforms a cloth tent in the middle of a jungle into a dream chamber, Arjun Kapoor and the audience is mesmerized!
Lovingly shot by CK Muraleedharan and music composed by Ajay-Atul they beat drums during the battle sequence in the climax as if saluting the brave hero on his final journey.
Sanjay Dutt as Ahmad Shah Abdali suits the part and Arjun Kapoor as Sadashiv Rao Bhau is restrained. Kriti Sanon dazzles as Parvati Bai. She can heal wounds, dance, sing, seduce, support and also sword fight, in short, she is sensational.
Well played Ashutosh Gowariker, history needs to be documented and it requires courage to recap stories of defeat. Must you watch the film? If the Marathas can stake their lives for our country it will be a shame if we cannot spare three hours to salute their bravery.
I rate Panipat with 3.5 stars.
Shaukat Kaifi went to hospitals too, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a longer time and those were difficult times for the family and for all of us who loved her.
We treat parents of our friends as our parents and they love us like their children as well but this has a disadvantage too because when they go away, we become orphan another time!
I tell myself I will remember the happier times…The first time I observed roza in the month of Ramzaan it was Shaukat aapa who offered me a glass of water and said, ‘Chand Mubarak’…When I was in a crisis it was Shaukat aapa who tied me imam-e-zameen and said ‘All will be well’ and it was Shaukat aapa who presented me with my first Ganga Jamni sari.
I will think of her whenever I am in fresh air because she loved sunlight… she relished well brewed tea…her favorite ittar…handloom saris…cane furniture… paper lanters…mitti ka diya…madhubani paintings… And all this exist in Janki Kutir and as long as her son Baba preserves the cottage the way it is, Shaukat Kaifi will continue to breathe in our memories…
Her children Baba and Shabana joked that Mummy started instructing the staff from the gate of the cottage uncaring whether they heard or not and when they surfaced, she had usually forgotten what she wanted to say. The children complained that she was impatient and unable to focus which was partly true but seek her out in a crisis and she was all there for you.
It was Shaukat Kaifi who bailed out Shabana Azmi from the police station when arrested on her protest for slum demolition. She was performing Tumhari Amrita the same evening at NCPA and Shaukat Kaifi told the police officer he had to let her perform the show and she would personally bring her back to the police station. When Shabana was hesitant to leave her activist colleagues, she said irrespective of your ideologies the show has to go on…
All my memories of Shaukat Kaifi are divided into three compartments – Janki Kutir when she was robust, cheerful, enthusiastic, energetic, colorful and spunky. Then Mijwaan, when she migrated to Kaifi Azmi’s village and though out of place initially, connected with her beloved’s people and roots and finally, Sagar Samrat where she shifted post Kaifi Azmi’s demise and stayed till the end. She was frail now, a little broken too but her spirit was intact. She still changed three saris a day, had a 24×7 personal staff and went every evening to the garden.
To be continued
One day, while she was in the middle of her driver crisis when a passerby walked into the house and asked for charity. She was alarmed by his audacity and fired him. He was about to walk away when she stopped him and asked him if his wife was really ailing in the hospital and he was not fooling her. He nodded snd Shaukat Kaifi opened her purse and gave him some money.
There are some amazing incidents with both her children as well. In the late 80s Baba Azmi’s film Bezubaan was getting premiered in town and while driving to the venue Shabana warned her mother that she must not fall asleep during the film because that will upset Baba’s producer but on reaching the auditorium when Naseerudin Shah, hero of the film expressed delight to see her she said, ‘Meri himmat ki data deni chahiye ke main iss film ko dekhne aayi hoon’.
This was the time Shabana was shooting for Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth and woke up one morning with butterflies in her stomach because she had to shoot a very difficult scene she was not convinced about. She discussed the details with her parents over tea in the morning and while Kaifi Azmi was as usual quiet Shaukat Kaifi argued that her discomfort was not important because a woman on the verge of losing her husband has no dignity and will go to any extreme to save her marriage.
The message struck a chord and Shabana was able to let go off of her inhibitions for that dramatic scene which got her applause from the audience.
To be continued
Shaukat Kaifi started her career with Prithvi Theatre and later got associated with IPTA for the longest time. Her film portrayals include Haqeeqat, Garam Hawa, Anjuman and Salaam Bombay. Wife of poet Kaifi Azmi and mother of cinematographer Baba and actor Shabana Azmi passed away last week. She was 91.
The first time I met Shaukat Kaifi in the 80s she was entertaining her nieces with an amusing story at her home and they were all rolling down with laughter. All of them were hysterical and talking loudly, I found the atmosphere a little loud and intimidating. But first impressions are often deceptive and I discovered over a period of time that Shaukat aapa has many hues and colors and she is more entertaining than intimidating.
She woke up very early every morning and was bathed and ready before the driver reported on duty. As soon as he arrived, she left for the market to shop for fresh flowers and fruits. All the fruit sellers in the Juhu market were her friends and familiar with her taste and temperament. Often she would forget important packet in the car and needed the driver to get them inside calling him was a challenge because she could never remember her driver’s name so she had written out in a diary and every time she needed to call out to him, she hunted first for her purse, then spectacles, then the diary and finally called for her driver Titus.
To be continued