Well Played Ashutosh
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Kriti Sanon
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.