Female warrior lacks fire in her belly

Even though the heroine in Bajirao Mastani puts herself through deep humiliation, it does not make this reviewer weep

Above: (from left) Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra form a love triangle in Bajirao Mastani. Left: In Dilwale, Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan are from rival gangster families.
Above: (from left) Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra form a love triangle in Bajirao Mastani.PHOTOS: EROS INTERNATIONAL, RED CHILLIES ENTERTAINMENT
In Dilwale, Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan are from rival gangster families.
In Dilwale, Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan are from rival gangster families.PHOTOS: EROS INTERNATIONAL, RED CHILLIES ENTERTAINMENT


BAJIRAO MASTANI (PG 13/Some violence)

158 minutes/Now showing/ ** 1/2

THE STORY: Set in 18th-century India, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali's latest magnum opus - nearly 15 years in the making - tells the story of Maratha Hindu warrior Bajirao (Ranveer Singh) who falls in love with a Muslim female warrior Mastani (Deepika Padukone). Bajirao gives her his dagger which, according to rituals observed in her kingdom, means they are married. She leaves her royal home behind in search of love, only to be confronted by Bajirao's wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra) and be humiliated by his strong mother (Tanvi Azmi).

The sets are glorious, as are the costumes and killer waistlines of the two female leads - Padukone as Mastani and Chopra (known for her role in American TV series Quantico) as Bajirao's wife Kashibai.

Padukone does not disappoint when she shows up as a fiery female warrior in full battle gear seeking Bajirao's help to protect her father's kingdom from raiders. As the film progresses, her uncompromisingly fearless character puts herself through deep humiliation from Bajirao's family, who refuse to accept the Hindu-Muslim union.

Then, as expected, the three-way relationship track gets complicated. Chopra, as the spurned wife, does well to keep her pride intact, but the excessive songs keep getting in the way of the story.

Each song is stunningly shot, but 10 of them taking up 41 minutes and 53 seconds of the total film time left me wondering if I was better off with the YouTube mix.

With his toned body and smouldering screen presence, Singh easily fits the part of the warrior torn between two beautiful women.

Much as I enjoyed the film in parts, I was expecting more nuance in the tale, more fire in Mastani's belly and I did not get it. It left me strangely underwhelmed. The Kleenex I had rushed to buy sat in my handbag untouched. I like it when Bollywood romances make me weep, but the characters here did not make me feel invested in them. I guess I was one of the few who failed to see the epic in this film.



DILWALE (PG 13/Some violence)

156 minutes/Now showing/ ** 1/2

THE STORY: Kali/Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) and Meera (Kajol) are from rival gangster families. They seek to escape their violent past by reinventing their lives and living quietly like the boy- and girl-next-door.

But love is destined to reconnect them with their past.

I watch a Rohit Shetty film for its unreal fights, crazy car sequences and corny dialogue. This movie delivered on all three counts.

Kajol looks hotter and fitter than she has been before. At 50, Khan had me marvelling at all the hair he still has on his head. He manages to stay consistently charming, morph- ing from the gangster Kali to the quiet, lovable boy next door.

Director Shetty promises nothing more than mindless cinema and there is no point thinking too much about the storyline.

He wants you to get your popcorn and fizzy drinks and, at one point, what goes into movie watching these days plays out in a comical sequence that shows it is no longer about just buying a ticket and entering a hall. Nothing intelligent is meant to happen and well, nothing intelligent does in this film.

There are slapdash references to many Hindi films past. If you are a Bollywood junkie, there is much dialogue you have heard before. You can almost finish the lines before the character on screen does.

You laugh, step out of the cinema hall and tell your friends it was a "good-time pass". Only this time, you browse make-up counters to recreate Kajol's smoky eye make-up.

Shetty should remember to add that next time to the price of the movie ticket+popcorn+fizzy drink.

It will make for quite the sequence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2015, with the headline 'Female warrior lacks fire in her belly'. Subscribe