Panipat: Arjun delivers his best, Dutt steals the show

Film: Panipat

Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Kriti Sanon

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Rating: ***1/2

Ashutosh Gowarikar’s yet another magnum opus Panipat is all that was expected of the film-maker who’s known for larger than life films which also turn out to be longer than necessary. Gowarikar in this war drama recreates a historic episode set in the 18th century, with his story revolving around the bravery of commander in chief of the Maratha army, Sadashivrao bhau (Arjun Kapoor). The Peshwa, Nanasaheb (Mohnish Behl), is Sadashivrao’s cousin and has tremendous faith in him. Soon Sadashiv has to get back on the battlefield as the dreaded Ahmed Shah Abdoli (Sanjay Dutt), the king of Afghanistan has set his eyes on India and plans to attack the Marathas. Sadashiv is accompanied by newly wedded wife Parvati (Kriti Sanon) and nephew and Peshwa heir Vishwasrao (Abhishek Nigam) and a few other trusted aides.

Gowarikar had a challenging film in hand as it’s not an easy task to get the audience of today to relate to the intricate politics of our land way back in the 18th century, while making sure that the detailing is in place. The team of writers (written by Gowarikar along with Chandrashekhar Dhavalkar, Ranjeet Bahadur and Aditya Rawal) have done a good job of keeping the narrative interesting and Gowarikar, who’s given us the breath-taking Jodhaa Akbar in 2008 gets it almost as good but not quite there. Gowarikar is bang on with the ethos and emotions while also keeping the narration gripping for most part of it. The story subtly stresses on how secularism has always been part of our history and that’s welcome in the chaotic times that we live in today.

While the detailing of the film is well looked after with eye catching costume designs by Neeta Lulla (though temple jewellery on Maratha women seemed a bit out of place) and the amazing sets (production design by Nitin Chandrakant Desai). The music by Atul-Ajay and the cinematography by CK Murleedharan add to the value of the film. Gowarikar’s lead actors, Arjun Kapoor and Kriti Sanon look good together. While Kapoor is limited in his emotional range, he is sincere and gives what could easily be called his career best performance. Sanon’s performance is effortless but her body language is more south Bombay urban girl than someone from the 18th century. Padmini Kolhapure as Peshwa’s insecure wife and other actors. It is Sanjay Dutt who steals the scene every time with his mere presence and his terrific portrayal of the ruthless king. The film at almost 180 minutes is a tad too long even for a film mounted on a scale like this.

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