Director Ashutosh Gowariker seems to have resorted to a formulaic style to sell the epic tale to the masses
By Mayur Lookhar
After Mohenjo Daro (2016), Ashutosh Gowariker is back with another period film Set to be released on 6 December, Panipat is based on the third battle of Panipat that was fought between the Maratha Empire and the Afghan invaders on 14 January, 1761. The Rohillas, the Nawab of Awadh joined forces with Ahmed Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt). The Marathas were led by their senapati (commander-in-chief) Sadashiv Rao Bhau (Arjun Kapoor)
The Afghans sought to take control of Delhi Sultante after the Marathas toppled the Mughal Empire. Those familiar with history, would know which way the third battle of Panipat ended. Tales of triumph trigger euphoria, but often it’s a valiant effort that history tends to respect more.
The trailer strongly refers to the great betrayal. The Rajputs and the Jats didn’t support the Marathas. Fringe Rajput groups proved to be a nuisance for Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his Padmaavat (2018). Gowariker will hope his Panipat will not face any such trouble.
Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao aka Nana Saheb (Mohnish Bahl) was the Maratha empire figurative head then. Veteran actress Zeenat Aman will be seen on the silver screen since the little known film Sallu Ki Shaadi (2017). She has just one footage in the trailer. Aman is playing Sakeena Begum. She has to be a different character from the popular Sakina Bano Begum, daughter of Mughal Emperor Humayun who had passed away in 1604.
Gowarikar has picked two actors who have a strong physical presence. Arjun Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt look the part as Sadashiv Rao Bhau and Ahmed Shah Abdali, respectively. However, based on the trailer, one is not fully convinced with their accent, rather the lack of it. We’ve never seen Kapoor and Dutt in such roles before.
Kriti Sanon plays Parvati Bai, the second wife of Sadashiv Rao Bhau. The latter married Parvati Bai after the death of his first wife Umabai. Parvati Bai braved the odds to fight alongside her husband in the Battle of Panipat.
In a period war film, it’s never hard to get the physical appearance, costume right, but the challenge for every actor is to be able to play the role convincingly. The true nature of the then royals is never known. Often one has to rely on legends to get an idea about them.
What we see in the trailer is that Dutt, Kapoor, Sanon and Bahl (all Punjabis) don’t really connect with their 18 century characters. In Bajirao Mastani (2015), Sanjay Leela Bhansali made a concrete effort to get Ranveer Singh to speak Hindi in a Marathi accent. Priyanka Chopra lacked that as Kashibai. The trailer of Panipat doesn’t give much impression of Kapoor, Sanon and Bahl having the Marathi accent. All we to get hear is a ‘zau deya mala’ (let me go) from Parvati bai.
Sanjay Dutt doesn’t have the Pashto accent either. This soldier from the Abdali regiment was born in Afghanistan. He was brought specifically from Afghanistan to fight the Maratha. How he doesn’t have a Pashto accent in the trailer, is a little baffling.
Overall, the trailer has a sense of déjà vu to it. Gowariker and his writer Aditya Rawal have taken a formulaic approach to tell this epic tale. The familiar story tropes, style mean Panipat doesn’t really have a fresh appeal to it. What strikes us though is the cheeky dig taken at Bhansali and Ranveer Singh when Parvati Bai fears that like Baji Rao 1, hope Sadashiv Rao Bhau doesn’t come back from a war with a Muslim wife. You also do wonder whether this film is coming a Bajirao Mastani or a Padmaavat (2018) too late?
From a critical point of view, at best the Panipat trailer can be deemed average. However, if you love melodrama, slam bang action, then Panipat is likely to match your taste. Also, the political, social environment is very convenient for Afghan, Mughal bashing.
It’s a pivotal film in Gowariker’s career who hasn’t tasted success since Jodhaa Akbar (2008). The seasoned filmmaker will hope that a formulaic style will help him stem the rot.
Panipat is set to be released on 6 December where it will compete with Pati Patni Aur Woh.
Watch the trailer of Panipat below