After the royal debacle of ‘Mohenjo Daro’, most of the cinema lovers raised their eyebrows when popular filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker announced his decision to depict the iconic Third Battle of Panipat on the silver screen. While Panipat is not as cringeworthy as Mohenjo Daro to be fair, it is not as memorable as ‘Lagaan’ or ‘Swades’ either. It is a promising movie that fell prey to the complicated approach of the director.
Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, Panipat stars Arjun Kapoor, Kriti Sanon and Sanjay Dutt in principal roles, supported by established actors like Mohnish Bahl, Padmini Kolhapure, Milind Gunaji, Mantra, Kunal Kapoor, Ravindra Mahajani, Gashmeer Mahajani etc.
The movie is based on the iconic Third Battle of Panipat, which is also known as one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in human history. Fought between the forces of Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali and the Maratha forces, led by Sadashivrao Bhau, the battle ended in a defeat for the Maratha forces, but a Pyrrhic victory for Ahmad Shah Abdali, who never came back to India again.
On a surface level, it looks as if Ashutosh Gowariker was back in action. From portraying the circumstances of that era to costumes, lifestyle as well as the ideology of the two factions, Ashutosh Gowariker has done a decent job. However, if we go for a detailed description of Panipat, it looks like the film fell prey to its own complications. While the length of the film already brought disappointment to many fans, the absurd plot premise and some ridiculous twists would compel any moviegoer to ask once –
Unfortunately, like most of the Bollywood period dramas, the movie focuses more on the romance between Sadashivrao Bhau and his wife Parvati Bai. Also, it seems that Ashutosh Gowariker was himself not clear on what he actually wanted to portray. On one side he portrayed the Afghans and Rohillas as brutal and scheming and the Marathas as peace-loving and just, and at the same moment, he also portrayed the Marathas as rash and extremely immature. Utterly confused I tell you. At any point when the film turned interesting, the immature direction of Ashutosh would immediately ensure that your mood is spoiled for the worse.
Apart from that, anyone who is even remotely acquainted with history shall cringe at the way Ashutosh Gowariker has meddled with the historical facts. To mention an example, Parvati Bai is shown as a mere commoner, while in reality, she was the adopted daughter of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, who had considerable influence in the day to day affairs of the Maratha Empire. Some facts have been distorted in such a way that even ‘Bajirao Mastani’ by Sanjay Leela Bhansali would look far more accurate to you. But that’s for some other time.
In terms of acting, Sanjay Dutt takes home a lion’s share of the accolades. As the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali, Sanjay Dutt has portrayed him effectively to the core. If someone has surprised us with their acting chops, it is Mantra and Kriti Sanon. As the wily and scheming Rohilla chieftain Najib ud Daulah, Mantra has nailed it in one of his first major roles in a Bollywood film. Even though Parvati Bai’s role was written with a limited approach, Kriti Sanon surprised one and all with her brilliant acting, and she turned out to be the lone actor actually attempting to salvage the sinking ship that was Panipat. The rest were okay according to the roles, with the exception of Zeenat Aman, whose cameo was completely wasted.
The fears about Arjun Kapoor’s limitations turned out to be true. The risk of taking him as the lead actor did not pay off at all as Arjun failed to imbibe a single quality of the diverse personality that Sadashivrao Bhau was in real life. Wherever he needed to make his mark, Arjun appeared completely exhausted and defeated, as if he needed a quick nap right away. Overall, Panipat is an average movie, which is good in bits and pieces, but fells prey to the immaturity and the complex approach of its own director. We’d rate this movie 2.5 out of 5 stars.