Panipat Review & Rating
Panipat Review: A Passably Well-Made Epic War Drama
The name rings our ears with the drums of war. Trumpets. Fighters. For good. And bad. Only perspectives change.
It all depends on how you're told the story. And who told you the story. Panipat seems to have destined in history books for being the witness of huge wars not once but three times. Leaving aside the discussion of whether wars are truly heroic or good for humanity (after all, we all are mostly here not for a history primer but to watch neatly choreographed battle sequences), just check if this Ashutosh Gowarikar directorial has delivered on the promise.
Panipat War III
Panipat depicts the moments before and at the time of the 3rd War of Panipat which we have all studied in our school books. It is fought between the rising Maratha Empire and the invading Afghans who were supported by internal forces in India. This particular telling of the war is told from the point of view of Sadashivrao Bhau. The year was 1761 and the war had a drastic effect on the texture of Hindu rule in India. It is the beginning of the end of the great and valiant Maratha empire.
Ahmad Shah Abdali, you might have heard about him in your school days. Or might have come across the name in the modern Indian history books. He was supported by three Indian allies—the Rohillas Najib-ud-Daulah, Afghans of the Doab region in present-day Punjab, and Shuja-ud-Daula-the Nawab of Awadh.
The Maratha army was led by Sadashivrao Bhau, our protagonist played by Arjun Kapoor. While the leading Maratha army was stationed in Deccan with the Peshwa, the second in the hierarchy of the Maratha empire - the first is the Chatrapati. This battle is one of the final classic formation battles where two armies fight in a rather face/off like situation. It is considered one of the largest and most eventful battles in the 18th century.
The battle lasted for several days and involved over 125,000 troops. Between 60,000–70,000 were killed in it. About 40,000 Maratha prisoners were slaughtered in cold blood the day after the battle. Nearly 1 lakh Marathas perished in the bloody battle. It is about this battle that Ashutosh Gowarikar has made this film. As usual and for dramatic purposes, he had added a few other plot lines and a romantic thread between Bhau and his wife Parvati Bai.
How the film unraveled?
The movie starts in a customary fashion - the protagonist is introduced as a powerful warrior and a commander of the highest order and class among the Marathas. The action sequence is well choreographed and Arjun Kapoor looked the part as long as he doesn't have to utter a dialogue except for battle exclamations.
After that, as per the guidelines given by the Peshwa, he heads North but betrayals and a sudden attack of the Afghans led to an expected by unprepared war. In between, he had to move his troops in an epic voyage. The tragedy is well captured on the screen.
Writing and direction
The war strategies, politics, backstabbing, smaller victories, bigger loses, and everything is captured in vivid detail. Why not? It's a sprawling three-hour-long epic saga. After a surprise but tough failure like Mohanjo Daro, Ashutosh Gowariker visited the history books once again and came up with a competently narrated war drama. While the film lacks the grandeur of Bhansali's films and the rich production design of Rajamouli, the drama is done well by Gowarikar better than both of his peers.
The only problem is showing an ethnic group as entirely negative but the guys from the same ethnic group but fighting for Marathas is shown as good. Marathas formed a huge empire but it never represented Hindustan per se. It's mostly seen as a superpower within certain limits. The narration though gives goosebumps at the right moments lacked the urgency required of the genre.
Kriti Sanon has probably played her most ambitious character yet and came out of it with flying colors. Sanjay Dutt is evil personified as Ahmed Shah Abdali. Monish Bahl as nana Sahab Peshwa is neat. Padmini Kolhapure and Zeenat Aman sparkled in notable roles. Arjun Kapoor despite his best efforts failed to carry the aura of a historical hero like Ranveer Singh did in Bajirao Mastani. But when it comes to battle sequences, he shined the brightest. Kunal Kapoor as Shuja-ud-Daula did a fine job. The rest of the cast did a good job.
Music composed by Ajay-Atul is excellent and the score complemented the narration. The cinematography by C. K. Muraleedharan could have been better. The artwork by National Award winner Nitin Chandrakant Desai is superb. Especially the Shaniwarwada set work. Neeta lulla's costume design is superb. The editing is decent. The production values are rich. But the visual effects are not that good.
Panipat is a well-made film with a few touches of Nationalistic pride. While the drama and action are good in their own right, there is a lack of a holistic mix of these elements. Long runtime and too many characters may cause confusion among the audience. Otherwise, Ashtosh Gowarikar's Panipat is an easy one-time watch.
- A well-made film
- The historical subject is worth telling
- Battle sequence are choreographed well
- Lack of objectiveness in narration
- Lengthy runtime
- Cinematography could have been far better
Pycker Rating: 2.5 out of 5
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