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Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior Review

U/A Drama, Historical, Periodical 2 hrs 14 mins Jan 10, 2020





Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior Review & Rating

Tanhaji Review: An historical Drama With The Visual Flair of Amar Chitra Katha

The Premise

While Akshay Kumar has been setting the box office on fire and carrying the victory march of Hindi Cinema despite the slow down in the fortunes of the Khan heroes, Ajay Devgn is playing the prominent support role in increasing the hit ratio of Bollywood in no small way. After delivering back to back hits with comedy entertainers, Ajay Devgn has come up with a historical action drama as his landmark 100th film.

Tanhaji, the prestigious offering from the collaboration of Ajay Devgn and T-Series has been constantly in news ever since its inception. Helmed by the highly acclaimed Marathi director Om Raut of Lokmanya: Ek Yug Purush fame, the historical film is the first big release of the year. It is based on the life and the valour of Chatrapati Shivaji’s right-hand man, Tanaji, who played a crucial part in the resurgence of Shivaji’s empire post the Treaty of Purandar.

Tanaji The Lion Behind Sinhagad

Tanaji is a Maratha warrior who fought alongside Chhatrapati Shivaji in numerous battles and played a prominent role in Shivaji’s victories over Mughal empire. Especially, his valor in the face of the fiercest battle of Sinhagad is one for ages and deserve singing praises of him.

Tanaji Malusare, who came from a Koli family hailed from "Umrat" near Mahad, Konkan. He was busy making preparations for his son, Rayaba's wedding when he was summoned by Shivaji for a meeting. Tanaji put the wedding plans on hold and immediately left for the meeting.

Upon hearing Shivaji’s plans to recapture Kondhana (come to be known as Sinhagad) fort near Pune from the Mughals, Tanaji took charge of the campaign without second thoughts and started his preparations. He said to Shivaji who asked him not to go for the capturing as he was preparing for his son’s wedding: adhi lagin kondhanyach mag majhya raibacha (let me first get fort and then I’ll celebrate the marriage of my child).

Upon reaching the foot of the fort, Tanaji and his detachment of 3000 troops were said to have scaled the fort from the western side on a dark night with the help of a domesticated Bengal monitor lizard named Yashwanti. Ropes were tied to the Dhorpad (that species is called in Marathi) and let it climb over the first. After two failed attempts, Tanaji and his men successfully scaled the steep hill fortress.

Opening the Kalyan Darwaja, Tanaji and his men fought a fierce battle with Udaybhan Rathod - a Rajput officer who controlled the fort on behalf of the Mughals. Tanaji’s bravery and skill helped capture the strategically foremost important fort but he was mortally wounded by the cunning Udaybhan during the last stages of the battle. Tanaji’s brother gave finishing touches to the battle and claimed the fort.

Shivaji was never the same. He had lost a great friend and commander. He commented upon receiving the news of Tanaji’s death this: Gad ala, pan sinha gela (means the fort is won but the lion is lost). It is said that this fort is named Sinhagad in the honor of Tanaji.

Tanhaji the Cinematic Version

Expectedly, for dramatic purposes, certain aspects of the historical accounts are changed to suit the cinematic narration. Shivaji’s mother and Rajamata Jijabai vowed not to wear footwear till the Sinhagad fort which was relinquished by Shivaji to the Mughals after Purandar Treaty is recaptured. Hearing this, Tanhaji who is preparing for the wedding celebrations of his son goes to Shivaji Maharaj and tells him that he will recapture the fort.

When asked about his son’s wedding, Tanhaji who is silently but firmly supported by his wife Savitribai proclaims that his son’s wedding can wait till Sinhagad is captured. Meanwhile, Aurangzeb sends Udaybhan (played with verve by Saif Ali Khan) with a huge army and a massive canon called 'naagin', to ensure that Chhatrapati Shivaji cannot reclaim the fort. There are some people like Pisal who try to play spoilsport, Tanhaji reaches the fort and makes inroads.

Performances and Technical Aspects

Ajay Devgn rightly chose a great story for his 100th picture. He is terrific in the role of Tanaji Malusare. The deep gazes, stellar screen presence, the fire in his voice all enhanced the heroism of the brave warrior. Ajay Devgn played the part without going overboard and his characterisation is etched with sincerity than indulging in unnecessary patriotism. It is played out as a war between Shivaji’s Marathas and the Mughals as the war is to capture a strategically important fort.

Kajol who played Savitribai has a limited role but the chemistry between the real-life couple is such that that it played out well in creating an emotional connect with the audience. It is good to see them on the big screen after a gap. Sharad Kelkar who played the Chhatrapati is every inch the Shivaji we come to expect. He has a magnetic screen presence. The expressions are great. His voice too added to the aura of Shivaji.

It is said that great villains elevate great heroes to even greater heights. Saif Ali Khan relished the opportunity to play the role of Udaybhan. He brings out the brutality and devilish streak of the historical figure with finesse and ferocity. Despite some resemblances with Khilji in Padmaavat, in some moments of his evil madness, he actually adds a tinge of humour to the scene by breaking into a sinister laugh. This is one of Saif Ali Khan’s most memorable performances. It seems that he understood this is the greatest he gets to play in recent time.

Om Raut has a flair for visual storytelling. The visuals and the images in the film are striking like the pictures from Amar Chitra Katha. This added to the stylish feel of the film’s battle sequences which are undoubtedly catering to the action cinema lovers. Certain ninja-style jumps and movements might not be digested by those who want historical accuracy but that can be forgiven as the battle scenes are really breathtaking this was.

Some of the locations too feel like they are right out of the British high fantasy spectacles like The Lord of the Rings. Leaving this aside, the art department has done a great job. The sets and other props used to create the atmosphere are good. The narration of the film is electrifying. The screenplay ticked all the right boxes for a historical action drama. The visual grandeur adds to the impact of the proceedings.

The music is terrific. Sandeep Shirodkar‘s score is top class. The songs are too filmy but look good on the screen. The cinematography is first-rate. Keiko Nakahara’s camera well supported the cinematic language of the director. The production values are top-notch.


Tanhaji despite the liberties taken in historical accuracy, is one of the well made historical films of all time. It may not have the layered depth of films like Bajirao Mastani or Jodha Akbar but lifted the faltering genre (think: Panipat and Kalank) back into reckoning. Powerful performances, the director’s flair for visual storytelling make this film worth a watch. Highly recommended.


  • The director's knack for creating great visuals
  • Stunningly choreographed (though unrealistic) battle sequences
  • Cinematography
  • Electrifying narration
  • Ajay Devgn's best performance in recent times
  • Saif Ali Khan's Udaybhan


  • Lot many cinematic liberties
  • Lack of emotional depth

Pycker Rating: 3.25 out of 5

reviewed by: GitacharYa

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