Background & Trivia
The film was first announced in 2003. Sanjay Leela Bhansali initially wanted to cast Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, but plans fell through when the real life couple had a messy, highly publicized breakup. Bhansali then kept Khan on and approached Kareena Kapoor to play Mastani and Rani Mukerji to play Kashibai, but shelved his plans and moved on to other projects. Over the following decade, several major actors were rumored to be linked to the project (Shahrukh Khan, Ajay Devgan, Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif).
Coming out on the same day as Dilwale (2015), this marks the third time that a Sanjay Leela Bhansali directed film and Shahrukh Khan starring vehicle were released on the same day after their common Devdas (2002) in July 2002, and later the competing Saawariya (2007) and Om Shanti Om (2007), both released on Diwali 2007.
Production designers created more than 21 sets, which required extensive research.
Priyanka Chopra (star of the ABC drama Quantico) followed a 15 day coaching course to learn the Marathi language as spoken during the time of Peshwas.
The narrator of this film (Irrfan Khan) may sound familiar to some viewers; he has appeared in many American/English language films (including Life of Pi; The Namesake; New York, I Love You).
This film begins and ends with a lengthy disclaimer:
The Filmmaker fully acknowledges and respects other perspectives and viewpoints with regard to the subject of the film. The Filmmaker does not intend in any manner to belittle, disrespect, impair or disparage the beliefs, feelings, sentiments and susceptibilities of any person(s), community(ies), society(ies) and their culture(s), custom(s), practice(s) and tradition(s).
SPOILERS: Don’t read from this point if you don’t want to know details from this film.
Set-Up of the Film
Love is its own religion.
In early 18th century India, a proud/respected/ young warrior Bajirao (Ranveer Singh) is chosen as the new Peshwa (the equivalent of a modern day prime minister) by a Maratha king.
While traveling, an emissary (dressed as a soldier) infiltrates Bajirao’s tent and demands his help in fighting invaders to her land. She is a bold/gorgeous/warrior princess called Mastani (Deepika Padukone). The audience soon learns that she is the daughter of a (Hindu) Rajput King and his (Muslim) consort. Since her parents are of different faiths, their union is illegitimate, as is Mastani herself. Also, she is considered a Muslim, like her mother. (Here lies the crux of the controversy of this film- Muslims and Hindus in love relationships.)
Impressed by her skills as a warrior, Bajirao assists her with his army and defeats the invaders to her land. Mastani and Bajirao develop feelings for each other and he presents her his dagger, which is always at his waist. This is also a symbol of marriage among her people, the Rajputs. Of course, Bajirao doesn’t know this tradition!
After this battle, Bajirao departs for his opulent estate in Pune, where his beautiful/childlike/adoring wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra) awaits him. When they joke about her husband being away so much, she proudly declares to her servants that “he has never looked at another woman.” No wilting wallflower, Mastani (with only one complaining young handmaiden), decides to pursue Bajirao- a love triangle is formed!
I went to see this film in my neighborhood Regal theater (rare to see Bollywood films there) w/ one of my gal pals (also Bangladeshi-American and near my age) and my mom (who rarely watches these types of films; she prefers Indian indies). The theater was nearly packed- a BIG surprise to us! Being desis, we knew it was going to be long (duh!) and have dance/singing (a staple), BUT were still VERY impressed w/ the scale of the production, costuming, and even the acting (esp. Chopra in my case). I’d never seen Singh or Padukone before, but they did a good job w/ the material. Padukone is very graceful and strong in her role, but also has a VERY innocent/other-wordly aura about her (maybe it’s her FAB skin?); on the other hand, Chopra is more accessible.
One of my other gal pals (South Indian heritage) LOVED the film and all the 3 leads; she saw it the week after it debuted on DEC 18th. This is one of those epic films that knows it’s an epic, so the music can be bombastic and lines are proclaimed (not merely spoken in a natural manner). However, I think that it’s a LOT better than Bollywood films I’ve seen in the past (several years ago, so may NOT be the best judge). I liked the dances, BUT my friend wasn’t impressed w/ the songs (she watches Bollywood films once in a while). I suggest you check it out IF you have an interest in Bollywood (BUT take it for what it IS, don’t put TOO much interpretation into this genre)!