Bajirao Mastani: The Love Story of A Warrior

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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).

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Disclaimer

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).

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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!  

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My Thoughts

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 impressed w/ the scale of the production, costuming, and even the acting (Chopra can’t ruin this).  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).

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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)!

Related Links

AFI Latin American Film Festival: How to Win Enemies (Argentina)

NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review. 

como-ganar-enemigos-posterLucas Abadi (Martin Slipak), a humble/soft-spoken/kind young lawyer w/ a love for detective novels, is pulled into his OWN real-life crime story in this “neurotic thriller” directed by Gabriel Lichtmann.  The director (in a Q&A after the screening) said that his wife assisted him in writing the final version of the film.  He was influenced by the work of Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen, who he thanks in the closing credits.

Como ganar enemigos_brosLuqui (as he is nicknamed by those close to him) has been saving to buy his own apartment.  He’s also to be the best man at his big brother’s (and fellow law partner) wedding.  Luqui is (pleasantly) surprised when a tall/blonde/pretty secretary, Barbara, flirts w/ him, then gives him her card in a local bar.  His friend urges him to go after her.  Of course, drama (and trouble) ensues!

como-ganar-enemigos_spyingThis was a FUN, crowd-pleasing movie (as noted by critics from ALL over the world).  The leading man is VERY likable, even when he gets into shades of gray behavior (to help a needy client).  WHO could be HIS enemy, we think!?  The music suits the film also very well- it’s got a BIT of tension (when needed); that’s a nod to Hitchcock, I’m sure.  Another thing I liked- the Jewish heritage of the main characters is in the background, BUT not a big point in the story.

 

AFI Latin American Film Festival: Marshland (Spain)

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NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.  DC area folks can see this film tomorrow (SAT, 9/19/15) at 9:15PM at AFI Silver.

Marshland shows us a world where everyone is out for themselves.  -Gareth Wood (Maverick Film)

We’re quite familiar w/ the set-up already: missing girls, small town w/ secrets/corruption, and two VERY different homicide detectives (from the big city) brought in to help solve the case.  However, this film is set in Spain in 1980, soon after General Franco was overthrown and the country (struggling economically) became a democracy.  The missing teens are two sisters, Carmen and Estrella, who were known to “have a reputation.”  The cops from Madrid are idealistic father-to-be, Pedro (Raul Arevalo), and jaded, hard drinking Juan (Javier Gutierrez). 

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Some frames of the film are based on photographs of Atín Aya, whose work impressed the filmmakers when they knew his work in a retrospective exhibition. -IMDB

I recommend this film for fans of Southern Gothic stories, character dramas, and those who like suspense (NOT only action).  Don’t worry, there are a FEW well done action scenes. On the way, the cops are assisted by Jesus (a local guide), who provides some of the humor in his dark tale.  Jesus gets caught hunting a deer (“Bambi,” he jokes) w/o a license.

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The cops work together, BUT also on their own following different leads.  The cinematography in this film is VERY good, as my friend commented.  The location is almost like a character in the story- we see desert, marshes, rivers, and (in the climax) a rainstorm.  If you liked HBO’s True Detective (S1), this is for YOU. 

 

Two Films from The Washington Jewish Film Festival

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Apples from The Desert

This is a coming-of-age story (one in a shory story collection- Apples from the Desert by Sayvon Leibrecht) about Rachel, a 19 y.o. ultra-Orthodox Jewish girl, who lives in Jerusalem w/ her parents.  Unlike most families in their community, she’s the only child of her parents.  Rachel yearns for a different life than the one of her housewife mother.  Rachel’s unmarried aunt lives down the street, w/ her cat, and seems content to be single/celibate.  We learn from her father that people in the community still whisper about the time Rachel drank bleach (in an attempt to kill herself). 

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At a community center, Rachel watches young secular men and women doing folk dances.  This is forbidden in her sect, of course.  She eventually gets the courage to joins the class, taking some time off from her job.  A red-headed college boy in this class tells her about his life on a kibbutz, and they develop a friendship.  Her father, worried about Rachel’s changing attitude and future, plans a different future.  Her mother sees that she’s unhappy, but fears losing her only child to the world.

The Dove Flyer (AKA Farewell to Baghdad)

The Dove Flyer

This film (based on the novel by Eli Amir) tells the story of the last years of the Jewish community in Baghdad, Iraq, before their expulsion in 1950 and settlement in Israel. The teen narrator, Kabi, watches as the members of his extended family each develop different dreams/fears: his father wants to emigrate to the promised land, his uncle Hizkel (a Zionist) is suddenly arrested; his Muslim teacher, Salim, believes in the equality of Arabs and Jews; and his other uncle just wants to raise his doves.  World War II draws closer, houses are ceased, Jews are beaten in the streets and hung in public.  Kabi is watchful of Hizkel’s spirited young wife, who turns heads w/ her blonde hair, blue eyes, and revealing dresses. 

Trailer:

 

Rock the Casbah (2013)

The acting is great- all were convincing as Moroccans with good accents and French language.  The highlight was Nadine Labaki’s performance, though a secondary role, she stole the scenes with her funny “bitchy” attitude and added many comic relief along with her Grandma.  Nadine is famous Lebanese director known for “Caramel” but she is also an acclaimed actress. The multi-talented Hiaam Abbas who appears in many foreign movies, she manages to reincarnate the role of a Moroccan mother with strict high values and morals.  -IMDB reviewer

Miriam (Nadine Labaki) and Kenza (Lubna Azabal) sit at each sside their mother Aicha (Hiam Abbas) during their father's wake.
Miriam (Nadine Labaki) and Kenza (Lubna Azabal) sit at each side their mother Aicha (Hiam Abbas) during their father’s wake.

This stereotype-defying film (a mix of comedy and drama) was part of the Arabian Sights Film Festival in DC.  It was written/directed by Laila Marrakchi, a young Moroccan woman.  I saw it this Fall (with 2 members of a movie Meetup) at the French Embassy; the main language in the film is French (with a good mix of Arabic and English). 

The ladies of the Hassan family find their thoughts drifting to the past.
The ladies of the Hassan family find their thoughts drifting to the past.

When patriarch Moulay Hassan (Omar Sharif) dies, his extended family, employees, and community gather at his palatial estate (in Marrakech by the coast) for his funeral.  We meet his strong widow, Aicha (internationally-renown Israeli Arab actress, Hiam Abbas, from The Visitor).  Moulay’s daughters are all quite unique women; there is NYC-based actress/black sheep Sofia (Morjana Alaoui) with her young son, glamorous/dramatic housewife Miriam (Nadine Labaki)- on the verge of an affair, and straight-laced/religious professor Kenza (Lubna Azabal) whose teen son wants to act on Broadway.  Sharif appears in a few scenes, adding a magical element of this fine film.       

Three sisters with very different lives come together.
Three sisters with very different lives come together.

We are put in the shoes of the outsider, Sofia, who has recently separated from her director husband (an Irish-American).  She hasn’t been home in many years; it was too painful to face the past (we learn why) and she has made a moderate success of herself in the U.S. (usually playing a terrorist).  Sofia’s adorable 6 year-old son, Noah, is excited about experiencing a new culture and playing with a large crew of cousins.  He’s hesitant to eat the new foods. 

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Noah bonds with his grandfather, Moulay (Omar Sharif), in a few scenes.

When her reddish-haired grandmother comments that Sofia shouldn’t have married a “foreigner,” Sofia good-naturedly reminds the older lady that she was once a foreigner (being a French woman).  “But I married a Muslim and an Arab,” the grandmother says with a sly smile.  As the days go by, secrets are revealed about another sister, their beloved housekeeper Yacout (who raised all the girls, as well as her own son), and Moulay.  Sofia, who yearns for openness and honesty, is frustrated by (more conventional) sisters.  However, she doesn’t have to live in the strictly stratified, dualistic society (people pray in the morning, but don’t necessarily shy away from alcohol and dancing later in the day).