Hyper nationalism is the flavor of the season and we have been seeing Bollywood revisiting every historical event and characters and showing their valor on screen. Padmaavat, Panipat, Kesari and a few more are there and all of them have pretty much the same thing getting repeated through different characters. I do agree with the fact that they are creating these movies based on real-life characters and such characters should be documented through a popular medium like cinema. But when the storytelling is outright flat and nuance has no business in the writing, you won’t find a cinematic intrigue in those stories. Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is just a series of predictable events with cartoonish villains and monotonous good guys.
So the movie is based on the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s general Tanhaji Malusare. When Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb decided to expand his territory to South India, he decided to make Kondhana fortress as the base of operations and sent his trusted man Udhaybhan to take the charge. Chhatrapati Shivaji, on the other hand, wanted to take control of the fortress as he wanted to stop the invasion. Shivaji Maharaj decided to send his best man Tanhaji and the movie is about the fight between these two which in history is recorded as the Battle of Sinhagad.
Whether you will like this movie or not depends on how you want to see a story that deals with a lot of people who actually lived here. The information available to us is minimal and that gives the filmmakers ample scope to include things using cinematic liberty. The issue I feel with this brand of movies shot largely in front of a blue or green screen is that they don’t want to include any nuances in storytelling. There is no genuine effort here to transport us into that era. The broad stroke narrative is the main issue that makes all these movies look very similar. The only good service this movie offers is that it sort of increases the popularity of the legend of Tanhaji; something a YouTube documentation can also achieve.
Om Raut, the director of the movie knows for a fact that his script is not really an exciting one in terms of presentation. The structure is very linear and the writing is focusing on character rhetoric about nationalism. The characters are written in an extremely one dimensional way. Raut tries to hide this cinematic inefficiency by making this movie look like a package of back to back set pieces. Even a comedy sequence will have two people doing some sort of a sword fight. That sort of loudness can make you sit through the film, but I was constantly wondering when will they show something different from the template we are all familiar with now. If the first and last movie you saw with heavy CGI is Baahubali, then you will find the visual effects in this movie extremely convincing. It never worked for me as almost 90% of the visuals looked so unreal. The background score sort of works for you to do a Tik Tok video; it never gave that adrenalin rush to me while watching the heroics of Tanhaji. Keiko Nakahara is basically trying to recreate the ambiance of a Bajirao Mastani, a terrific work of Sudeep Chatterjee, and the half baked visual effects which are there for almost every second of Tanhaji wasn’t helping her.
Ajay Devgn’s stock expressions and usual style fit the mold of an unsung hero type character and he looks fitting for the role that wasn’t really challenging him. And if your hero is not so good in dancing please don’t make him do a mass drill in the name of dance. That whole Shankaraa Re song felt like a mighty unintentional comedy (What if real Tanhaji was an excellent dancer?) Kajol makes a special appearance in her home production as the female lead and the real-life chemistry reflects on screen. I really loved how gracefully Sharad Kelkar played the role of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Luke Kenny was terrible as Aurangzeb. Neha Sharma was okay as Kamala. The star of the movie for me was Saif Ali Khan who made sure that he enjoyed playing that character to the fullest. Udhaybhan feels like a character that the makers created seeing Ranveer’s Khilji in Padmaavat. But what is appreciable about Saif’s Udhaybhan is that he makes sure that Udaybhan won’t get reduced to a mere caricature because of his performance.
A free-flowing, earnest Saif Ali Khan who wants to portray the character assigned to him with some sort of uniqueness and difference should have been a role model for the writers and the director of the movie. But sadly the intention is to create a run-of-the-mill “Desh bhakti” movie. I feel fatigued seeing so many movies with hyper-nationalism in its treatment and if you are still okay with the cinematic quality of a movie like Kesari, this muddled CGI saga might work for you.
I feel fatigued seeing so many movies with hyper-nationalism in its treatment and if you are still okay with the cinematic quality of a movie like Kesari, this muddled CGI saga might work for you.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended