Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Sanjay Dutt, Mohnish Bahl
Director: Ashutosh Gowarikar
Sitting down to watch an Ashutosh Gowarikar period drama, you know what to expect -- lavishly mounted sets, spectacular locations, larger-than-life characters and an extraordinary line-up of supporting cast. Panipat has all this in abundance. Starring Arjun Kapoor and Kriti Sanon in lead roles with Sanjay Dutt as the antagonist, the film is based on the Third Battle of Panipat that was fought in 1761.
Watch the trailer of Panipat here:
As Maratha forces take on the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt), they are led by the commander-in-chief Sadashivrao Bhau (Arjun Kapoor), along with the Peshwa heir and his nephew Vishwasrao (Abhishek Nigam), his cousin Shamsher Bahadur (Sahil Salathia) and a Muslim aide Ibrahim Khan Gardi (Nawab Shah). Abdali, meanwhile, is being supported by Najib ud-Daula (Mantra). To ensure there is no historical inaccuracy, Gowarikar keeps as close to the facts as possible, taking only a few cinematic liberties.
There are a few surprises in the outcome of the battle itself, most of us conversant with details of what happened via our history books. However, Gowariker manages to make the face-off larger-than-life. The climactic war sequence is elaborate, gripping and keeps you on the edge. As thousands of warriors take the final stand with majestic animals in tow, the director ensures that you are invested in the outcome.
Panipat balances the war and political manipulations with beautifully choreographed and well-synchronized dance sequences. Even if song-and-dance appears to be a misfit in the situation, you love watching them for the grandeur. Adding to the mood are the songs by Ajay and Atul.
Panipat is based on the Third Battle of Panipat.
CK Muraleedharan’s cinematography deserves applause from start to end. The aerial shots during the dance sequences and the final war scene leave you speechless. While visual effects are on point, the editing is a bit loose and falters at some places.
Arjun Kapoor delivers a sincere performance. He gets under the skin of the character so seamlessly that it’s tough to distinguish the actor from the Maratha warrior he is shown playing. The war scenes are some of his best shots. The conviction — right from his look, attire to dialect and sword fighting sequences — is there and Arjun’s hard work shows.
Kriti, on the other hand, looks a tad too over-the-top. Being a Delhi girl, the Marathi accent and dialect doesn’t suit her and sounds fake and forced. The only good part here is that her character is well-etched and gels well with the story.
Sanjay Dutt as the tyrannical Afghan invader makes his presence felt. Menacing and terrifying, he gets into the mood of things. He looks old with evidently highlighted wrinkles, but he flaunts them with elan. Dutt looks strikingly similar to Ranveer Singh’s Khilji from Padmaavat in his introductory scene as he smashes his betrayer’s face with his crown and then nonchalantly wears it on his head.
Among the supporting cast, Mantra shines as the baddie. His Najib ud-Daula is conniving and deceitful and the actor looks good while doing that. Mohnish Bahl as Nanasaheb Peshwa is powerful with that husky voice but gets limited screen time. Padmini Kolhapure’s cameo as Peshwa’s wife is refreshing and she impresses playing that slightly layered character. Zeenat Aman’s special appearance disappoints; it appears as if she is reading her dialogues from a teleprompter and her drowsy eyes and wooden expression only make it worse.
Amid all this, the biggest problem with the film is its length. While Gowarikar may feel he needs 173 minutes to justify his magnum opus war drama, the film lacks pace, especially the first half that’s a yawn-fest with the story taking its sweet time to build up. The love angle between Sadashivrao Bhau and Parvati Bai (Kriti Sanon) was a bit too much to focus on especially in a film that is primarily showcasing one of the most important battles fought in Indian history. However, as their love story unfolds, their chemistry is quite convincing.
Overall, Panipat is an honest attempt at recreating the war that we only read in history books until now. It’s a tribute to the Maratha community in its truest form and even it was shorter by an hour, it could have had the same impact.
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