'Panipat' review: Dilapidated script defeats the armies

'Panipat' review: Dilapidated script defeats the armies

Arjun Kapoor in Panipat. (DH Photo)

Movie: Panipat

Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Sanjay Dutt, Mohnish Bahl

Direction: Ashutosh Gowariker

Duration: 2 hours 53 minutes

Score: 1/5

(Disclaimer: Disclaimers are a funny thing. They give an artist/filmmaker the liberty to mould a narrative as per his or her choice. And if one disagrees, then that individual will be reminded of the prior warning. An audience watching Panipat will swiftly recollect this while watching the film.)

Remember the 1999 Bollywood film Hum Saath Saath Hain in which a big joint family live in a utopian world of everything ideal and moralistic? Well, there is a chance that Panipat will remind one of the old family films, with all the grandeur and glitz. But first, let's take a quick look at the plot if you have forgotten the history books.

The plot is set in a time when the Mughal rule is in decline after the death of Aurangzeb and the Maratha empire is expanding its dominance over the country. Sadashiv Rao Bhau (Arjun Kapoor), a valiant general of Nana Saheb Peshwa (Mohnish Bahl), is busy annexing other kingdoms. He has a sweetheart Parvati Bai (Kriti Sanon) and a happy, bustling family. In Delhi, meanwhile, a rift between the Mughal Sultanate and the Maratha Empire results in the Mughal emperor inviting Afghanistan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt) to invade Delhi. From there, various incidents unfold and lead up to the third battle of Panipat that took place in 1761. 

The most potent weakness of the film is its script, followed closely by the acting from its cast. It fails to depict the intricacies of Maratha politics and the picture of a fragmented India of that time. A perpetual glorification of the Maratha values and ethos, which are placed in stark contrast with the Muslim invaders, portrayed as gory traitors with a penchant for brutality (yes, this may ring a bell - if you find a similarity, it's merely a coincidence). 

Ashutosh Gowariker, who directed historical pieces like Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar, leaves much to be desired. In the acting department, Arjun Kapoor tries to act but his facial muscles betray him at crucial moments. Kriti Sanon gives her best as the supportive wife, who displays glimpses of feminism culminating in a sword fight. Sanjay Dutt is probably the saving grace in the film, apart from grand sets and picturisation. Despite the lack of meaty dialogues and screen time, he manages to make the character of Abdali menacing and threatening. Among the rest of the cast, Mantra as Najib-Ud-Daulah stands out as a shrewd, self-centred power-hungry person. And, Zeenat Aman's guest appearance as Sakina Begum acts as a breath of fresh air.  

The film, in the end, boils down to the binary of good and evil. It manages to show the Marathas as a warrior race imbibed with ethics and elevates them to the realm of freedom fighters. The almost three-hour-long film, however, stutters as the nationalistic jingoism fails to drag it over the finish line. The audience may perhaps leave the film with some pride in their hearts or perhaps more likely, a feeling of emptiness in their pockets. 

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