Director Om Raut crafts an opulent piece keeping intact the emotional quotient
A lot of period films have come out in the recent past. The comparisons have been many. Luckily for this one, there won’t be many comparisons or revisitings, for the quality of freshness that Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior carries with it. Look at it visually or by means of feelings, the film is positioned just how it should have been. Also, not for a moment does it fall short on valour or pride. That’s where the makers hit a winning stroke.
It’s late 17th century. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (Luke Kenny) has captured Kondhana Fort in Sinhagad, Pune, the pride of Marathas and now wants to make it the capital of Southern India. He sends his Rajput General Udaybhan Rathore (Saif Ali Khan) to take charge. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (Sharad Kelkar) doesn’t want to let that happen. He deploys his confidante cum friend Lieutenant Subedar Tanhaji Malusare (Ajay Devgn), a master warrior to get back what belongs to them by finishing Udaybhan off.
Om Raut and Prakash Kapadia’s story is straight out of history books. In fact from one of those chapters that nobody hitherto seemed to care about much. The story deserves to be told, for this aspect of Marathas and Mughals isn’t much in the public domain. Barring the creative liberties that are indispensable, the film informs, educates, entertains, and touches to a great deal. These features of the writing make it an interesting watch.
The 132mins film is high on information with dialogues saying a lot. The writing is such. In doing so, the scenes at times fall flat. But otherwise, if you watch the film for its intentions and what it aims at, you do like the detailing and sincerity with which things are portrayed.
The first action sequence is choreographed well, with camera tricks and editing skills on display to great lengths. Similarly, the ultimate fight is exceptionally gut wrenching. Ferocious. Savage. Gruesome. You’ll enjoy the last 20mins the most. And mind you, here it is noy just fighting. Involves strategies, little ways on how to achieve something with hints of drama as well.
Yes, there are some VFX and CGI elements that seem artificial and highly animated (although involving humans). The trailers also suggested towards it. The film has such sequences in plenty, a little down side of the film that otherwise scores too high.
Ajay Devgn, being the great actor he is, is phenomenal in performance. As a warrior, he brings out a certain believability in his character. Also, since he’s a dedicated family man, he also makes sure you feel for his duties as a husband and a father in addition to what he’s doing for his motherland. There are some action sequences where he looks a little stiff. But other than that, he’s amazing to watch on screen. Since he’s never done such a kind of a role, it’s all the way more enjoyable.
Sharad Kelkar suits in the role of Chhatrapati Shivaji and justifies his act. Fierce, decisive, compassionate. He has layers in him. Kelkar gives justice to his magnanimous stature. Full marks to casting team also for stamping him for this role. He actually looks like Chhatrapati.
Kajol in a brief role makes a strong statement. She is very good.
Luke Kenny as Aurangzeb is marvellous. All what you’ve heard of Aurangzeb as a ruler, Kenny takes it beyond that. A really awesome act. You must applaud him for choosing diverse roles in the recent past. And man, he nails everything.
Who steals the show is undoubtedly Saif Ali Khan. The surprise element in his wicked character is what you fall for. He is indeed predictably unpredictable. Chopping off an elephant’s trunk, butchering the men, and even eating a crocodile’s meat, he is crude and raw. This is a role that’s sketched with great thought. And Saif is simply marvellous.
Neha Sharma has a small role but she stays in your memory. Not only is she portrayed with immence elegance and beauty, she also performs to the tune. There isn’t much scope in her act though.
Music by Ajay-Atul and Sachet-Parampara fill the necessary gaps. But they don’t give the film the required depth. The songs are of varied moods and but fail to justify the scale of the film. Background score by Sandeep Shirodkar is supremely well. You feel the tension growing in your hearts as the film progresses. A major part of storytelling is done through intelligent score.
Keiko Nakahara’s camera gives the entire story shape and substance. The film is to be adored visually and the camera is all what does so. There are sequences where there aren’t dialogues. The thrilling camerawork aided with thumping background score does all the work. The scenes are written well here taking into account the importance of camera in such a film. The sets, mostly through VFX and CGI, enhance the subject through richness. The distinct feel that the film has is only because of production design, that sets the film apart.
The lighting and colours, in particular given to the characters are done in style and thought. Precision is many folds and you are visually immersed all throughout.
Editing by Dharmendra Sharma for the major chunk of the film is highly influential. There are however moments where the pace dips. In the first half itself. The last fight sequence has been edited sharply.
Take your kids along for such films. They must know who all have contributed in the making of this country. It’s an enriching experience. For the performances and efforts, full marks. It is near perfect. Not perfect though.