In 18th century India, Shadashivrao Bhau, commander-in-chief of the Maratha army, leads his force in the Third Battle of Panipat against Ahmad Shah Abdali, the king of Afghanistan.
Ashutosh Gowariker’s magnum opus ‘Panipat’ is based on historical facts, taking some creative liberties along the way. Shadashivrao Bhau (Arjun Kapoor), is an able commander in his cousin Nanasaheb Peshwa’s (Mohnish Bahl) army. After a victorious battle against the Nizam of Udgir, Shadashivrao Bhau is chosen by the Maratha Peshwa to lead their army to Delhi. Ahmad Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt), the king of Afghanistan, has set his inroads into India after forming an alliance with Najib-Ud-Daula (Mantra) with the intention to defeat the Marathas and curb their expanding power.
Joining Shadashivrao Bhau and his army on this arduous thousand kilometer journey from Pune to Delhi are also his wife, Parvati Bai (Kriti Sanon), his nephew and the Peshwa heir - Vishwasrao (Abhishek Nigam), his cousin, Shamsher Bahadur (Sahil Salathia) and his trusted aide, Ibrahim Khan Gardi (Nawab Khan). As they traverse through the expanse, they form alliances with other kings to form a robust army to counter Ahmad Shah Abdali's one lakh soldiers. And almost mid-way they come face to face with Ahmad Shah Abdali’s army, with only the raging waters of the Yamuna separating the armies.
‘Panipat’ packs in a layered narrative that delves into the complex politics of the period, the intricate workings of war strategies versus might, negotiation dynamics and the importance of forming alliances. And it also weaves in the love story between Shadashivrao Bhau and Parvati Bai. In fact, the chemistry between Kriti Sanon and Arjun Kapoor as their love story develops, is one of the high points of the film. But with a run-time of close to three hours and the many characters and plot points the film touches upon it becomes a lengthy and at times, tedious watch.
Kriti Sanon pulls in a solid, effortless performance with a well-etched out character graph. Arjun Kapoor is sincere and shines in the final war sequence and the romantic scenes. Sanjay Dutt channelizes a menacing act effectively.
The film has been mounted on a lavish scale and it comes through in almost every scene. The costume design (Neeta Lulla) and the sets and production design (Nitin Chandrakant Desai) are spectacular and stand out. The songs (Ajay –Atul) add to the mood and are well choreographed. However, it is in the final battle set in 1761, where the mammoth effort that has gone into making the film comes to the fore, as we witness a compelling war sequence. One that almost induces goosebumps. The cinematography (C.K. Muraleedharan), sound design (Stephen Gomes) and the visual effects also blend in seamlessly to give an authentic setting to this period film. The ensemble cast of Mohnish Bahl, Padmini Kohlapure, Zeenat Aman (special appearance) add to the milieu.
‘Panipat’ delves into a significant chapter in history and is a war drama that lauds the unshakeable bravery, courage and the strong principles of the Marathas.
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