When a movie is either perfect or near-perfect in all aspects, a review, actually, is superfluous. Cinematically, to begin with, “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior” is a triumph of content and technology in perfect balance.
The 3-D and visual effects, and the fact that most, if not all, the locations and sets have been created by Ajay Devgn’s Visual Effects company NYVFXWaala, is a heady triumph for India.
As promised by him in his India-West interview, Devgn has excelled in a fraction of the cost of Hollywood biggies to create a digital Maratha terrain that is so superbly blended with the magnificent action (spearheaded by a German team) and the incredible camerawork by Keiko Nakahara. Full marks to this full technical team of aces led by Devgn’s firm.
Not one aspect here (production design, the DI, Sandeep Shirodkar’s background score that is indeed epic, the razor-sharp editing (Dharmendra Sharma) is in the least tacky or overdone. The songs sound okay to a little better (“Ghamand Kar:” composed by Sachet-Parampara).
Above all, all this excellence is steered by the directorial brilliance of Marathi filmmaker Om Raut, with a superbly researched and executed script he has penned alongside Prakash Kapadia. Kapadia’s lines (dialogues), especially, are again an example of crisp excellence, maintaining the dignity of the era’s royal demeanor. Sanjay Mishra’s commentary and his dubbing for a small character are immaculate in pitch and expression.
As for the research, I was intrigued at how the town of Aurangabad was mentioned here when Tanaji had stopped Aurangzeb from conquering Maharashtra, but history tells us that the Maharashtra town was renamed in 1653 after the then-Viceroy appointed the Mughal prince as the Viceroy of the Deccan.And the incidents here are dated later.
The performances are note-perfect, and while Devgn may not look a Maratha, his performance is fabulously natural and more than compensates for it. Kajol, in her brief role, is simply outstanding as Tanaji’s ardent and backbone-like wife Savitri, and every single supporting actor meets the demands of a simple but in-depth script and direction. All the players are special, but Luke Kenny as Aurangzeb, the child who plays Tanaji’s son and Shashhank Shende as Shelar Mama still have an edge.
But the two performers who totally stand out apart from the lead players are Saif Ali Khan as Udaybhan and Sharad Kelkar as Shivaji. The former’s quirky villainy just stops short of being comic or caricature-like, which could have been fatal for the film. He is brilliant in his evil avatar as well as in his earnest romantic one.
Kelkar, looking incredibly like Shivaji, towers as the Marathi monarch. He specially scores high in the emotional scenes and exudes nobility like, arguably, no Shivaji shown on screen before.
The emotions, drama and the nationalistic (not Maratha alone) flavor is not only perfect but works wonders for this fast-paced drama that impresses in the first half but stuns in the second. We love this new trend of narrating substance-based dramas as crackerjack thrillers (like “Mardaani 2”), and this time, there is even the historical angle!
The story of Tanaji is well-known: this favorite foot-soldier of Shivaji’s force left his son’s wedding to fight the battle for Kondana Fort, which would have given Aurangzeb a foothold on the entire country. We wish Shivaji’s famous line that is centuries old, “Gadd aala pann Sinva gela (The fort is ours but the lion has gone)” had been suitably translated for the non-Marathi audience.
This is probably Hindi cinema’s first true-blue historical epic in decades. And it will be doing even better than it should on its high merits because of the national mood of the moment against the forces that are trying to destroy its spirit. Remember the merely above-average “URI: The Surgical Strikes” and “The Tashkent Files” last year? This one’s set to break bigger barriers.
Produced by: Ajay Devgn, Bhushan Kumar & Krishan Kumar
Directed by: Om Raut
Written by: Om Raut & Prakash Kapadia
Music: Ajay-Atul, Sachet-Parampara & Mehul Vyas
Starring:Ajay Devgn, Kajol, Saif Ali Khan, Sharad Kelkar, Luke Kenny, Padmavati Rao, Neha Sharma, Shashank Shende, Vipul Kumar Gupta,
Deodatta Gajanan Nage, Ajinkya Deo, Kailash Waghmare, Jagannath Shashikant Nivangune, Trisha Patil & others