The power hungry Allauddin (Ranveer Singh) plans to usurp his uncle Jalauddin (Raza Murad) to become Sultan of Delhi. Meanwhile, on a quest for diamonds, Rajput ruler Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) falls for the beautiful and strong-willed Padmaavat (Deepika Padukone), and they soon marry. Alauddin begins to covet Padmaavat, and soon travels to Mewar with his army in order to obtain her.
Padmavat is based on an epic poem of the same name by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, written in 1540. The mostly fictionalised tale uses actual historical figures while the titular character is not real. This is one of India’s most expensive movies, and stars one of its biggest stars Deepika Padukone. It’s also rife with controversy, from issues such as the depiction of real life Muslim figure Alauddin Khilji as a predatory brute, which goes in contrast with accounts of his personality. Others have made issues of the alleged sexual content, and made political gestures in order to have it banned. The shocking reaction has gone so far as to have a hanged body near one of the filming locations. Everything about the backlash compelled myself to go check it out and support it. And it’s…not really that great.
Now, that isn’t to say there isn’t something to take away from it. The story really does have an epic quality to it. From grand, sweeping cinematography capturing the legacy of the story, and some absolutely amazing production design, it really gives everything that extra layer of authenticity to its majesty. It’s got a great score too. There’s some genuine sense of despair and emotion paired to everything that’s happening-it really makes you care about the situation.
Unfortunately, the characters are not exactly up to scratch. While they’re all finely portrayed, by all means, they’re just not very interesting. None of them feel all that remotely distinctive, and the only personality our two leads seem to get are ‘Noble’ and ‘Nobler’. The villain, however, is fucking great. Discount Jason Mamoa just absolutely devours every scene he’s in, and he makes everything he does a hoot. I even get behind the kind of awkward homoerotic subplot he has with his manservant. It’s obviously an issue when your villain is so, so much more compelling than your heroes, though, and you end up rooting for them. On top of all that, the CGI is *really* bad. Like, there’s an extended deer chase that is pretty embarrassing to watch.
Overall, what lets Padmavat down was poor characterisation, and a weak and predictable script, until an ending which felt genuinely insulting in places. However, it’s got a really entertaining villain, some fun song sequences, fantastically epic cinematography and manages to be tonally consistent even with some intense goofiness. I think if you don’t take what’s going on too seriously you’ll have a blast, I just don’t know if it’s as sweeping and grand as it clearly sees itself as. This goes without saying, but it does not deserve the intense backlash it is receiving.