‘Padmaavat’ review: an insipid love letter to Rajputs

Exaltation of Rajputs, glorification of jauhar, demonisation of Khilji aside, ‘Padmaavat’ can’t rise above being an overlong snoozefest

A bunch of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s recent films have been marked by a blatant gaze at, and celebration, of the male body — the towel-wrapped Ranbir Kapoor in Saawariya; the glisteningly-oiled Ranveer Singh in Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ramleela or Singh’s rippling muscles as he bathes in Bajirao Mastani.

The one scene in Padmaavat that made a modicum of impression on me was of Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khilji (Singh) in the bathtub with his ghulam (slave) Malik Kafur (Jim Sarbh). Bhansali plays on their male bonding, giving it a homoerotic touch. Unfortunately, even as he tries to push the envelope of queer identity politics in Bollywood, Bhansali ends up using it as a mere tool to underline all that’s wrong with Khilji; his beastliness, dissolution and debauchery.

It’s too much to expect depth and layers in a film which deliberately lives on the extremes — an absolute demonisation of bad/dark/deviant/outsider Khilji (read Muslim) and cringing flattery of good/fair/normal/countrymen Rajputs (Hindus). What logic then for the curiously hurt Rajput pride when all the film does is singularly exalt the community one declamatory, old world dialogue after another, glossing over any remotely questionable chinks in their armour?