‘Bajirao Mastani’ – 5 Years On.

‘Bajirao Mastani’ – 5 Years On.

[SPOILER ALERT: Please do NOT read this if you haven’t watched the film yet/wish to watch it! This article is an in-depth analysis of the entire film.]

I remember watching SLB’s ‘Bajirao Mastani’ for the first time on a plane to Dubai, and the cinematography captivated me at first sight. So much so, in fact, that I ended up watching it twice again on the flight home six days later! It’s been five years since the launch of one of Bhansali’s greatest and most critically acclaimed films and I still sob every time I finish the film, so I’m going to explain exactly why it resonates so deeply within me and how it has impacted me to this day.

Bhansali not only directed and produced the film but he was also responsible for the musical direction and choreography. For those of you who haven’t watched a Bollywood film before, they’re almost always musicals with three to five-minute dance sequences at pivotal moments during the film. The choreography within the film, emotional and intensely expressive, is some of the best I’ve ever witnessed, complimented by the incredible set design and intricately crafted costumes which are now widely recognized and associated with the film by viewers worldwide.

‘Bajirao Mastani’ details the historical love story between the Hindu Peshwa (Prime Minister and general of the Maratha Empire) Bajirao Ballad and the half-Hindu, half-Muslim soldier Mastani Begum, daughter of Maharaja Chhatrasal in Bundelkhand. Bajirao helped save Mastani’s homeland from annihilation and ended up falling in love with her in the process. Unbeknownst to her, Bajirao is already married to Kashibai, his first (and until Mastani’s arrival, only) wife. The story follows Mastani’s relentless, vicious struggles against marrying into a Hindu political regime whilst being only half-Muslim. She fights constant battles against her mother and brother-in-law, Kashibai, priests and many others who refuse to accept a Muslim woman into the Peshwa clan.

There is one particular element of this film that strikes me as controversial, first and foremost. This is not the first Bollywood film to cast a Muslim character in a negative light – essentially, the film depicts a Muslim being the fundamental root of the downfall of a political empire in Pune, as well as essentially being the cause of the Peshwa’s death. Padmavati, another hugely controversial film by Bhansali which drew intense simultaneous criticism and praise worldwide similarly portrays the exact same message. As much as I do love this film, that element of a Muslim being an antagonist never quite sits well with me. However, to counter this, Mastani herself is portrayed in the most desirable light – she radiates intelligence and unmatched beauty, strength in her valour as a soldier whilst maintaining an air of innocence and untouched purity. Her beauty intimidates those wishing to oppress her, her wit threatening to undermine those who seek to destroy her.

The reason I fell in love with this film is because of the poetic nature of its dialogue, which makes perfect sense considering the film is based on a fictionalised love story between the two historical figures. What still strikes me as incredibly profound to this day is how Bhansali paints the unconditional love story between Bajirao and Mastani. Despite being branded a mistress by his conservative family, his love for Mastani never once withered; if anything, it only strengthened. He fell in love with her knowing her religious background and took the risk anyway, following his heart instead of his pride. He devoted his short life to protecting her dignity and happiness, as well as ensuring their son would be raised as an equal to his other child.

The most gut-wrenching part of the film for me was the ending. The film ends with both Bajirao and Mastani dying in the separate locations at the exact same moment in time – this is foreboded from the second the natural landscaping changes to unprecedented storms and monsoon-like weather conditions. Earlier on the film, as Bajirao bids farewell to Mastani before departing for war, he speaks poetically of the day their two souls will reunite amidst the chaos of a chaotic intertwinement of natural elements. As this comes to fruition towards the end of the film in both characters’ locations, they seem to acknowledge the poetic speech Bajirao delivered and they become simultaneously aware they will be reunited almost imminently. The characters shortly after die peacefully with grace, without struggle or pain. They effectively greet death with open arms.

The dialogue between Bajirao and Mastani is predominately poetic and dense with metaphors of their undying affection for each other. Their love clearly transcends anything we could possibly know on this Earth. The film ends with a beautiful poetic analogy which made such perfect sense and was a heartbreaking but stunning way to close their story. The film itself casts itself in the shadow of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in that two lovers who are forbidden from being with each other fight against all odds to remain alongside one another. Yet, the cultural references distinguish a point towards the fictional tale and distinctly underline its powerful message – that love defies mortal constraints, and that when soulmates come together they become intertwined as one being.

The film is one of the greatest sources of inspiration for my writing today. The love the two protagonists had for each other is something I imagine not many will experience in this lifetime but it is beautifully poetic and artistic in its depiction. The poetic nature of the film doesn’t stop at the dialogue, however. Towards the end of the film, a song is played during a sequence called ‘Aayat’, which translates as ‘holy verse from the Qur’an’. There are a few quotes and lines within the song that are also spoken in the dialogue between the two lovers earlier in the film, adding to the remarkable nature of Bhansali’s clever cinematography. The song is recited in Urdu which leads me to believe that it’s a poignant tribute to Mastani, particularly Mastani’s devotion to her husband right up until their dying breaths.

This film is definitely one of Bhansali’s greatest achievements, I believe. It’s only when you watch the film a few times that you really appreciate the subliminal messaging which ultimately makes this depiction a true work of art. Below are a few stills and quotes from key powerful moments within the film!

Dagger
Mastani accepts Bajirao’s dagger as a gesture of their love after he saves her homeland [Source: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/700239442045491845/?nic_v1=1akYkud%2BPeRz4nd968lvFt2vQQmIdn3bVsGNU0uDZjjuE30E5AkGcw4Nz90z0emR4f%5D 

Kashi
Kashi proudly celebrates her husband’s arrival from battle towards the beginning of the film [Source: http://bollybrit.com/fashion-features/bajirao-mastani-fashion-anju-modi-raises-the-bar%5D 
Bajirao-Mastani-–-Deewani-Mastani-featured-1366x768
One of the infamous dance sequences led by the character of Mastani Begum [Source: https://www.vogue.in/wedding-wardrobe/collection/deepika-padukone-bajirao-mastani-anarkali-lehenga-sharara-deewani-mastani-song-bridal-look-nikaah/%5D 
B M and K
Bajirao and Mastani being welcomed into their new home by Kashibai [Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3735246/mediaviewer/rm4234756608%5D 
Bajirao and Mastani End Scene

Bajirao bids farewell to Mastani before departing for war for the last time. [Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3735246/mediaviewer/rm4202094848%5D

Bajirao on reuniting with Mastani,

“We shall meet when the setting sun
and rising moon appear together in the sky.
The sky will change colour,
and all will be bathed in an orange glow.
Winds of desire will blow
And thundering clouds will fill the skies.
Dry leaves will murmur
and untimely rains will wash the earth.
All that will remain will be
the fire of love in our hearts.
On that day
we will become one
for eternity.”

Narrated in the final scene of the film,

“On a day when fate and time stood witness
two star crossed lovers breathed their last.
They say witnessing a falling star
fulfils any wish,
but these two stars fell to earth
wishing only to belong to each other.”

Quote from the song, ‘Aayat’,

“I’ve memorized you like a holy verse from the Quran … now you will be mentioned like a prayer.”

Bajirao and Mastani’s final words to each other,

“Our hearts beat together … and they stop together as well.”

A x 

[Featured Image: https://www.bebeautiful.in/fashion/how-tos/bridal-look-inspiration-from-bajirao-mastani%5D

W.P Young’s “The Shack”

W.P Young’s “The Shack”

Recently, I decided to make the monumental decision of temporarily stepping away from crime thrillers and venture towards other genres. More specifically, I was attracted to the reviews of Young’s Shack, of which are considerably mixed.

Without giving too much away, the novel surrounds a man whose life is turned upside down when he experiences a family tragedy. The tragedy is of such a horrifying extent, he begins to question how God can live in a world where evil like this exists. His story and his journey address fundamental issues raised by agnostics and atheists on a daily basis, amidst wars in poverty-stricken countries and humanitarian crisis. Justifiably so, the protagonist loses faith in God, and whilst at this lowest point, he encounters an experience which somehow miraculously changes every single perception he had, of religion and of mankind.

My initial thoughts were of a sceptical nature when first reading this novel; firstly, I’m not a Christian and thus, could not take this at face value. However, there were considerable lessons to be learnt by reading this story; even if one isn’t religious, or practising, it certainly speaks to you on a spiritual level. It’s almost as if the author can sense the scepticism the reader feels prior to opening the book, and works with it to create a sensational masterpiece.

Like many other novels with underlying morals that shape the story, it left me questioning a few of my own spiritual beliefs. Religiously speaking, I know where and with Whom my faith lies, but I understand those who discredit any existence of a deity when wars, murder, rape and other evils are present in society everyday. This book addresses this internal strife. It speaks to the believer and the non-believer, without simultaneously shoving the reader’s own religious/spiritual stance down the reader’s throat.

I cannot recommend this book enough; it certainly makes you reevaluate how you look at the world, and the importance of being the best person you can possibly be in this lifetime.

A x

Featured Image: http://wmpaulyoung.com

“Daemon”, by Daniel Suarez

Is mankind slowly transitioning into an element of technology? Or is technology taking the place of humankind?

These were the thoughts that plagued me after reading Daniel Suarez’s Daemon (2006). It begins as less of a tech novel and more of a crime-thriller though as it progressed, the reader is exposed to the increasingly concerning power technology can hold, beyond death. In many ways, technology is presented in this novel as a form of eternal life for mankind; we are introduced to the idea that a system can make one immortal, with it’s creator working beyond the grave.

The ‘daemon’ is a system created by a dying Sobol; the interesting conflict presented in this text is the dichotomy between the power of the system in relation to the intelligence of it’s creator. The system did not reflect the genius mind of Sobol as it relied primarily on his knowledge in order to succeed. For example, the ‘daemon’ could not evolve, making it less reliable. As readers, we can interpret Sobol’s creation as an attempt at reincarnation although the motives for this are somewhat unclear; was this a radical attempt to transform society and enforce a digital one?

Nevertheless, the idea of Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life is not entirely new to us, as mentioned in my previous post; Suarez hasn’t managed to shock his readers by creating a new concept of the devolution of mankind and the evolution of machines and technology systems. Ultimately, the age of technology is undermining human intelligence and work forces but not to the extent underlined in the book, with human life at risk. Therefore, the novel isn’t futuristic in the sense that it is foreboding the rise of technology as the superior species. It does, however, warn the reader of the dangerous effects of exploiting this rise in technological power; the genius of Sobol is shadowed in the daemon through it’s ability to evade being caught and sent to jail. The novel serves as a chilling reminder of the power, and danger, of technology which originates from the creator and the creator’s intentions.

“Tell the Wolves I’m Home”, Carol Rifka Brunt

Having just finished this novel, I’m full of questions and admiration for Brunt. Written in 2012, set in the 1980’s, it certainly addresses the taboos of society during this era surrounding AIDS, through the protagonist’s journey of realisation and love. June Elbus: the epitome of innocence interlinked with a newfound sense of rebellion. Her journey of learning to accept a wrong love is both poignantly naive and heartbreaking as she understands the ramifications of her unrealistic desires. What’s  additionally poignant is the fact that Brunt outlines the direction of the novel from the first page: we understand that we have to accept a loss before we turn to the second page.

I think the most interesting concept in this novel is we ultimately know what will happen in the end. There’s a foreboding death hinted throughout the second half of the novel, very subtly understated yet very prominent in the actions and decisions of the characters. In many ways, Toby’s death is just as painful as the loss of June’s innocence. We as readers grow to accept Toby for the actions he is accused of and what he has done, and our love for Toby is reflected through the endearing, innocent June and her love for Toby. We learn to admire Toby for who he is and everything he stands for, not for the supposed crime he has committed and what has happened to Finn.

Toby is everything Finn is not and that’s quite possibly what makes him so charming; he’s not an artist, he doesn’t have family in the country and he’s estranged from everyone and everything he knew. He’s learning to make his own way in this prejudiced world, alone and at a distinct disadvantage fundamentally due to his sexuality alienating him. His death hits the reader and June very deeply, almost unfairly snatched from us both as his true identity begins to unravel before us.

The topic of AIDS is so beautifully expressed in this text; Brunt confronts the issue with compassion and fragility, similar to the characteristics possessed by it’s victim, Finn. Times have changed with regards to AIDS and it’s treatments/cures which the reader will recognise whilst following the protagonists’ journeys, but we’re nevertheless transported into a time where AIDS was believed to be as  lethal as the plague and anyone in a close radius of a patient will consider themselves at risk of “catching” it.

I find the character of Greta most compelling, however. She is immediately and instantly dislikable with her cruel and cutting attitude towards her little sister; she’s calculating and malicious once she realises what her younger sibling is doing. Yet, we understand she’s coming of age and is fighting her own battles which torment her, too, thus making her a sympathetic figure by the end of the novel: we admire her and respect her, finally. Her fear of losing her younger sibling to another love she refused to offer results in her acting with cutting maliciousness through cold remarks and sarcastic rhetorical questions. Greta is quite possibly the smartest character in the novel and although she makes mistakes, they’re understandable and forgivable. Her brief snapshots of kindness and mature, older-sibling care are greatly appreciated by us, not so much by June as we understand before she does what exactly she’s going through; quite possibly some of the readers have experienced her internal conflict, too, and the evaporation of childhood towards the rush of entering adulthood.

We laugh with Finn and June as we follow their footsteps, internally grimacing and sympathising with June as she naively mistakes familiar compassion for romantic love and we cry with June as we lose someone we barely know, yet adore nevertheless. The embedded innocence in all of the characters is something conveyed so exceptionally by Brunt, connecting the reader to the character. The loss of two of the most beautiful souls is something the reader struggles to come to terms with, just as June and Greta do, yet we are comforted with the knowledge that they loved and were loved in return, in equal measure. And that’s fundamentally important for every living soul: to love and be loved.

A x