It's all about the casting
Just imagine if Danny Dengzonpa had actually accepted the role of Gabbar Singh in ‘Sholay’? The maniacal laughter and complete insane villainy brought by Amjad Khan would have been lost, had it not been the apparent failure of Danny to take up the role. The point of this talk is thanks to the apparent re-interest and revival of a film on the eternal love between Bajirao & Mastani by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Talks, gossip and an entire generation have passed through since the time Bhansali announced his mega project. The talks and reading between the lines regarding the casting in particular can rival the turbulent romance of the couple in question.
The point of this talk is thanks to the apparent re-interest and revival of a film on the eternal love between Bajirao & Mastani by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Talks, gossip and an entire generation have passed through since the time Bhansali announced his mega project.
It is a known fact that Peshwa Bajirao I or Thorale Bajirao ranked way above if you talk about the greatest generals of all times. Mastani, the daughter of Maharaja Chhatrasal of Bundelkhand, came in contact with Rau as Bajirao was known, when he managed to save Chhatrasal’s kingdom. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Mastani (Bhansali’s initial choice) would be like hiting the right spot, but the recent talks of Katrina Kaif (and a Kareena Kapoor thrown in between) makes us give Bhansali credit for thinking right. Now we come to the main point of who gets to win the race of playing Rau. While Bhansali’s earlier choice was Salman Khan (when he was with Ash), three names have been playing the pee-ka-boo game – Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn. I always found Bajirao to be someone who followed his mind successfully on the battlefield but had to wage a battle with his own family and the society especially the orthodox bramhin community to which he belonged. He failed to get Mastani the status of his wife and only after their death, did their son Shamsher Bahaddar get included in the family with respect. Honestly, only Hrithik Roshan qualifies to play someone who was quintessentially good-looking. As an actor, he has been able to show his mettle on the battlefield (Jodha Akbar)and his emotional side too (Guzaarish).
Both Deepika Padukone and Rani Mukhejee’s original choice would be great as Rau’s wife Kashibai, as they might be good in bringing out the character’ helplessness and struggle to understand her husband’s love for another woman. Three more characters need special notice. Bajirao’s mother Radhabai was a strong woman who was against Rau’s connections with a dancer of a different religion. Two names fit the bill – Jaya Bachchan and Kirron Kher who are capable actresses to bring out the woman’s strength in character and speech. To play Rau’s brother Chimmaji Appa who loved his brother but was against the relationship, it would an actor who can stand in the lead’s shadow and yet perform his best – a Manoj Bajpai can make that impact. The third focus would be Bajirao’s son Nanasaheb. But the scope for this role would be somewhat limited. Picking any decent actor would not be an issue for Bhansali who has the best of actors clambering to be cast in his films.
Facts & Fiction
If and when the picture becomes an actuality, it surely will grab eyeballs. History, despite being open to twists and turns of what could have been, needs to be tread like a bull in a China shop.
Casting is a tricky business and so is getting facts right for a historical drama. Even trickier is managing to squeeze in acceptable fiction in those facts. No doubt, there is enough meat in the Bajirao-Mastani love saga to flesh out a film, one would prefer a sensitive and touching love story cutting boundaries of religion and social opposition from Bhansali whose films, though enjoyable, are mega canvases of drama bordering on melodrama with gloss thrown in. If and when the picture becomes an actuality, it surely will grab eyeballs. History, despite being open to twists and turns of what could have been, needs to be tread like a bull in a China shop.
The Marathi audiences have still not forgotten the serial Rau based on the novel by the same name written by N S Inamdar. Most know actor Manoj Joshi as a permanent fixture in Priyadarshan’s films but at the beginning of his career, a thinner and better looking Joshi wowed all with his portrayal of Bajirao while the gorgeously talented Ashwini Bhave played Mastani. One will just have to see what is in store thanks to Bhansali.