Wednesday 7 February 2018

I went to see Padmaavat at Sanjay Leela Bhansali's bungalow. This is what all Hindus should know

His film is actually an ode to the real queen in his life... Unlike our dusty modern matchbox rooms, these cavernous rooms are spotless, ancient and have shady depth, writes Palash Krishna Mehrotra in Daily O. Read on: 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s bungalow is one of the better-known landmarks in Versova. Every time I’m on my way to someone’s house in the suburb, the auto-rickshaw driver, who is a fellow "bhaiya", will turn to me and say: "Now you can phone your friend and tell him we’ve reached Bhansali’s bungalow. Where do we go from here?"

And so, many a time, I’ve found myself parked outside Bhansali’s corner bungalow, with some time to kill. One cannot see anything inside. One can only imagine. In Padmaavat, as I would soon discover, Bhansali takes us inside his bungalow. (Man, what a bungalow. Unlike our dusty modern matchbox rooms, these cavernous rooms are spotless, ancient and have shady depth.)

Once I’ve reached the multiplex, I call my friend and say: "Hey, I’ve reached Bhansali’s bungalow. Where do I go from here?"

He says: "Get past the guards and take the elevator to the top floor." There is much checking before one enters the mall. Normally, one doesn’t have to stand on a low plastic stool when getting oneself patted down at the entrance. A queue extends in front of me.

Old men and women topple off the stool and have to be helped back on their feet by the apologetic security guard. The toddlers, on the other hand, think this is a game and begin tap-dancing on the stool. The hapless security guards have a tough time convincing the kids to step off. "This is not a game, beta. This is dead serious. The stool forms an extra layer of added security to prevent the Karni Sena from creating mayhem inside."

Once we enter Bhansali’s inner lair - Auditorium 2 - we are handed black goggles. Since this is yet another garish Bhansali film, I’m already carrying a pair, but I’m told that they won’t work. I have to wear the special goggles because the house is built in 3D.

A disclaimer precedes the film: "This is a work of the imagination and has nothing to do with facts." As if on cue, a girl in the audience says out loud, to one of her three girlfriends: "Pata hai aisi movie banni chaiye taaki logo ko pata chale itihaas mein kya hua, kaise hua, kyun hua."

The film begins. It’s dedicated to Lady Popo, a pet dog, presumably Papa Bhansali’s late canine offspring. Now I’m beginning to wonder if this is the twist in the tale, that Bhansali’s film is an ode to the real queen in his life. Pet parents nowadays can go to absurd lengths, especially wealthy ones. What’s to prevent a Bollywood director from mounting a multi-million dollar ode to a pet disguised as a mythical figure?

I’m waiting for Hiraman, the bird who is supposed to be Rani Padmaavat’s best friend. But Hiraman has been excised from the script. Instead, we get to see a rakish Alauddin Khilji, walking past flares, holding an ostrich on a leash. The "shuturmurg" is a surprise. I was expecting a parrot. What will be served for dinner at the Bhansali bungalow? I’m not salivating. The ostrich is bony. And certainly not free-range.

Ranveer Singh chomps meat and paws women right through the film. He is the evil back-stabbing Muslim, who cannot control his desires and impulses. If anything, Muslims should have had a problem with this film which is a giant washing machine, tumble drying clich├ęs then hanging them out to dry. It looks like the ploy backfired. Bhansali makes a 3D tribute to Hindutva, but ultra-right fringe groups take it the wrong way, turning against him.

But here’s the thing: I like Ranveer Singh. I’ve liked him ever since he lip-synced to "Ladies, O ladies, main hoon aadat se majboor" in Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl. I liked him in Befikre too, though I must admit I liked Vaani Kapoor better.

Ranveer hams his way through Khilji’s role, but that’s what he’s been asked to do by the architect of the bungalow. The over-lean Shahid Kapoor, who is good as always and has no point left to prove acting-wise, is more statesmanlike. But Ranveer has always had this swag - part Brad Pitt, part Travolta, which works well on the big screen.

I’m also very happy because in a film that upholds the moral purity and unwaveringness of upper caste Hindus, we witness a stunning case of Hindu karmic reincarnation: Prince, the singer, is alive.

Prince, who had died tragically of a painkiller overdose in his hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, comes back to life in Padmaavat as Malik Kafur, Khilji’s effeminate general. It looks like Prince’s death was a gigantic hoax. Rock stars are known to do this kind of thing.

If there ever was any doubt, Prince Malik (not be confused with ex-MTV Roadie and Splitsvilla reality star Prince Narula) gets an entire yearning song sequence to himself. He even sings like the Prince of yore. "Folks", as Trump would say, "Prince is alive and he’s making India great again. We will leave no stone unturned to bring him back to our great land."

As I would later discover, Trump had indeed tweeted to Sushmaji, asking for Prince’s release. My sources tell me that Prince was kidnapped at the behest of Kim Jong-un, who then sold Prince to Bhansali for a hefty price.

The film ends. There is no dinner with Bhansali, as I had hoped. The ostrich, I was told, stuck its head in the sand and refused to pull it out. The blood-thirsty Muslim butcher was rebuffed. The guests went hungry.

On the way out, I tried to sneak out the plastic stool and the 3D goggles with me. I thought they were parting presents. I protested to the guards: "Bhai, Bhansali ke bangle aye hai, khali haath thodi hi ghar jayenge. Can’t return empty-handed." But to no avail.

The show was over and it was time to go home.

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