December 15 2015
Two stars appeared at press conference via video link-up to London and our correspondent momentarily stumped Deepika with her question and earned a round of applause…
By Suman Bhuchar
AS WE COUNT down to the bumper cinema weekend, one of the films to look forward to is “Bajirao Mastani” – the forthcoming historical romantic blockbuster by Sanjay Leela Bhansali (SLB).
The director has cast his leading couple, Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone – as the central protagonists in this story about Peshwa Bajirao I, a very able general who lived in the 18th century and is credited with expanding the Maratha Empire.
He falls in love with Mastani, a Muslim and Hindu girl (of mixed religious parentage) who became his second wife.
The role of his first wife, Kashibai is being played by Priyanka Chopra.
SLB last cast this duo in his version of ‘Romeo-Juliet’ in the “Goliyon ki Raas Leela Ram Leela”, (2013 aka, ‘A Play on Bullets, Ram Leela’).
If the trailer is anything to go by, you can see “Bajirao Mastani” is going to be a spectacle and a film experience.
www.asianculturevulture.com, yours truly, enjoyed meeting the two leads, even though it was via satellite link and very bad crackly line video phone conference.
Both of them were incredibly warm and open in answering questions to the hacks – the US and UK contingent joined together via technology – and I warmed to them even more when it appeared that my question had given them pause for thought.
It basically was: “How easy or difficult is it to play a character based on a real life historical person – for both of you, please?”
Padukone began by saying: “I have to say, we’ve never been asked that question before,” earning me some applause from my fellow hacks – and she answered it with great consideration.
(Readers, please note that www.asianculturevulture.com was not interested in exploring how factually accurate the story may be – even though there have been some rumbling from different factions around this in India – but looking into how an actor prepares for a role that is drawn from a historical figure).
Padukone continued: “I think it’s very difficult because you have this one pictorial reference of what she looked like and there is not too much written about Mastani and so, it’s what I love creating these characters on material that is available.”
According to accounts available, Mastani was a noble princess of dual heritage, who excelled in sword fighting, riding horses, religious argument and was also talented in poetry, dance and music.
These talents arguably made her a favourite of Bajirao and therefore more of a target in the intrigues of the court.
“It’s not a character that we’ve really seen in our lifetime or we’ve experienced (before), so it was quite tricky actually, because you are really going by somebody’s book or the work of some historian, and in the process, we are also kind of making a commercial entertainer,” she explained.
In terms of Mastani’s look what exists is only one picture of her in a sari, therefore together with SLB or “Sanjay Sir”, they had to improvise and do, “what we felt was correct on that particular day for that particular scene.
“I don’t know how it is for other historical films but that’s how it’s been for ‘Mastani’ in particular because of the lack of material that was available.”
Singh explained that there was much more information to draw upon for his character, because there is a book published (a Marathi novel called “Raau” by Nagnath S.Inamdar) and other historical references, but he took his cue from the script.
“I stuck to the script and a really intensive text analysis of the character Peshwa Bajirao in the script written by Prakash Kapadia,” he said, explaining that he had spent, “an intensive 21 days to work on this character before we started this shoot, working from morning to night”.
In the morning he went to the gym and got in touch with his physicality, he revealed, “and in the afternoon I worked on the action sequences and in the evening I read the immense research docket that was given to me.
“I had those days to create a new voice, new posture, a new way of walking, and talking, because I wanted to play a very distinct character.
“I wanted people in the industry to see not just Ranveer the actor – but only be seeing Peshwa Bajirao.
“So we worked out the transformation and Mr Bhansali was very happy.”
For Padukone, the preparation was not as difficult, she confessed. She had three scripts on the go at the same time namely, “Piku”, “Tamasha” and “Bajirao”.
“I was juggling three films at the time, so I didn’t really get to prepare for this film in the manner that he did or the manner that I would have liked to.”
Most of her preparation was more mental, she continued – “to tell myself that I am really doing three films at the same time, and prepare for what ‘Mastani’ was all about because I found her a very layered and inspiring character.
“I am someone who depends a lot on the magic that happens on set. I prefer not rehearsing too much, rather I talk to myself in my mind of what I want to do with my character, but I rely a lot on being spontaneous on the day of shoot.”
The film has been a labour of love for the director, explained Singh. “Mr Bhansali was like a child with a new toy on this film.
“He was so passionate, excited, exhilarated and energised when we were shooting!
“This is a film he has been wanting to make for 12 years and so this dream is finally coming together and it’s actually been shot, so he was full of hope very vivacious and he was working round the clock.”
It is no secret that SLB first announced this project in 2003 with Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai as his lead protagonists, but then the couple broke up in real life so the story was shelved.
But as in the words of the great Bard – ‘all’s well that ends well,’ and finally we can count down the hours.
‘Bajirao Mastani’ is released in the UK by Eros International on December 18…