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Saif , Sharad Kelkar Steal The Show In Tanhaji

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Tanhaji(3D)

Starring Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan,  Kajol, Neha Sharma,Sharad Kelkar

Directed  by Om Raut

Rating: *** ½ (3 and a  half stars)

There is  a pall of  déjà  vu  shrouding this lavish though self-limited  homage to  a valour  gone-by renewed and validated  by modernday Bollywood visionaries who believe  in  the power of the  costume drama to invoke  stroing  nationalistic feelings in the audience..

We’ve seen it all  in  Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat and  more recent Panipat.The brave Maratha warrior returns. This time it is Tanhaji Balusare(Devgan,dressed  for the part)  , deputed  by  Chhatrapati  Shivaji Maharaj(Sharad Kelkar,  powerful) to  recapture  the Kondhana  fortress  from  the Aurangzeb(Luke Kenny,breathing  toxic energy).

It’s  a ‘safe’ premise  for a historical , given today’s climate  of Hindutva  in our country where  depicting Islamic invaders  as anything but  evil avaricious  lustful  and distrustful  would be tantamount to  sedition. In  that sense Tanhaji is  truly a passionate  and ardent  nationalistic films with war cries against  the enemy renting the air,  as valiant(Hindu)men on  valiant (Hindu) horses hurl across   the (not so  adept)  3D screen with a patriotic purpose and jingoistic fervor that  insists  on rewriting  history by current definitions of nationalism.

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 Seen within its  restricted cultural and religious context Tanhaji works   fairly well, though the confrontation sequences between Devgan’s  Tanhaji and  Saif’s  Udaybhan Singh Rathod lack the inner fire of a true combustion. Both  the actors seem  to be holding back the implosive passion, Devgan  because he always  restrains himself, Saif because  his  co-star is doing it.

Saif’s  Udaybhan is  clearly modeled  on  Ranveer Singh’s Allauddin Khilji in Padmaavat. They are  both  hedonistic  philistines with a  leery  glint in their eyes.Invaders whom we can’t trust with the womenfolk  in  our family, and probably some  of  the men too.  Saif clearly has a lot of  fun being wicked  in a comicbookish mode . He  chuckles, growls,  scowls  and  sulks.There  is  s  naughty child within this  invader garbed  in  shrieking  colours.

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While Saif is fun to watch, it is Sharad Kelkar  as a Chatrapati Shivaji who dominates  the proceedings. Kelkar with his  imposing personality and voice takes over every scene that he  figures in.

Ajay Devgan looks his part . But says his lines  as though he were reading them  from a teleprinter. Kajol has little to do. And the  beautiful Neha Sharma even less. They both  look like they  could with something more to do.Padmavati Rao  as the Rajmata has  more space and  some token lines  of empowerment. But women, it seems are  not as empowered  in this  costume drama as they were in Bhansali and Gowariker’s pseudo-historicals.

While the  earnestness of purpose and  the scale of vision in Tanhaji are  not to be doubted, the 3D format is  not just unnecessary  it actually hampers  the flow of  the  storytelling.The CGs are laughably bad  with the  flying horses taking the cake.Otherwise  all else  is  well in  the Hindu paradise.  Until the  next invader crashes the party.

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