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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Tanhaji Movie Review: A Lesser-Known Valiant Story Showcased Grandiosely

Subedar Tanhaji Malusare (Ajay Devgn) was an unsung warrior from the 17th century. His acts of valour and bravery continued to inspire soldiers long after he lost his life in battle.

Endowed with a body of steel, the courage of a lion and an agile mind, Tanhaji was also one of Chattrapati Shivaji’s closest aides and trusted lieutenants.

Ready to lay down his life for his King and country, this braveheart planned a surgical strike to get back the Kondana Fort against the Mughal army headed by the Rajput Udaybhan (Saif Ali Khan).

When the fort of Kondhana, that was the pride of the Marathas was under the control of Udaybhan and a Mughal army, Tanhaji went to war armed only with a handful of Marathas. 

If the Mughals had the muscle power, Tanhaji had sharp acumen.

The only unfortunate thing is – the Marathas won Kondhana but they lost their Lion. Tanhaji left behind a void that none in history could ever fill.

Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, directed by Om Raut, promises to be a visual extravaganza that depicts the life and times of this unsung warrior, whose valour still makes the Nation proud.

After lesser-known chapters in Indian history were brought to the forefront in Bollywood last year (ie. Kesari), Tanhaji brings to light another such unsung story.

From what we’ve seen, it seems like Om Raut and Prakash Kapadia have done a thorough job with their research.

It’s quite surprising that such a pivotal and valiant story did not get as much attention as some other events/incidents.

The film is eye-opening and exhibits a battle that is not on religion or jingoism – but a war for one’s land and independence to rule their own kingdom… Without the interference of an external sovereign.

In such films, we are so accustomed to seeing the grandeur exhibited by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ashutosh Gowariker. Here, there is no onus on the splendour or heavy costumes or jewellery.

Rather the ‘magnum-opus’ aspect compliments the story and setting. Not once is the main essence of the story sacrificed for visual appeal. 

As such, Om spends time in the first-half to develop the characters and atmosphere… Which is why the pace is quite unhurried during this segment. 

Given the fact that we do not know much about the Subedar (commander) or his family and lineage as much, it was perhaps a good idea for Raut to take his time in profiling the personas.

Undoubtedly, the screenplay could’ve been tighter during this half, but thankfully, it picks up after the interval and HOW. The second half captivates our attention till the very end.

Some of the action sequences are spectacular to watch. The way we see the Maratha empire climbing on cliffs to attack the enemy and the sword-fighting sequences, in particular, are brilliantly executed, especially during the climax.

A special mention goes to Keiko Nakahara’s cinematography, it is crisp and smooth. Sandeep Shirodkar’s pulsating background score uplifts the ambience of the film and it exudes pride and courage.

Speaking of the music, Ajay-Atul and Sachet-Parampara have composed some excellent songs namely ‘Maay Bhavani’, ‘Shankara Re Shankara’ and ‘Ghamand Kar’ weave effortlessly into the movie’s narrative.

One must also applaud the choreography in ‘Maay Bhavani’, ‘Shankara Re Shankara’ as the simple signature steps become the highlight. Plus, it’s wonderful to see Ajay and Kajol shake a leg together.

On the technical front, I think the VFX could’ve been much sharper.

In certain scenes, it seems like the green screen is used and this become apparent. This could’ve been polished better to make the special effects seem more flawless.

The performances are also the highlight of Tanhaji. Firstly, Ajay Devgn is first-rate in the titular role. He adapts every nuance and speech-style of a warrior.

Given that this is Devgn’s 100th film, it is definitely amongst his most iconic works too. 

Saif Ali Khan once again steps into the dark side. Whilst his character does not emanate a typical ‘Rajput’ vibe, he displays the negative shades well… He also exhibits some comical mannerisms, which works well with his antagonistic demeanour.

The dialogue exchange between Ajay and Saif is awesome to watch. The dialogue exchange between them is par excellence.

In the supporting roles, Padmavati Rao (as Rajmata Jijabai) and Sharad Kelkar (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) are formidable forces of talent. Whilst they are seen in a few scenes, their performances are equally powerful.

Kajol is equally effective playing the warrior’s strength and wife Savitri Malusare. Whilst she does not perform action quotients, her solid performance which speaks volumes of her calibre as an actor… We deserve to see more such historical roles from her!

Neha Sharma plays Kamla Devi, a widow who is abducted by Udaybhan. Though she gets limited screen time, Sharma essays her part well. 

On the whole Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is a sincere endeavour at presenting a forgotten historical chapter on celluloid.

Whilst it may not be a wholly perfect film, the strong performances and visual appeal help in enhancing the overall cinematic experience.

More than anything, at least now we will have discovered another example of how people in India have suffered at the hands of opportunistic invaders. Definitely worth a watch!

⭐⭐⭐.5 (3.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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