Tanhaji The Unsung Warrior
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Sharad Kelkar, Kajol
Director: Om Raut
Ajay Devgn is probably an underrated producer. Be it Raju Chacha, U Me Aur Hum, Shivaay and now Tanhaji, he has always experimented with new techniques. They worked or not is a separate thing, but these movies bring out how he is willing to raise the stakes.
He backed Shivaay (2016) after establishing a visual effects company in 2015, and the result was some amazing chase and action sequences. The focus was on achieving grandeur and how technique can be subservient to storytelling and not the other way around. Now, with Tanhaji, producer Devgn has probably changed the VFX game in Hindi films. Yes, it’s that good.
What films like Ra.One and Robot initiated some years ago has become a passion for new age filmmakers. They want Hollywood-like perfection and embracing cutting edge technology which requires much more than how Bollywood has been producing films so far.
In 3D, Tanhaji seems like a spectacle, something we haven’t seen in Hindi till now. At this point, it’s the best technology could achieve.
Coming to the story, Tanhaji Malusare (Ajay Devgn) vows in front of his dying father that he will get his country out of the Mughal grips, then ruled by Aurangzeb. Later, when he becomes king Shivaji’s trusted lieutenant and friend, he keeps looking for opportunities to uphold the Maratha ‘swaraj’ flag.
His unbound enthusiasm takes him to the battle field with a ruthless and cunning Mughal commander Udaybhan Rathore (Saif Ali Khan). It’s now or never for Tanaji but his chances seem bleak.
In the opening act, we see a group of Maratha guerrilla warriors ready to take on Udaybhan’s army amid rough terrains, but this is when the VFX magic starts happening. Ajay-Atul’s high-octane background music sets the mood and the actors perform choreographed stunts. They deliberately sync their war moves with the score giving it a symphony feel. This long action sequence is a precursor to a tone of urgency engulfing the rest of the film.
It’s a typical Bollywood screenplay where you’re given what you expect right in the beginning. Thankfully, the director Om Raut has etched a good graph for Saif’s Udaybhan and that stops the story from being tilted in the Marathas favour too early.
Though it’s not hard to expect where this all will lead to but Saif’s maniacal laughs and conniving attitude add layers. Be it Bazaar, Laal Kaptaan or Tanhaji, Saif has been exploring cynical characters and it’s working in his favour. I won’t be surprised if he turns out to be the most memorable character of Tanhaji after a few years.
There isn’t much to do for others as the story, right from the word go, makes it a clash between two street-smart fighters. There are hardcore dialogues, laden with words ‘bhagwa’ and ‘videshi’, thrown in between but the spotlight never shifts from treating the viewers with a new kind of visual experience.
Tanhaji might look one-dimensional at points as Raut’s version of the crucial Battle of Sinhagad is one hell of an ode to Tanaji’s bravery and refuses to go beyond certain thresholds. It’s also not so subtle in its symbol game as good and evil can be identified with their clothes’ colours.
However, even if it’s over the top in creating larger than life heroes and villains, it’s very engaging. The delightfully planned battle scenes, coupled with inspired camera movements, are good enough to sustain your interest.
At 134-minutes, Tanhaji offers a vision, in terms of technical finesse, that’s hard to resist.
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