Look, it is no surprise that Samrat Prithviraj subscribes to the “Muslim bad, Hindu good” ideology. We’ve seen this concept done to death in Bollywood and Akshay Kumar isn’t exactly known to break the mould. So, as expected, Prithviraj Chauhan is portrayed as the saviour of Hindus and the martyr who paved the way for Hindu pride to throw out the British…centuries later. I swear I’m not exaggerating.
If you, unlike Akshay Kumar, remember some of your history lessons from school, you should be able to see through the not-so-noble intentions behind Samrat Prithviraj. The filmmakers have tried to cover up the Islamophobia under the garb of Prithviraj Chauhan fighting for justice and women’s rights, but that garb is thinner than paper. Because soon after invoking a woman’s right to rule, the folks behind Samrat Prithviraj thought nothing of glorifying jauhar once again. Accompanied by a choreographed dance, obviously.
Even if you set aside the fundamental historical inaccuracies in Samrat Prithviraj, the film is painfully over the top in its hate. One would think that religion was the only factor influencing rulers of that time in all their strategic decisions. The number of times ‘Hindu dharm‘ is invoked will make you feel that you’re in a temple offering prayers, not in a movie hall. And in the current highly sensitive atmosphere in the country, it is unbelievably irresponsible to throw in provocative dialogues about razed temples.
Apart from this huge problem with the film, it doesn’t offer anything in terms of grand visuals or intense battle scenes. In the Battle of Tarain, all you see is chaos on the screen. There is no thought behind showing battle strategy or highly skilled fighters taking on each other. Your eyes dart here and there on the screen to figure out what’s happening and all you manage to catch is Akshay Kumar’s constipated expressions and Sanjay Dutt’s superhuman ability to single-handedly pull an elephant. Again, no exaggerations here. A battle of this calibre should have managed some goosebumps but it just leaves the viewer confused.
Contrary to what he believes, Akshay Kumar cannot portray every character in Indian history. And he certainly cannot be convincing as a historically significant king. Every time he comes on screen, you expect him to pull a funny face or crack a silly joke. Because that’s what he’s good at, not history. Kumar needs to be stopped before another Laxmii or Samrat Prithviraj makes its way into our lives. Because just when you feel Bollywood has started recognising the value of good cinema, this happens.
Sanjay Dutt is more court jester than principal protector and advisor in his role as Kaka Kanha. The only sequence where he manages to leave an impact is his last in the film. In all the toxic macho energy being thrown around between Akshay Kumar and Sanjay Dutt, Sonu Sood offers some relief as pensive poet Chand Bardai.
Ashutosh Rana is impactful in his short role in Samrat Prithviraj but his role is too simplistically written for him to shine. Sakshi Tanwar, also let down by the writing, is still a delight to watch in her short role. She made it evident that it was unfair for Manushi Chhillar to share a back and forth sequence with her. For an actor who towers over other seasoned actors, it was far too easy to eclipse a newcomer.
Manushi Chhillar looks like a sad, lost, little child throughout Samrat Prithviraj. But to be fair, it is her first film and there may be scope for improvement there. Even she falls prey to the lacklustre writing when she tries to be witty and smart but the effort falls flat because of the lines given to her. Also, how long are we going to be okay with 54-year-old men romancing 25-year-old women? Do we really have to be this creepy to satisfy one man’s inflated ego?
Samrat Prithviraj makes you miss the grandeur, intensity, and spectacle of other films in the same genre, like Jodha Akbar or Bajirao Mastani. Even though these films had historical inaccuracies too, Samrat Prithviraj doesn’t hold your attention as they did. And the less-than-average music doesn’t help.
I won’t say much about the climax because the Akshay Kumar-ness of it is just too much. Judge for yourself if you do land up watching Samrat Prithviraj.
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