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PANIPAT is well-mounted and well-intended, but too long and superficial!

Narrating a significant historic chapter in a grand spectacle, PANIPAT makes for an interesting subject. But with exaggerated depictions and a runtime of nearly 3 hours, it’s a film that truly tests your patience after a while. While it isn’t boring, it never really stands out. Watchable, but not really recommended!

Panipat is set in 1761, when the Maratha Empire had reached its zenith and their grip on Hindustan reigned supreme with no one to challenge them. Until an invader set his eyes on the throne of Hindustan. That’s when Sadashiv Rao Bhau (Arjun Kapoor), the Commander-in-Chief of the Maratha army led a northern expedition in order to repel the invading forces of Ahmad Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt), the king of Afghanistan.

Director Ashutosh Gowariker is known for his exceptional grip on historical subjects and his films have mostly been elaborate narrations on some historical piece. His style of filmmaking has seen success when he has been allowed time on screen. Remember the immensely successful films like LAGAAN and JODHA-AKBAR, which were nearly 3.5 to 4 hour long. However, in his last few films, he’s fallen prey to the modern commercial editing norms, trying to cut short his labour of love. As a result, the films have become more ‘Bollywoodized’, and less heartfelt.

The problem with PANIPAT is that he tries to copy the success formula of others, than sticking to what he does best. Consequently, PANIPAT looks more like a cheap copy of BAJIRAO MASTANI, than holding the unique stamp of a Gowariker magnum-opus. No doubt, it’s visually appealing, with grand sets and beautiful costumes, but his subject has very limited narrative heft, which means that it loses steam in the post-interval scenes. What it also does, is that it makes the film feel longer than it actually is. After the 2-hour mark, you truly are tested for your patience.

Even the war sequences, that make the majority of the second half, are neither smart nor well-choreographed, hugely reducing the impact of the film. I wish the film gave more time to building its characters, because in what you see right now, most characters seem caricaturist than reasonable. Using the age-old mythology tricks of jealousy and betrayals in the most simplistic manner possible, Gowariker takes the narrative forward.

The actors do a good job, but they’re never really required to portray anything deep. Warriors spit out heavy dialogues, but it never really strikes a chord when the overall setup is so superficial. Arjun Kapoor is good, but never do you really feel for him. That’s because of the poor character writing. Same is the case with Abdali’s character played by Sanjay Dutt, who never comes off as a menacing villainous character that you’d expect him to be. Kriti Sanon and others are adequate.

To sum up, PANIPAT isn’t a bad film by any standard, it’s just too mediocre for one’s liking. Its length is another deterrent. Watch it if you have 3 hours of absolutely free time!

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