Off late, Bollywood has been making period dramas, focusing on the brave warriors of the medieval and early modern history of India. While films like MANIKARNIKA – THE QUEEN OF JHANSI and PANIPAT focused on the somewhat known chapters of history, the Akshay Kumar starrer KESARI was based on an incident that wasn’t known to many. Now another film joins this latter category – TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR. It depicts the bravery of Tanhaji Malusare, a legend in Maharashtra, but largely unknown elsewhere. The film is mounted on a huge scale and moreover, has a terrific star cast, both of which have contributed to its hype. So does TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR manage to give a great time to the viewers? Or does it disappoint? Let’s analyse.
TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR is the story of one of the greatest warriors of India. The year is 1664. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (Sharad Kelkar) has given a tough fight to the Mughals, headed by Emperor Aurangzeb (Luke Kenny), in the Deccan region. However, when things get tough for the Marathas, Shivaji Maharaj decides to sign a treaty. As part of this agreement, he hands over some 23 forts to the Mughals, including the strategic Kondhana Fort. A few years later, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj expresses his desire to recapture Kondhana. This is especially when he finds out that Aurangzeb has sent Udaybhan Rathod (Saif Ali Khan), an evil military officer, to control the fort. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj realizes that his brave Subedar Tanhaji Malusare (Ajay Devgn) is the best man to get the fort back. But Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj refuses to even let Tanhaji know about this operation. This is because Tanhaji is busy with the marriage of his son. However, Tanhaji finds out about the plan. He persuades Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to let him go for it. The Maharaj agrees and hence, Tanhaji keeps his son’s marriage on hold. He then begins to plan how to recapture the fort and thereby create history. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Prakash Kapadia and Om Raut’s story is excellent and well-researched. It talks about a landmark moment in India’s history and at the same time, it has enough entertainment and drama. Prakash Kapadia and Om Raut’s screenplay does justice to the plot in hand. The script is peppered with dramatic and massy moments that keep the interest going. However, the film drops a bit in the middle of the second half. Also, the first half could have had more hard-hitting moments. Prakash Kapadia’s dialogues are simple but also sharp-worded as per the requirement.
Om Raut’s direction is quite praiseworthy and he handles the film like a pro. He does full justice to the scale and grandeur of the film. He also keeps the narrative uncomplicated and very simple to understand. And his biggest achievement is that he doesn’t make TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR look like the recent period films, especially the ones of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Bhansali’s films have become a genre in itself, hence when it comes to period flicks many recent ones looked like clones of his movies. TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR, however, stands out. And moreover, he adds enough masala, especially in the climax, which takes the film to a high. See it to believe it!
TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR begins with the childhood sequence of Tanhaji and the background of the Maratha Empire. The film moves too quickly here but no complaints as the impact is made. The entry of adult Tanhaji is too good and viewers would welcome it with claps and whistles. Even Udaybhan’s introduction makes for a great watch. From here on till the intermission, the film keeps one engaged but the film here lacks action and a punch, which one might expect after the action scene in the start. But the intermission point is fine and it indicates that the second half will be better. And thankfully, the post-interval portion has a lot more entertainment. The sequence where Tanhaji and Udaybhan come face to face is electrifying. Also Tanhaji urging the Maratha soldiers to fight for him is a scene to watch out for. The film then drops again but the makers reserve the best for the finale. The climax battle is incredible and single screen audiences especially will go in frenzy!
HILARIOUS FIGHT: Ajay Devgn v/s Kajol – How well do they know each other? | Tanhaji
TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR belongs to Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan. Ajay is perfect for the part and adds a lot through his body language and expressions. Also his dialogue delivery in confrontational scenes is spot-on. But he goes into another mode in the climax fight and viewers would surely lap it up. Also, he deserves kudos for putting together this mammoth project and ensuring that it looks like a great cinematic product, at par with international standards. Saif Ali Khan is superb in the villainous role. He is menacing but also has a goofy side and the balance is very nicely done. In one scene dipped with black humour in the second half, he gets his act totally right! Kajol (Savitri) doesn’t have much to do but her presence adds a lot to the film. Her scenes with Ajay are endearing. Sharad Kelkar stands out as Shivaji Maharaj. His personality, build and baritone voice was just right for such an important historical character. Padmavathi Rao (Rajmata Jija aau) has a fine screen presence. Luke Kenny fits the role and one wishes he had more screen time. Neha Sharma (Kamla) is decent in a supporting role. Kailash Waghmare (Chultiya) and Hardik Bharat Sangani (Gidya) are over the top but that works for their respective characters. The other actors who do well are Shashank Mahadeo Shende (Shelar Mama), Ajinkya Ramesh Deo (Pisal), Vipul Kumar Gupta (Jagat Singh), Deodatta Gajanan Nage (Suryaji), Yuri Suri (Mirza Raje Jai Singh), Nissar Khan (Beshak Khan), Arush Nand (Raiba; Tanaji’s son), Prasanna Vidyadhar Ketkar (Ghesarnaik) and Niranjan Jadhao (Trimbak Rao; spy).
The music is situational and not of chartbuster variety. ‘Ghamand Kar’ is the theme song of the film and is quite exhilarating. ‘Shankara Re Shankara’ comes at a great juncture. ‘Maay Bhavani’ is average while ‘Tinak Tinak’ is moving. Sandeep Shirodkar’s background score adds to the drama heavily.
Keiko Nakahara’s cinematography is of superior quality. Despite so much of action and fights happening, the camerawork ensures that all is captured well.. Sujeet Subhash Sawant and Sriram Kannan Iyengar’s production design is straight out of the bygone era. The sets are authentic and not needlessly grand, considering that the film focuses on the life of the Maratha soldiers and their houses can’t resemble palaces. But while depicting Aurangzeb’s residence, the designers have gone all out, rightfully so. Ramzan Bulut and R P Yadav’s action is a bit gory but is controlled and visually looks great. Vikram Gaikwad’s make-up is neat. Nachiket Barve and Mahesh Sherla’s costumes are realistic. NY VFXWaala’s VFX is splendid and there’s not a single moment where the effects look tacky. Also, the 3D is not done for the heck of it and it actually complements the narrative. Dharmendra Sharma’s editing is slick.
On the whole, TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR is an entertaining and a paisa-vasool film that would be loved by the masses as well as classes. At the box office, it can run riot in Maharashtra and other mass centres and could turn out to be the first Rs. 100 crore grosser of 2020. Highly Recommended!