Panipat Trailer and Historical Epic Overdose

Why do people drop trailers on different days? I just did my nice trailer round-up post yesterday, and now I have to do a messy tagalong post just for Panipat.

Well, I watched the trailer. And there’s nothing actively wrong with the film. The battle scenes look convincing, not fake. The few lines of dialogue we got from each character was good enough. The costumes are nice and realistic seeming, so are the sets. And it seems to have a firm grasp of the historical realities of the story it is telling.

That last is why I love Ashutosh, and hate everyone else. Padmavat, for instance, was grossly inaccurate. Not just in the fictional title character, but that Shahid Kapoor’s character was off fighting against another Hindu ruler at the time that Ranveer Singh’s character attacked his kingdom, and it was that battle which killed him. Oh, and also all the women and children of the fort were allowed to leave and didn’t commit Jauhar. There’s huge gaps in history where you can fill in whatever you want for your film, what a husband and wife talked about at their first meeting, what happened to people that the history book lost track of (that brother or son or whoever that just sort of fades away), all kinds of things. But Bhansali doesn’t seem to differentiate between gaps in history that can be filled in how he likes, and actual historical fact that he can rewrite to fit the narrative he wants (the narrative being “Muslims are the cause of everything bad that ever happened in the Indian subcontinent”).

Anyway, this movie! I looked up the battle of Panipat that it is about, and it was a complicated time in Indian history which (based on this trailer) the film is going to try to accurately capture. It was NOT Muslim versus Hindu, it was Indians versus Afghanis. The Delhi Sultanate ruled the north and the Marathi kings ruled the center of the country and they had treaties and respected each other’s territories more or less. The Delhi Sultanate was growing weaker and weaker and an Afghani raider took advantage and swept down and took Delhi. The Marathi’s stood against him as the last hold for India now that Delhi was gone. You understand what I am saying? The Marathi’s in this instance were rooting for the Delhi Sultanate, and then fighting to avenge it. And the “Marathis” included various Muslim groups in their fight. And they were betrayed by a Hindu ruler. Religion had nothing to do with any of this (as is the case with most wars, religion is just the excuse, it’s really land or power or a crazy ruler. I hate it that the lie of religion as an excuse is believed over and over again).

This is kind of a correction to the view presented in Padmavat. If you remember, Padmavat briefly showed Ranveer’s character fighting off invaders near Delhi. That was the main motivation of the historical person, he was holding the border against outside invaders. To pay for his fight, he would raid down south and then come back to the north and protect the border some more. In the time of Panipat, there was no strong aggressive Delhi power to protect the border, and the outside invaders swept all the way down to the plains. I’m not saying it is “wrong” or “right” what these historical figures did, just that they all had their reasons and, in their own minds, were in the right. Unlike Padmavat that left it at Ranveer’s character being perverse and animalistic and Muslim and just liking to conquer for no reason.

In this trailer not only do we get glimpses of possibly Muslim allies, we also have no aggressive Muslim imagery around Sanjay Dutt’s character. Heck, we even have a line acknowledging that Marathi rulers were just as likely to have multiple wives as Muslim rulers! It’s like a cool drink of water after the long desert of historical fantasy.

Problem is, it’s also like the 20th big historical epic we have had in the past 5 years. Hindi film tends to find a particular genre and stick with it for a long long time. Action films in the 70s and 80s, romance in the 90s and 2000s. And it looks like historical epic films in the 2010s and 2020s.

Or does it? See, I’m not the only person who is aware of the genre theory of Hindi film history. Since romances started losing popularity, filmmakers in the Hindi industry have been desperately looking for what will be the next big thing (just like action films killed the romances in the 70s, and romances killed the action films in the 90s). Once Bahubali and then Bajirao and Padmavat started setting records, everyone figured that now we were in an era of Historical Epics.

But Historical Epic isn’t the same as action or romance. An epic is outside in, not inside out. With an Action or Romance film (at least, as they are designed in India) you start with the central conflict of the characters. And then you build the film around it, love songs and fight scenes and so on just go on top of the real story which is about a son trying to prove himself to his father, or class divisions broken down through a love story, or whatever else. But a Historical Epic is all about the spectacle, the battle scenes and the sets and the costumes and so on. And there just is not as much variety or flexibility in those things as there are in character based plots. The appeal of a Historical Epic is the visual, not the story. And you just can’t put that much variation in the visuals.

And so we have Panipat, which looks like a perfectly good movie, and yet I find myself sighing while watching the trailer. Because it also feels like a movie I have seen before. Why should I watch this big battle scene when I have already seen all those other big battle scenes? This big dance instead of that big dance? This sword fight instead of that sword fight? Spectacle must be new to be appealing, and this is no longer new to the audience.

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40 thoughts on “Panipat Trailer and Historical Epic Overdose

  1. Visually, I think it looks pretty janky. I am not at all picky about CGI but there are scenes in that trailer that look horrible, like the people are hovering in front of a backdrop. Also, I like Kriti a lot but she is too modern in her movements to work in an epic (I know we don’t actually know how people moved 300 years ago but she isn’t hitting whatever fictional note we’ve established for historical characters). Eh, I say. I’m sad because we aren’t going to get another fun movie before the end of the year, woe.

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  2. I don’t think history is quite that clear cut. The Marathas were not defending the Delhi Sultanate against the raiding Afghanis.The Mughal emperor Alamgir II was little more than a figurehead with the real power in the hands of his wazir.Naturally the two were enemies.The emperor sought the help of the Afghani raider Abdali while the vazir procured the services of the Marathas as his allies.The Mughal Emperor married his daughter to Abdali’s son to cement his alliance.In fact when the Emperor was assassinated by the vazir, the Marathas helped him install another puppet candidate on the Mughal Throne.So the Marathas and the Mughal Emperor were on opposite sides.

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    • Interesting! The trailer seems to focus on the general idea of “I’ve taken Delhi, now I set my eyes on the plains”. And the idea of Hindostan as a unified entity with the Afghanis being outsiders. I’ll be curious to see if the actual film goes into all the back and forth and details that you mention, or just leaves it at “they took Delhi somehow or other, and now we are having a battle”.

      Also, you always have the best historical data to add to these discussions! Do you have any books you can recommend? I have a hard time finding good sources for pre-colonial India.

      On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 10:20 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • There are so many good authors who write on the Mughals.William Dalrymple,Bamber Gasgoigne etc.If you are going to buy only one book, I’d suggest The Great Mughals and their India by Dirk Collier.It is a nice breezy read without getting bogged down by the details.Detailed chapters on the early Mughal Emperors from Babur to Aurangzeb.Of course Akbar gets maximum love.Those who come after Aurangzeb gets clubbed into one chapter.So the events leading to Paniput gets some 5-7 pages.But on the other hand when Karan Johar’s Takht comes out this book is going to be so useful as it is chock full of details on the principals.

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        • Ooo, it’s only $5 on kindle! But I need to buy it on paperback, I know, so I can underline and mark pages and stuff. Kindle is just no good for that.

          Also, YES with the Akbar love! He is just the bestest. I just showed Jodha-Akbar to someone new and it was the odd experience of saying “okay, all the awesome stuff you see here is true, including the elephant taming, but also here is more awesome stuff they didn’t even have time to cover.”

          On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 10:54 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • What I find stranger is this need to connect everyone under the umbrella term “Muslim” instead of breaking them into multiple identities. Which I have hopes for this film handling well, that there were Muslims on the plains, there were Delhi Muslims and Afgani Muslims, and their political/ethnic/geographical connections were as important as their religious ones.

            On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 11:04 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I agree with Alisa that Kriti seems too modern in her movements. I also felt that the scenes between Arjun and Kriti in the trailer seemed like a pale imitation of Ranveer and Deepika’s scenes in Bajirao Mastani.

    For some reason, I was expecting to see Ajay Devgn in this trailer. Is he doing a different war movie and I just got confused?

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    • Yeah, he is doing yet another historic epic war movie. With a really great cast, it’s Ajay and Kajol and Saif. And it’s coming out a month after this movie, I expect it to get lost in the shuffle a bit. Akshay has yet ANOTHER big historic epic from Dharma, and then there’s the Ranbir historic epic, and the Karan Johar one, if those ever start filming. It’s just too much.

      Plus, if Saif and Ajay and Kajol are in a film, I don’t want to waste time with battle scenes and speeches, I just want to see Ajay and Kajol and Saif talking to each other. I expected to be terribly frustrated at the lack of relationship/character content versus big CGI battle content.

      On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 10:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I don’t like Ajay much but him with Kajol and Said actually sounds really interesting!

        Wait, Akshay is doing another historical epic with Dharma? Didn’t Kesari just come out with Dharma.

        Oh yeah, I totally forgot about Takht. Didn’t it get delayed or something?

        I’m so glad that Varun’s not doing Rannbhoomi with Shashank Khaitan anymore. It would have probably ended up being too much and I don’t think Shashank can handle a historical epic at this point.

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        • It was definitely a different historic epic, another Marathi ruler versus Muslims thing. But now I’m not seeing it on his upcoming films list, maybe it was quietly dropped.

          Takht shooting dates haven’t been announced, but it’s still Karan’s twitter icon so I am assuming it is still happening, someday, somehow. Was Ranveer supposed to be in it? Maybe that’s the delay since ’83 is taking FOREVER.

          On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 10:42 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yeah, I think Ranveer had one of the biggest parts in Takht. IMDB still says it’s supposed to come out next year but I doubt it happens if they haven’t started filming yet. Also isn’t 83 done filming? I remember seeing twitter posts about a wrap party.

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          • I think ’83 is finally done, Ranveer’s got an appearance in Suryavanshi (which might have already filmed) but nothing else going on. Of course now that he is free, Jhanvi is filming her helicopter thing and everyone else is scattered. This is just like when I try to arrange a party to bring together a group of old friends, everyone’s got stuff.

            On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 11:10 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. UGH! I am so sick of historical movies based on a battle and so wish Ashutosh (or someone else) would just make another historial romance! There are only so many times I can watch Jodha Akbar! I know he is likely refraining from making a historial romance after Mohenjo Daro but I would still rather watch that than another battle movie.

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    • If Mohenjo Daro was a historical romance, it would have been so much better!!! Instead of a historical “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks”.

      On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 11:17 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. This all looks boring and regressive enough, but if they think I’m going to spend 3 hours looking at a bunch of bald heads in unbleached cotton they must be nuts.

    It’s a terrible era/group of people for male costume except for the jewelry. I’m also extremely sick of the perfect demure but not in a doormat way! wife characters.

    Give me historical prostitutes and men with loads of hair wearing a metric ton of eyeliner or give me death, is what I say.

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    • Well, they made Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy just for you! Everyone goes into battle loaded down with jewelry, and one of the heroines is a temple dancer who rouses the people with her performances. Most of all, Sudeep swanning around in a black cape and eyeliner and sneering at people.

      On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 12:58 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Unfortunately, it was a big hit in theaters. So it just left theaters like a week ago, which I assume has bumped the streaming debut even farther out? The opening credits said that Prime was the streaming partner, so it should be there eventually.

          The evil British villain has a CGI leopard as a pet. No reason. Just slinks around in the background of Evil Planning scenes.

          On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 2:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • We don’t have Prime, so I’m hoping it will surface in a semi-legal place soon.

            Saaho is already there so I was wondering what had happened, but that explains it. Man, a leopard? It sounds great. I’m glad it was a hit, maybe it will show everyonethey need to STAY AWAY from the bald heads and saucer hats and lean into glitz.

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          • I feel bad for Arjun and Ashutosh, but I would be okay with Panipat flopping and getting everyone off the historic epic kick. At least the boring ones that are a lot of patriotic talky-talky leading up to one long dull battle.

            On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 2:13 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Reading bad comments about Panipat breakes my heart because Arjun needs a success badly, but from what I see people are tired of epics and it’s a good thing. I’m also tired and think I saw only Baahubali and Megadheera, and skipped all Manikarnikas, SLB’s films and all the rest.

            Sye Raa… is supposed to be on Prime from 6th December if I remember well, and I’m sure soon after it will be on einthusian.

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          • Ooo, Sye Raa on Prime the same day Panipat hits! There’s a real counterprogramming challenge.

            On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 3:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. I had low expectations and zero interest in this film so I admit that this movie seems better than I expected. As interesting as I find the Maratha Empire, I’m tired of all of the historical epics that are coming out. Only reason I’m interested in Tanhaji is because of the cast

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    • If nothing else the budget seems bigger than expected! Mohenjo Daro felt really cheap, and then it was a flop so I assumed Ashutosh would have even less money for this movie and it would feel even cheaper. Either he got a lot of money, or he just got better at making it look like he spent money.

      On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 3:20 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I think so? He had What’s Your Raashee and Mohenjo Daro, but those weren’t hits.

          On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 3:44 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Also apparently he did that one Abhishek-Deepika movie about the Chittagong uprisings? I sadly can’t forget about that 3 hour long 12 Priyanka movie which honestly seems like my idea of hell

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          • Oh right! The Chittagong movie which apparently wasn’t bad at all, but somehow released right before a different and far more critically acclaimed Chittagong movie.

            I’m tempted to do an Ashutosh retrospective for Panipat week, but that would mean watching What’s Your Raashee and I love myself too much to put myself through that.

            On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 4:11 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. One thing I can’t stand in Panipat comments all over the internet is that 90% of the people thinks Ranveer should be in the movie. Like really? He already made 2 (am I counting right?) epics, soon will be in 3rd . In my opinion it’s already too much for one, young actor.

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    • Yeah, Ranveer hasn’t been doing nearly enough movies! He needs more quick light things, let some of the other young actors carry the weight.

      On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 3:55 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  8. I can’t put my finger on exactly what, but I’m disappointed with the trailer. I’d much rather rewatch ‘the great maratha’, a 1990s cult-classic tv series directed by Sanjay Khan (Hrithik’s ex-father in law). The series started with the battle of panipat and dealt with the aftermath of the war on indian political scenario of that time..

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  9. You mentioned about Marathi ruler’s being just as likely to have multiple wives as Muslim rulers. (The exact line in the movie is that Peshwa’s are known to bring back a Mastani while coming back from expeditions). While your statement about multiple wives is not wrong generally speaking, and Shivaji indeed had 7 wives. However Shivaji was a Kshatriya, the Peshwa’s being Chitpawan Brahmins were not supposed to have multiple wives.
    This is the reason as to why orthodox Brahmin community of Pune was horrified that Bajirao had married a Muslim woman. Also, it didn’t help that in the mind of those Brahmins, it was finally their chance to bring back pure Hindu culture/rule after centuries of muslim rule..

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  10. Panipat looks like a Walmart version of Bajirao Mastani. Which doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad movie. But you’re right, it’s a repeat of everything we’ve seen before, specifically from Bhansali. I doubt it’s going to break any ground, which makes it feel like a waste, and will inevitably get poor numbers and reviews, which will be unfortunate even if it turns out to be just alright.

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