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quick review:

A Hindi war movie that spends a lot more time on strategy than action extravaganza. ‘True’ to real-life or not, the politics of the situation engaged me enough to think that digesting the complexity needed the 3-hour run-time.

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Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Running time: 170 minutes
Genres: Patriotism, War
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Panipat - Preview

It is high time I (or maybe each one of us as an audience) set up a few guidelines while watching period dramas that are based on real life. My first one would be, "Forget it is a real-life story." There is no way it will be accurate down to the last detail. I would think even an attempt to be close to reality would be overkill in terms of effort and costs, so no one is really trying. When most films barely manage to achieve what they set to achieve, why even try to like or dislike them based on what they aren't even shooting for?

Let alone production, I am convinced most makers are not even a hundred percent interested in figuring out facts or unknown/unexpected details. It is just a topic that caught their fancy, and they want to narrate a story.

With these minimal expectations, often I find myself enjoying the extravagance on display. If there is a bit of zing in narration, even better. However, these days, with at least two films a year that have such elaborate visuals, there is no novelty. Thus making my interest in the movie completely dependent on the story and how it is told.

Unfortunately, Panipat's trailer doesn't create that kind of interest. The casting seems uninspired. The visuals seem like a copy-paste from any of the previous period dramas, maybe from Gowariker's own stock footage.

We are now banking entirely on the telling of the story. Hopefully, there will be enough to engage us.

Panipat releases on 6 December 2019.

Music Reviews: - "There's not much to hang on to in the soundtrack, which is a pity."
Times of India - "Minimalist albums like this one, comprising three songs, is a delight because each and every track stands out, thanks to the fact that there are no reprised or different versions of the same song."

- meeta, a part of the audience

The futility of war—if we know anything about the War of Panipat, it is that. But then that is almost any non-jingoistic war film implies. So it would hardly surprise us if this were the takeaway from Panipat, the movie. Interestingly, that is not entirely what it shoots for. It focusses instead on the plans and plan Bs. Despite having betrayal in the title of the film, it doesn’t focus too hard on the acts of loyalty and betrayal but spends its energy and time-space on the pursuit of loyalty and reasons for betrayal.

Since they were not all-out bad, they kept the attention where it was supposed to be on the story.

This is why the length of the film bothered me a lot less than the minutes over 120 usually do. And there were 50 of those! By the end, I was convinced that most of the pauses in the narrative and lingering about in the screenplay might be necessary to absorb the interactions, deals, and counter-deals.

The same goes for the voice-over. Very rarely do I feel I need something explicitly spelt out for me. At a couple of points, I was actually grateful for the helpful commentary.

It also helped that the dramatics were kept to a bare minimum. Except for a few moments in the climax, there were no in-the-face theatrics. No slo-mo entries, no overbearing introductions—except for maybe the one for Abdali (Sanjay Dutt). In fact, the action extravaganza was conspicuous by its absence. Only about half-hour of action in an almost three-hour film must have needed quite some restraint. Much appreciated. Even the action bits share the war-time with strategy.

Along similar lines, I found the underwhelming performances a positive contribution to the film. No really. A star-actor playing Sadashiv Rao, for instance, would have distracted from the heroism that the director wanted to attribute to him. Arjun Kapoor’s lack of screen presence keeps him from stealing his character’s thunder. I was pleasantly surprised by the subtlety of his act, especially in his interactions with his wife, Parvati, played by Kriti Sanon. Sanon herself is allowed to go beyond the “prop” roles that she usually does. Her voice modulation here actually tells you about her character’s feelings.

In contrast to the two, Sanjay Dutt comes across as hammy. Is it just me, or were the first few notes of naayak nahi played through the film? The huge supporting cast doesn’t take too much attention—good or bad. The only exceptions might be the better-known faces such as Padmini Kolhapure, Mohnish Behl, and Zeenat Aman. But, it is good to see them on screen again. And it is brief so doesn’t really hamper the narration.

There are also the little things that felt like there was some attempt at attention to detail. A young voice for a young character when he is singing, and the recoil of canons are a couple of such examples.

Except for a few moments in the climax there were no in-the-face theatrics.

I am not sure about the accuracy of the costumes, the props, the décor, the language and accent used by people from the different regions, considering it is a period drama. I liked that some of these departments, including CGI, were less than perfect. Since they were not all-out bad, they kept the attention where it was supposed to be on the story.

Panipat has clearly taken liberties to gloss over aspects such as travelling heavy and with pilgrims and women that are considered as reasons for the failure of the Maratha attack. It also leaves the reason why Abdali might never have returned to Hindustan out and makes his victory letter a eulogy to the great warrior that Sadashiv was.

Now, whether this is what the makers believe or whether this route was chosen to avoid controversy, we will never know. But even as we attribute righteousness to our wars, if we take the lesson from history that Panipat really should teach us, it would be enough—war is futile.

- meeta, a part of the audience

35 reviewers(?) - 13 yays 16 so-so 6 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...This is film and filmmaker that know how to respect our past without making frame belch with an over-saturated blast.... full review

Thumbs up, Catch News : ...फिल्म का डायरेक्शन एक जम बढ़िया है. आशुतोष के डायरेक्शन का कमाल आपको इस फिल्म के हर फ्रेम में नजर आएगा. फिल्म में सेट्स भी बेहद कमाल का नजर आया है. फिल्म की कहानी से लेकर एक्टर्स का काम, सिनेमेटोग्राफी एक्शन और यहां तर की इमोशनल सीक्वेंसेस और रोमांस सबकुछ बढ़िया है. फिल्म फर्स्ट हाफ में थोड़ा लम्बा है सेकंड हाफ फिल्म तेजी से पकड़ती है. आपका पूरा पैसा वसूल हो जाता है.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...Watch the film for its opulence, it's well-choreographed fight scenes, as well as a colourful lesson in history. It might not be all accurate and yet gives you a sense of place and time...... full review

Thumbs up, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...Ajay-Atul fail to create magic with 'Mard Maratha' and 'Mann Mein Shiva'. On the other hand, 'Sapna Hai Sach Hai' turns out to be a pleasant surprise with Shreya Ghosal's soothing voice.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vishal Verma, : ...PANIPAT is a magnificently mounted historical war movie with an impressive sweep and passionate salute to the great Maratha pride. The kind of entertaining and enthralling flourishes that has made Ashutosh Gowariker an irresistible storyteller. The movie sees Ashutosh Gowariker regain his footing after previous disappointment and that’s what we all wanted. (an extra for the comeback of the maverick)... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonal Gera, India TV : ...Ajay-Atul's music, as everything else in the movie, makes for a conflicting listen. While the songs uplift the narrative, the background score (Ekta Kapoor-esque in parts) steals away from it. Kolhapure's Gopika Bai, for example, is always introduced with a vampish cacophonic prelude, evoking a TV show aesthetic -- so not required for a period drama.... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Panipat delivers what it promises and does full justice to it. An accurate representation of historic events maintaining the balance well along with being entertaining. Kriti Sanon is a show-stealer!... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...Director Ashutosh Gowariker plays it even straighter than his actors, sticking to recreating facts as accessed/interpreted by him. The film, as a result, you might notice, feels flat in certain portions, lacking a natural rhythm of dramatic highs and lows, and seeming long overall.... full review

Thumbs up, by Pankhurie Mulasi, Movie Talkies : ...The songs are good and the background score too is thrilling. Overall it’s an interesting watch, with its length and its lead actor being its bane.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vaibhavi V Risbood, Pinkvilla : ...Panipat is for people who skipped the pages of history and never realised the enormity of the Maratha empire. It is not a war film. War is just a part of the story. Ashutosh, Arjun and Kriti’s Panipat is about how mighty empires were built and sustained. What transpires when politics is about a choice between winning and principles? It’s about valour, and honour one earns from the enemy even in times of a defeat.... full review

Thumbs up, by ANISH MOHANTY, Planet Bollywood : ...‘Panipat’ is the best film directed by Ashutosh Gowariker since ‘Jodhaa Akbar’. The filmmaker had been going through a rough patch in his career since the last couple of years and with this film, he proves that he has the talent and the desire to continue making quality cinema. He might have erred with his last few outings but this film should get him back in the game. Dexterous storytelling meets visual splendour in Panipat.... full review

Thumbs up, by Gaurang Chauhan, Times Now : ...Overall, Panipat: The Great Betrayal is worth your time and money. Watch it for its grandness, solid storytelling, engaging screenplay, Ashutosh Gowariker's skilled direction and some good performances by the lead cast.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sreeparna Sengupta,, Times of India : ...‘Panipat’ delves into a significant chapter in history and is a war drama that lauds the unshakeable bravery, courage and the strong principles of the Marathas.... full review

So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...In short, PANIPAT seems to be a project made by an uninterested team not finding any kind of excitement in its making. Neither the known names in the performances nor the VFX deliver any kind of magic till the end and one really feels sorry watching such a mega venture made in a shocking lackluster style offering almost nothing.... full review

So-So, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, PANIPAT throws light on an important chapter of Indian history with the battle scenes as its USP. At the box office, it will need a strong word of mouth since it faces competition in the form of PATI PATNI AUR WOH.... full review

So-So, by Pankaj Sabnani, Bollywood Life : ...With an excruciatingly slow pace, Panipat is above average at best. But we are unsatiated. Ashutosh Gowariker needs to go back to drawing board take inspiration from his own films like Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar. Because Pani(pat) sar ke upar ja raha hai.... full review

So-So, by SUPARNA SHARMA, Deccan Chronicle : ...Directors like Gowariker do no service to the nation or their audience by twisting the truth, ignoring military, diplomatic, common sense follies and rewriting history with jingoistic fervour.... full review

So-So, by Deepa Gahlot, Deepa Gahlot : ...Despite a display of some shockingly poor CGI, the battle scenes are well mounted and shot with befitting grandeur. Arjun Kapoor is unable to provide Panipat with a strong leading man, and Sanjay Dutt looks too old and jaded (Abdali died at 50) to provide any menace as the formidable antagonist. So actors in smaller roles stand out. It is worth a look for all the hard work put in and Gowariker’s sincere efforts to recreate an almost forgotten chapter of history, but if any viewer expects entertainment, this is not the film to watch.... full review

So-So, by Anna MM Vertticad, FirstPost : ...So yes, Panipat is shorn of Padmaavat and Kesari's insidious intent, but it is not exactly an innocent, truthful chronicler of Indian history. Add to that its lack of polish and spark, and for all its positives, it ends up as just an average affair.... full review

So-So, by Monika Rawal Kukreja, Hindustan Times : ...Overall, Panipat is an honest attempt at recreating the war that we only read in history books until now. It’s a tribute to the Maratha community in its truest form and even it was shorter by an hour, it could have had the same impact.... full review

So-So, by Ankur Pathak, Huffington Post : ...The over-reliance on cacophonic background score to propel the drama reveals serious narrative insecurity. Some of the transitions in the film are hastily done: I spotted at least two that appeared to have been borrowed from a Powerpoint presentation.... full review

So-So, by Nairita Mukherjee, india today : ...But when Sanjay Dutt’s Ahmad Shah Abdali reminds you of Ranveer’s Alauddin Khilji, your brows crease. You eventually forgive it because Dutt owns the character and at no point does he allow Khilji to seep into Abdali.... full review

So-So, by Kamaal R Khan, Khaleej Times : ...Panipat is a historical movie. It is worth a watch as it enlightens the audience with historical facts, revealing how the Marathas ruled India though it's widely known that India was ruled by Mughals and Britishers alone. Panipat brings to the fore an unknown part of history that shows the Marathas being the rulers before Indian kings fell prey to (outsiders) due to their own internal fights.... full review

So-So, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...My favourite scene comes a little earlier in the film. The two armies are camped out on opposite shores of the flooded Yamuna. Abdali and Sadashiv get their first look at one other via telescope. The frame is a static iris shot, like early cinema. Both men talk aloud, addressing the other. Even though there’s miles of raging river between them, they appear to be having a conversation. It’s one of those moments which wouldn't work on paper. You’d have to see it on film.... full review

So-So, by Vinamra Mathur, MiD DAY : ...As much as you want to admire the craft, you cannot deny this could have been a far more rousing portrayal of one of history's most fascinating and frightening chapters, had it been with better performers. It may do well, but has slim chances to become as memorable as the filmmaker's previous films.... full review

So-So, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...From a story arc perspective, many would wonder how a tale of commendable valour be woven in here, especially since the enemy stands victorious and the Peshwas struggles to shoo away the Shahenshah. But it’s about the josh and jazba of the Marathas in the battlefield that affected the said Afghan ruler such that he never returned to India, following this this encounter. In this film, mid-battle, this is conveyed in Abdali’s words: “ Aisa lagta hain mera khuda bhi unke saath hain.” Surely a side of the self-deprecating invader that slipped the textbooks.... full review

So-So, by Priyanka Sinha Jha, : ...Towards the end of the film it is evident that Panipat, despite attempts to be an epic saga, loses the battle.... full review

So-So, by UDITA JHUNJHUNWALA, : ...Gowariker finds the emotional connect in the scenes between Kapoor and Sanon, but there’s a been-there-seen-that feel to the battle scenes and the drama of the royal court. This is an interesting chapter of history to revisit, because the winners were not the real heroes of the Third Battle of Panipat.... full review

So-So, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...In an interesting casting move, he manages to get veterans like Zeenat Aman, Kunal Kapoor and Padmini Kolhapure on board, but disappointingly leaves them with very little to do in the minuscule parts. They certainly deserved to more than mere historical props.... full review

Thumbs down, by Anupama Chopra, Film Companion : ...Panipat finds its footing in the last hour when we finally get into the ferocious battle – Ashutosh succeeds in creating palpable horror and valor here. The other plus point is Ajay-Atul’s music – from the testosterone-filled ‘Mard Maratha’ to the exuberant ‘Mann Mein Shiva’. I wish the energy and tempo of these songs had seeped into the rest of the film.... full review

Thumbs down, by Prathyush Parasuramanhyush, Film Companion : ...I would be remiss if I didn’t note how Gowarikar has taken the trope of the evil, irredeemable Muslim despot and made him less evil, more redeemable. His only vice seems to be gluttony for power, and even that softens. There is more light in his dark courtroom as the film closes. Gowarikar has also added contrived messaging about togetherness, caste, class, and religion. (made even more contrived by Arjun Kapoor’s delivery) But much like the film, these sermons are merely ineffectual, if not entirely intolerable.... full review

Thumbs down, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...When you revisit history and recant it in positions palatable to current appetites, and you want it to go down smooth, you need large doses of visual flair and imagination, not sad tracts of CGI. Where is Sanjay Leela Bhansali when you need him?... full review

Thumbs down, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...The film's voice over narration, presented in the form of the recollections of the male protagonist's wife, is comatose. You have got to wait until the very end of the war and the film - both are excruciatingly long - to figure out the reason why this chronicle is this flaccid. Panipat definitely isn't Mohenjo Daro. But is that saying much? It will take three hours of your life and a whole lot of patience to sit through this laboured film. Think twice.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rajeev Masand, : ...Panipat ultimately is overlong and unwieldly. It may have its heart in the right place but its other organs are all over the place. Gowariker, who kept us engaged and invested through 3 hours and 40 minutes of Lagaan, or even through the genteel romance of Jodhaa Akbar, can’t seem to recreate the magic of his finest films. I’m going with a generous two out of five for Panipat. You come out feeling like you’ve survived war…just about.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Panipat has all the meat for a political drama meets war movie. But in Gowariker's failure to process its complexity, the material never rises beyond a mediocre hurray to the Maratha manoos.... full review

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So-So, by Mohit Kumar : Great coverage as always & its always a delight to check out latest bolly news on this web. This alo

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Loads and loads.
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: The war of Panipat between the Marathas and the Afghani alliance
  • General Look and Feel: A not-so-extravagant feel for a Gowariker film but loaded with politics and strategy

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

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