Samrat Prithviraj (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A fearless warrior. An epic love story. Witness the grand saga of Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan.

My Take – With films like Baahubali: The Beginning (2015), Bajirao Mastani (2015), Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (2017), Padmaavat (2018), Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019) and Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (2020) finding immense success, demand for historical epics, especially in the Hindi film industry, are at an all-time high.

Marking Yash Raj Films‘ first foray into historical epic production, this latest entry into the genre written and directed by Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi (Pinjar, Mohalla Assi) aimed to (re) introduce the audience to the great life of Prithviraj Chauhan, a warrior king from the Chauhan (Chahamana) dynasty, in a film that celebrated his journey, pride and valor.

While astutely mounted with Akshay Kumar in the lead, the film, however, surprisingly is subtlety presented with little heroics added to showcase the brave king of 16th century India.

Sure, it contains some moments worth the cheer, but they are just too far and few in between. Adding more hurt to injury is the fact the film loses steam quickly owing to its rather flat screenplay, laboriously choreographed battle scenes, poor characterizations, and unconvincing performances, turning the 135 minute epic into quite the tedious watch.

Since the film is based on Chand Bardai‘s epic poem, Prithviraj Raso, which contains a mixture of historical facts and imaginary legends, and is not considered historically reliable, it’s quite obvious that creative liberties have been taken. But for all its political support rally, the film instead comes across as a weak dreary period piece that neither does justice to its source nor its subject, but only serves the agenda of the current ruling party in their continuous efforts to spread cultural nationalism.

A historical drama of this magnitude didn’t just require a big budget, but a clearer vision, a better script and not look like a poor man’s S. S. Rajamouli and Sanjay Leela Bhansali extravaganza.

Beginning in In 1192 CE, the story follows Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan (Akshay Kumar), the Hindu king of Ajmer, who due to his loss at the second battle of Tarain is now a captive of Muhammad Ghori (Manav Vij), the Sultan of Ghazni, and is forced to battle, despite being blinded, whatever is thrown at him.

Heading a year back, the film takes us through Prithviraj’s life, his brave and benevolent rule as an upholder of righteousness, who even agrees to help Mohammad Ghori’s younger brother when he seeks asylum along with a courtesan.

Leading to first battle of Tarain, which Prithviraj with his trusted friend Chand Bardai (Sonu Sood), a poet with clairvoyant abilities, and Kaka Kanha (Sanjay Dutt), his most loyal commander, at his side, manages to win, capture and imprison the Sultan. Only to let him go later on.

However, trouble begins to seethe inwards when a succession tussle erupts over the throne of Delhi between Prithviraj and his cousin, Jaichand (Ashutosh Rana), the king of Kannauj, who also happens to be the father of Sanyogita (Manushi Chhillar). And when Sanyogita elopes with Prithviraj, claiming to be in love with him after hearing tales of his valor, filled with rage and humiliation Jaichand allies with Ghori to Prithviraj out of the equation once and for all.

Without a doubt, it is the writing and the characterizations that lets the film down. Instead of introducing the audience to the characters, the film fast forwards from one sequence to the other in the first half, without focusing much on drama and build up.

The script is riddled with clichés and plays fast and loose with facts, reducing its principal characters to convenient caricatures with an unwavering nature of commitment to showcase how no one was a match to the great king. A king who is brave and fair, kind and committed, righteous, divine, a loving husband who bats for equality and a mighty warrior, an archer par excellence, forgiving and fierce all at the same time.

A bulk of the narrative is occupied by the petty domestic skirmishes sparked off by Prithviraj’s union with Kannauj princess Sanyogita. Sanyogita spends the first hour expectantly waiting for her king, and the other hour batting for women’s rights in the Ajmer court.

But when the news arrives the king and his men side has been ambushed and captured, Sanyogita, with fiery self-assurance, dances and then leads several women into mass self-immolation. The war sequences are fine, but don’t contain the kind of buildup and spectacle that we have seen in several period films before.

However, the most disappointing element of the film is Akshay Kumar‘s casting and performance. At 54, he doesn’t look like the boy who became a king in his 20s, and shows worse than ever in his scenes with 25-year-old Manushi Chillar, who plays Queen Sanyogita, especially in the scenes of romance. Here, we see an Akshay who is minus his trademark energy and fails to create the gravitas required to play the celebrated warrior. In her debut, Manushi Chhillar is without a doubt drop dead gorgeous, however, very visibly raw performance doesn’t help anything.

In supporting turns, Sanjay Dutt literally plays a delightful version of himself and manages to make the character his own to an extent, while Sonu Sood seems lost, playing it straight or singing songs for his idol. Manav Vij, plays the antagonist with much restrain, and does well.

In other roles, Ashutosh Rana, Sakshi Tanwar, Manoj Joshi, Lalit Tiwari, Arun Bali and Rajendra Gupta manage to leave a mark. On the whole, ‘Samrat Prithviraj’ is a shallow and dreary historical drama that disappoints on all faucets.

Directed –

Starring – Akshay Kumar, Manushi Chhillar, Sanjay Dutt

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 135 minutes

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