‘Panipat’ is an Indian 2019 period film about the 18th century Maratha warrior who took on the might of the army of a fierce invader, Ahmad Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt), the king of Afghanistan, who has set his inroads into India after forming an alliance with Najib-Ud-Daula (Mantra) with the intention to defeat the Marathas and curb their expanding power.
The Indian Hindi-language epic war drama film was directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar and stars Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, and Kriti Sanon, it depicts the events that took place during the Third Battle of Panipat.
As Maratha forces take on the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt), they are led by the commander-in-chief Sadashivrao Bhau (Arjun Kapoor), along with the Peshwa heir and his nephew Vishwasrao (Abhishek Nigam), his cousin Shamsher Bahadur (Sahil Salathia) and a Muslim aide Ibrahim Khan Gardi (Nawab Shah). Abdali, meanwhile, is being supported by Najib ud-Daula (Mantra).
Director Ashutosh Gowariker revisits the Third Battle of Panipat using a combination of historical research and cinematic imagination. The spotlight is almost always on the upright and loyal Sadashiv, whose bravery is given legendary status by Parvati, the narrator of the story.
Panipat has lavishly mounted sets, spectacular locations, epic scale, larger-than-life characters, and an extraordinary line-up of supporting cast. The climactic battle scenes, mounted with some flair, go on endlessly to show how the Maratha army fought valiantly at the third battle of Panipat – only to lose in the end.
Bollywood fans have learned to live with filmmakers taking liberties with history in the interest of an engaging story aimed at propping up one ideology or the other. But the director of Panipat took a different path, to ensure there are no historical inaccuracies in Panipat, director Gowarikar keeps as close to the facts as possible, taking only a few major cinematic liberties.
Although the film lacks pace at times, especially the first half with the story taking its sweet time to build up. It packs in a layered narrative that delves into the complex politics of the period, the intricate workings of war strategies versus might, negotiation dynamics, and the importance of forming alliances.
With a run-time of close to three hours and the many characters and plot points, the film touches upon it becomes a lengthy and at times, tedious watch. The love angle between Sadashivrao Bhau and Parvati Bai (Kriti Sanon) was a bit too much to focus on as a side story, although Kriti Sanon pulls in a solid, effortless performance with a well-etched out character.
The mammoth effort that was put into making the final battle set in 1761 is clearly visible. Its a compelling war sequence. One that almost induces goosebumps. It more and makes up for any other flaws of the film and makes it worth a watch if only to see the epic battle sequence. The cinematography (C.K. Muraleedharan), sound design (Stephen Gomes), and the visual effects also blend in seamlessly to give an authentic setting to this period film. Overall, Gowarikars Panipat is an honest attempt at recreating the war that we only read in history books until now.
To offer some background details, The Maratha Empire was a Hindu power that dominated a large portion of the Indian subcontinent in the 18th century. The empire formally existed from 1674 with the coronation of Shivaji as the Chhatrapati and ended in 1818 with the defeat of Peshwa Bajirao II at the hands of the British East India Company. The decline of the Mughal Empire following the 27-year Mughal-Maratha war (1680–1707) had led to rapid territorial gains for the Maratha Empire.
The conquest of the Maratha Empire brought them into direct confrontation with the largely Muslim Durrani empire of Ahmad Shah Abdali in today’s Afghanistan & Pakistan. In 1759 Abdali raised an army from the Pashtun tribes and made several gains against the smaller Maratha garrisons in Punjab. He then joined with his Indian allies—the Rohilla Afghans of the Gangetic Doab—forming a broad coalition against the Marathas.
Huge armies of Muslim forces and Marathas collided with each other on 14 January 1761 in the Third Battle of Panipat. The Maratha Army lost the battle, which halted their imperial expansion. The battle was in turn the high point of Ahmad Shah’s—and Afghan—power. However, the empire began to unravel shortly afterward and the domination and control of the Empire began to loosen, and by the time of Durrani’s death, he had completely lost Punjab to the Sikhs, as well as earlier losses of northern territories to the Uzbeks.
The historic Third Battle of Panipat battle is considered one of the largest fought in the 18th century and has perhaps the largest number of fatalities in a single day reported in a classic formation battle between two armies.
The Third Battle of Panipat in Panipat (2019)
- Gowariker may have taken liberties with history, but doesn't play around with the form. He sticks to the tried and tested, the long and langourous and old-fashioned.
- Just enough of enough visually arresting scenes to make it worth a watch.