One of the historical love stories that fascinated me as a child is that of Prithviraj and Sanyogita – two lovers rebelling against the world to be together. The template has been recreated in countless Bollywood films, where the boy and girl run away when parents oppose their relationship. Samrat Prithviraj, an action drama film directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, is based on the historic event as narrated in the epic poem Prithviraj Raso by Chand Bardai. The film is a celebration of patriotism, Rajput valour and the heroism of Indian kings in a way that is fitting for the big screen.
The film is also vocal about women’s rights and gender equality, doing full justice to the headstrong spirit princess Sanyogita is supposed to possess. Former Miss World Manushi Chhillar adds a breath of fresh air as Sanyogita, fitting right into the character of a proud Rajput princess and showing no jitters of a newcomer. Her training shows in the dance sequences, and she holds her own in front of senior actors.
Samrat Prithviraj has a solid supporting cast in Sonu Sood, Sanjay Dutt, Ashutosh Rana, Sakshi Tanwar and Manav Vij. Sonu plays a dedicated Chand Bardai, who is said to be the narrator of Prithviraj’s story in the epic poem. Sanjay Dutt brings some comic relief in between serious scenes, and also adds weight to the message the film repeatedly harps on – Rajputs will die for honour.
Director Chandraprakash Dwivedi has recreated some of the visual imagery that has by now become a template in historical dramas. The film opens with a blind Prithviraj trying to fight lions in Muhammad Ghori’s court in Afghanistan, in a scene which has almost become mandatory in all period dramas from Jodhaa-Akbar to Kalank.
It takes a little time for Akshay Kumar to grow on you as Samrat Prithviraj, and it’s only by the second half that you finally start to see the brave warrior king in him. The script has given ample scope to the actor to deliver his histrionics. This is a role where an actor can totally hit it out of the park with his larger-than-life performance, but somehow this film leaves scope for more in that department. The dialogues mouthed by the lead character are not as memorable, nor is the grandeur of scenes as impactful as that of successful historicals in the past.
Another department where the film could have scored is music. Although there are many songs in the film, some accompanied by beautiful dance sequences, none of them quite stay with you till the end of the show.
Even though the film is based on Prithviraj and Sanyogita’s love story, their romance is not as much in focus here as is the bravery of Prithviraj Chauhan. It is also an attempt to remind viewers that Prithviraj was the last Indian king on the throne of Delhi before invaders took over the rule, only ending when the British left the country in 1947. Though it is surprising that Prithviraj’s story took so long to be told on the big screen, it definitely is a chapter that we needed to revisit, and Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s film is an earnest attempt at that.
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