Prithviraj (Akshay Kumar), the ruler of Ajmer and Sanyogita (Manushi Chhillar), the daughter of the ruler of Kannauj, Jayachandra (Ashutosh Rana), have never seen each other and have only heard of each other’s beauty and valour. They do exchange letters, however – it’s not shown how – on a regular basis and fall in love. Pritiviraj gives asylum to the brother of Muhammed Ghori (Manav Vij), a ruler of the Ghurid dynasty – present day Afghanistan. Ghori then invades India in retaliation and is defeated by Prithviraj. The ruler of Delhi, a distant relative, abdicates in favor of Prithviraj, effectively making him the ruler of a large part of India. Jayachandra is against this and plots revenge. Later, Sangyogita elopes with Prithviraj, turning the enmity even more bitter. Ghori invades again and wins this time through treachery. Prithviraj is captured and brought to Ghajini. But he does have another feather left in his quiver…
Samrat Prithiviraj is based on the epic poem Prithviraj Raso written by Chand Bardai. It juxtaposes fact and fiction to offer us a visual spectacle about valour, war and honor. At the end, it says that Prithviraj’s death ended the reign of Hindu kings and plunged India into 755 years of oppression by the outsiders. In another instance, it makes a point about Somnath Temple being razed by Mahmud of Ghazni. These are political statements in keeping with the turbulent times we live in. To balance it, perhaps, the film also makes a case for the equality of women. Sanyogita questions the sanctity of swayamwar, when clearly women actually don’t have any rights and are goaded by the family to choose as per their wishes. Later, Prithviraj is shown giving Sanyogita an equal place as the ruler, making a case for having women as leaders.
The film is an ode to the honor and value of Prithviraj in particular and rajputs in general. His heroic qualities are showcased in full splendour. He’s shown to be on par with Arjun on the battlefield, is as just as Ram while delivering justice and is even shown crucified like Christ in the later end of the film. Truth, honor and commitment are the bywords he lives and dies by. Luckily for director Chandraprakash Dwivedi, Akshay Kumar suits the role to a T. Not only does he look physically imposing a rajput warrior king, his eyes, his body language drip with sincerity towards the ancient belief of rajdharma. Looking at him, one can believe that once upon a time there lived men who believed in the purity of their faith and were willing to sacrifice themselves for duty. His actions are calm and collected and never exaggerated. Even on the battlefield, you feel you’re watching someone who has put in hours of practice. The age gap in his scenes with Manushi Chhillar doesn’t come through. The film adds another feather in Akshay’s already stuffed cap.
The former Miss World too has made a confident debut. Manushi looks every inch a rajput princess. She’s pretty as a picture and can act as well. She isn’t just here to raise the oomph quotient but gets to put some points across towards women’s emancipation as well. It’s a fine beginning for the newcomer, and good things can be expected of her in the future. Sonu Sood has almost as big a role as Akshay’s and plays a court poet who is also a warrior. He looks good while playing friend, philosopher and guide to the valiant king. Sanjay Dutt plays Kaka Kanha, Prithviraj’s uncle. Sanjay’s larger-than-life persona makes him an instant fit in historical epics. He’d have played the lead if the film was made 20 years ago and shows here that age hasn’t dulled his ferocity. Manav Vij is strangely muted, underplaying the role of Muhammed Ghori and thankfully isn’t given jingoistic lines.
Producer Yash Raj hadn’t spared a penny when it comes to the film’s visual grandeur. The Colosseum-like place where the film begins and ends feels real, as do the various palaces and havelis. The war scenes too look grand. Be it production design, costume, cinematography or editing, everything adds to the film. At close to 140 minutes, it has just the right length and keeps your attention rooted to the screen.
Watch the film for its combination of myth and history. It’s fondly trying to recreate a time when everything was just and honorable, while also showing that it’s our own disunity which allowed the invaders to step in. A lesson to be learned, perhaps…
Trailer: Samrat Prithviraj
Rachana Dubey, June 3, 2022, 4:35 PM IST
Samrat Prithviraj Story: Based on Prithviraj Raso, the film tells the story of King Prithviraj Chauhan who gave it his all when he clashed with Muhammad Ghori to protect his pride and soil from foreign invasion and captivity
Samrat Prithviraj Review: The best part about narrating a story in an engaging manner is to set its tone from the word go. And what better than a dramatic action sequence for a story that puts the spotlight on a righteous warrior king, Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) and his fight to protect his pride, people and soil from slipping into Muhammad Ghori of Ghazni’s (Manav Vij) hands. Post that, the narrative takes you into the king’s journey as a human being, and what led him to really take on Ghori in the battlefield.
The action pieces in the film are choreographed and shot well, but given that the film centers on a war that had an impact on our history, you’d probably expect more war-time in this drama. The dialogues, while they give the narrative a dramatic impact, at times, suffer from a tad bit of inconsistency. As a director and the writer of this film, Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi does a fine job in keeping the narrative clean and focused, without many digressions.
However, post-interval, the focus dwindles a bit in the woman-power sub-plot more than it needed to. It momentarily takes away from the primary story of the film. Also, none of the characters have been given a particular leheza or an accent to speak in, which is good and bad in parts. Good because it’s easier to follow for the mass audience, and bad, because it doesn’t sound as authentic as it could have.
Samrat Prithviraj, despite its scale of canvas, doesn’t become overly opulent – something we are acccustomed to watching in our films from the same genre over the years. The production design and costumes work in tandem with that. Even though the subject in hand is complex and layered, it’s been fairly simplified for the audience to understand and engage with.
None of the songs in the album (composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy) really stay with you. The title track, which plays out in the film a few times, gets a tad jarring. The honeymoon-song sequence and the last song-and-dance sequence, if done away with, would have probably given more space and time to war, action and dramatic scenes. There are several visually-striking scenes but the VFX could have been used more skillfully.
In terms of performance, Akshay Kumar’s effort to dive deep into this historic character is visible. He carries the tremendous weight of a king on his shoulders with dignity and poise. Sonu Sood and Sanjay Dutt, as Chand Vardai and Kaka Kanha, respectively, add a lot of weight to the narrative as the drama unfolds. Sanjay, in fact, breaks the serious tonality of the film at various points with humour. Sonu’s character as the king’s die-hard loyalist is the one with a lot of ‘thehrav’ and maturity, which stands out. Manushi Chhillar, who won the Miss World pageant in 2017, makes a confident and fine debut in this film. In a film that revolves around a warrior king and the battlefield dynamics of that era, she holds her own and delivers a performance that presents her as a complete package.
On the other hand, senior artists like Manoj Joshi, Ashutosh Rana and Sakshi Tanwar have been fairly underutilised in extremely small roles. It would have helped the narrative a lot if one had a chance to see a little more drama featuring these actors along with the central characters of the story.
Overall, Samrat Prithviraj is a well-performed and well-directed family drama. It doesn’t have the opulence that we have seen in other historial dramas, but there is enough to keep you invested and also take you back into the pages of our glorious history.