Director Om Raut saves much of his historic film Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior with an overwhelming climax involving a duel between the main character (Ajay Devgn) and his Rajput nemesis Uday Bhan (Saif Ali Khan).
It is a powerful conclusion to a film that lacks the same intensity throughout its rather tepid narrative. Of course, by convention, the climax should be in a higher place than the rest of the film. But the preparation could have been at least a large part of what lies ahead. The only point that comes close to the climax is the intermission, which not only introduces an unexpected twist to the plot, but also raises the stakes of the upcoming battle of Singhad.
The film trailer describes the battle as a “surgical strike” by a force of Maratha soldiers from Chhatrapati Shivaji, led by his right-hand man Tanaji Malusare, on Gondana Castle, a former Maratha territory ceded to the Mughal Empire four years earlier as a truce to avoid invading the rest of the Maratha Kingdom.
Tanhaji and his brave Marathas face Uday Bhan, a Rajput bodyguard from Aurangzeb who has been entrusted with the task of securing Gondana because of his cunning manner, inhuman strength and agility, and his skillful warrior abilities.
The true heart of Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is the climax and the battle that follows. The rest of the narrative is weak in terms of commitment and meaning. Most of it simply serves to set the plot and explain the context, which Sanjay Mishra’s voice-over introducing the viewer to Tanhaji’s time could have done comfortably.
Other actors, including Luke Kenny (Aurangzeb), Kelkar (Shivaji) and Neha Sharma (Kamal, Udy’s love), are helpful, although none of them stand out particularly.
Filmmaker Keiko Nakahara captures greatness and intimacy in the right places. Editor Dharmendra Sharma has the difficult task of putting together a large number of action interludes, but he gets through it with ease.
Production designers Sriram Iyengar and Sujeet Sawant and costume designer Nachiket Bharve use conventional tropes (red for the woman, earthy tones for the protagonist, and ink blue for the villain) but end up creating a visually striking chapter from a book by Amar Chitra Katha.
Visual and special effects, including 3D, support the film’s grandeur and the director’s vision. The direction of the action is superb, especially the inventive use of bamboo to climb the outside walls of the castle and Udy’s innovative style of holding the sword upside down during the attack.
Ajay-Atul’s music, like most of his marathi-flavored Hindi music, is populated by Nashik dhols and other local instruments. Throughout the soundtrack, the titles “Maay Bhavani” and “Tinak Tinak” stand out. Ganesh Acharya presents contemporary dance movements in “Shankara Re Shankara”, which serves more as a distraction than a complement to the script. The best part is the background music, which is as exciting as the climax of the film.