STORY: The film traces the life of the fierce Maratha warrior, Tanhaji Malusare, who was one of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s closest aides and a military leader. It focuses on the famous Battle of Sinhagad (February 4, 1670), which saw Tanhaji take on Udaybhan, a Rajput who fought for Aurangzeb against the Marathas.
REVIEW: Under the Treaty of Purandar, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (Sharad Kelkar) surrendered 23 forts to Aurangzeb (Luke Kenny), including the Kondhana (now called Sinhagad), which was of strategic importance. Rajmata Jijabai (Padmavati Rao) swore that she would walk bare feet till the fort is recaptured by the Marathas. Four years later, Aurangzeb sends Udaybhan (Saif Ali Khan) armed with a huge army and a massive canon called nagin, to ensure that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj can’t reclaim the fort. While Shivaji plans a campaign, he doesn’t want to send his trusted lieutenant and dear friend, Subedar Tanhaji Malusare, on the battlefield, as the latter’s son is about to get married. When Tanhaji gets to know of the mohim (campaign) he implores Shivaji to give him an opportunity to win Kondhana. His wife, Savitribai (Kajol) proves to be his silent strength. Despite the evil intentions of some like Pisal (Ajinkya Deo), he manages to make inroads into the fort that is considered impregnable. A fierce battle ensues where Tanhaji fights the deadly Udaybhan. While the story is known, several creative liberties have been taken to capture the attention of the audience.
Saif as Udaybhan overpowers; he brings out the brutality and devilish streak of his character with finesse and ferocity. In some moments of his evil madness, he actually adds a tinge of humour to the scene, while breaking into a sinister laugh himself. This is one of Saif’s most outstanding performances.
Ajay Devgn is in top form playing the braveheart Maratha warrior, Tanhaji, with all his might. He powers through with subtlety and restrains while keeping the patriotic passion high at all times. Kajol as Tanhaji’s strong and supportive wife, Savitribai, makes her limited screen time count with a convincing performance. Another high point of the film is the casting of the key characters. Sharad Kelkar as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj looks the part and brings the required gravitas to the part of the warrior- king.
Director Om Raut shows a flair for storytelling in his debut Hindi film. He maintains a firm grip on the film and balances the emotions and drama with tact. There is generous use of CGI, which is merged seamlessly in the narrative. It helps mount the film on a scale that it needed to create a solid impact. The action – and there is obviously a lot of sword fighting, slicing, dicing – is designed (by action director Ramazan Bulut) and shot skillfully, aesthetically and is a visual treat. ‘Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior’ scores on various counts — superior performances, powerful action, visual impact, and most of all, it unfolds a story from the pages of history that deserved to be told, with just this kind of intensity, passion and vigour.