It’s been a little over 13 years since Saif Ali Khan stole the show from Ajay Devgn. The film was Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara. Khan’s character, Langda Tyagi, instantly got mythical status alongside Hindi cinema’s most iconic antagonists – Amjad Khan’s Gabbar Singh and Amrish Puri’s Mogambo. Devgn, who was effective in his own role, had the misfortune of being just good in a film where his co-star was outstanding. Cut to present day, and Saif Ali Khan is once again facing off with Ajay Devgn in a trailer that’s screaming Maratha pride. One look at Khan’s attire in Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, and you can see the sheer emphasis on other-ing Saif Ali Khan’s character of a Mughal army chief – Udaybhan Rathore.
The kohl-eyed, black attire chosen for the Rajput warrior seems hardly accurate. So much of it resembles Padmaavat‘s Alauddin Khilji, that it makes us wonder if the character has been put-together from the leftover costume of Bhansali’s blockbuster magnum-opus. Saif Ali Khan’s make-up seems like Bollywood’s tutorial 101 in how to Muslim-fy the ‘villain’, even if (like in this case) he’s a Hindu Rajput. For reference, just look at how Bollywood has dressed up Sonu Sood in Jodha Akbar or Shahid Kapoor in Padmaavat, when they wanted to make ‘heroes’ out of the Rajputs.
Villains have always been the more complex characters in these films, if you’ve been paying attention to Hollywood’s recent superhero films or spy franchises. And yet, Bollywood has kept up with its tradition of writing simplistic period villains – outsiders, who want to loot, burn and rape their way through India. While the ‘Hindu’ heroes protect their women & children, while upholding the honour of their saffron flag.
Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior will be Bollywood’s second paean to Maratha valour, after Ashutosh Gowariker’s Panipat… where Arjun Kapoor & Sanjay Dutt are sharing similar duties.
Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, also starring Sharad Kelkar, Kajol, Luke Kenny & Pankaj Tripathi. The film is slated for release on January 10, 2020.