"Teri mitti jazbaat se judi hai aur meri akkal paani se, Tu Jaan de sakta hai aur mein jaan le sakta hoon," smirks Udyabhan (Saif Ali Khan) to an injured Tanhaji (Ajay Devgn) who is held captive on the Kondhana fort. But as he turns his back to Tanhaji, the smile disappears and is replaced with an unquenchable thirst for win. Om Raut's period action drama, Tanhaji: The Unseen Warrior explores the dynamics between these two characters in an engaging way.
What's Yay: Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Action sequences
What's Nay: The film drags its feet at a couple of places
Popcorn Interval: Strictly Interval
Iconic Moment: Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan's climatic battle leaves you with goosebumps.
The film begins with a young Tanhaji losing his father on the battlefield. 'Log vashihat mein bahut kuch chhod jaate hai, mein tere liye karz chhodkar jaa raha hoon," the latter passes on his iron kada (signifying his dream of achieving Swarajya for the country) before breathing his last.
Years pass by and the lad grows up into a fierce Maratha warrior (Ajay Devgn) who is one of the closest aides of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (Sharad Kelkar). When the king is forced to surrender 23 forts to the Moghuls including the Kondhana fort (which is of strategic importance), Rajamata Jijabai's pride is hurt and she swears to walk bare feet until the Marathas recapture the Kondhana fort.
Four years later, a spy brings news for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj that Aurangzeb (Luke Kenny) is planning to send his trusted commander Udaybhan (Saif Ali Khan) to Kondhana to ensure that the Marathas are unable to recapture the fort.
Finding it a perfect opportunity to reclaim the fort, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj starts planning for the conquest, making sure that the news doesn't reach Tanhaji Malusare who is busy with the preparations for his son's wedding in Umrat.
Somehow the news of Chhatrapati's plans reach Tanhaji's ears and the latter firmly decides, "Adhi lagin kondhanyach mag majhya raibacha." The rest of the plot revolves around how Tanhaji Malusare and his brave Mavlas recapture the Kondhana fort in the Battle Of Sinhagad on February 4, 1670.
Recreating pages from history on the big screen is no easy feat but director Om Raut pulls off this job with a certain ease. He has a firm grip over the emotions and actions in the narrative and makes sure that you enjoy every moment in the film.
On the flip side, the writing slips a bit at a few places. But Raut quickly holds the directorial reins tighter to ensure that the audience doesn't get distracted.
Ajay Devgn as the valiant Maratha Subhedaar Tanhaji Malusare brings in the right kind of intensity and valour in his performance. There are moments where he simply lets his gaze do all the talking.
The man finds his equal nemesis in Saif Ali Khan who delivers one of his most enjoyable performances in recent times. He lends a delicious wickedness to his portrayal of Udaybhan. His character in the film is kind of deranged but at the same time, his cunning ways also invoke laughs from time to time. Don't be surprised if Khan walks away with many awards this year!
Kajol as Tanhaji's wife Savitribai has her own moments of strength. Watch out for her song sequence which plays during the end credits of the film.
Sharad Kelkar who plays Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj puts up a splendid performance.
Keiko Nakahara's cinematography lends a poetic touch to the narrative and the stunning visuals create a greater impact. Dharmendra Sharma's taut editing works wonders for the film. The action sequences choreographed by Ramazan Bulut leave you on the edge of your seat.
While the songs strugle to make a mark, Sandeep Shirodkar's pulsating background music lingers with you for a long time.
At one point in the film, Tanhaji Malusare tells his men, "Pahila vaar lakh molacha". Staying true to this words, director Om Raut delivers with a bang right from the first frame. When you like history as a subject or not, this page from Indian history makes up for a compelling watch. The arresting climatic showdown between Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan is an icing on the cake.
We give 3.5 stars out of 5 for Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior.