I didn’t really want to review another Akshay Kumar movie anytime soon but Amazon Prime seems to be very stingy with its new releases and did not give me a lot of options this week. Also, I cannot relate much with African (Nollywood) films and I don’t know why they are being released in hordes in Prime.
So ‘Samrat Prithviraj’ it is. This historical period piece stars Kumar as the epic Indian king Prithviraj Chauhan of the Chahamana dynasty. The movie begins with a scene in Gazni, Afghanistan in 1192 CE where a wounded and blinded Prithviraj fights soldiers in horses and grapples with half-a-dozen lions while poet Chand Bardai (Sonu Sood) sings his praises aloud.
From the very first scene, the audience understands that the film is a highly fictional narrative to glorify the late king Prithviraj, the aging actor Kumar, and this one religion which is growing vehemently violent in our neighboring country.
Either that or the whole filmmaking team is going through fauxtalgia. (Look it up. It’s a legit word). Anyways, Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi writes and directs this movie that is based on an epic poem titled ‘Prtihiraj Rasso’ by Chand Bardai. To give it a little context, Dwivedi is the ‘Chanakya’ from the eponymous series ‘Chanakya’ which was pretty popular back in the 90s. Among his other creative works, the movie ‘Pinjar’ (2003) is also critically acclaimed.
Now what forced Dwivedi to undertake such a blatant commercialization of a history piece is the question. If you’ve watched his Chanakya or Pinjar or even the not so famous ‘Zed Plus’, you’ll have a different opinion of him. But in Samrat Prithviraj, Dwivedi fails as a writer and director. He deviates from honest storytelling to paint a larger-than-life picture of the king. But Dwivedi lacks the guile and grandeur of Sanjay Leela Bhanshali to pull off the mega-pageantry.
As expected of a glorification project, historical inaccuracies malign the whole plot. Prithviraj may have been the bravest of the brave and the strongest of the strong but if you tell me he fought seven full-grown lions with spears and killed them all, that too when he was captured, blinded and parched, I am not going to take any of it.
King Prithviraj Chauhan is believed to have died at the age of around 25-26. Actor Akshay Kumar is 54. Former Miss World Manushi Chillar who plays his love interest Sanyogita is 25. The couple look like father and daughter in some scenes and seriously, that is how it should be now for our aging actors who are still banking on their past glory.
Period pieces are always difficult to pull off. Besides the narration there are many things to consider, like costumes, makeup, sets, dialogues and more. Samrat Prithviraj is a failure on all fronts. The production, even though backed up by the Yash Raj Films banner, is immature. The casting is also a disaster.
Otherwise, who in their right mind would cast muscleman Sonu Sood as a poet? No offense to the actor but his career is a long list of macho roles. But he is not a poet. Not even a warrior poet. He looks uncomfortable and out of place in a role that is the film’s second most important. And I am not even going to comment on Akshay Kumar’s acting because he is too old at least by a decade to take up a role like this.
The rest of the cast, although famous and experienced, is also below par. It is probably the shoddy writing and Kumar’s over-the-top presence that throw them into shadow. Sanjay Dutt, who is given an atrocious role, could have been replaced with a newcomer and the balance spent on better CGI.
Yes, the CGI is that bad too. So is the background score. So is the music. And the film is too long.
Who should watch it?
Unfortunately, this is another on my ‘no one’ list.
Actors: Akshay Kumar, Sonu Sood, Manushi Chillar
Director: Chandraprakash Dwivedi
Run time: 2hrs 15mins