One of the historical love stories that fascinated me as a child is that of Prithviraj and Sanyogita – two lovers who rebel against the world to be together. The pattern has been recreated in countless Bollywood movies, where boy and girl run away when parents oppose their relationship. Samrat Prithviraj, an action drama film directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, is based on the historical event narrated in the epic poem Prithviraj Raso by Chand Bardai. The film is a celebration of patriotism, Rajput valor and the heroism of Indian kings in a way that befits the big screen.
The film also talks about women’s rights and gender equality, doing full justice to the stubborn spirit Princess Sanyogita is said to possess. Former Miss World Manushi Chhillar adds a breath of fresh air as Sanyogita, fitting right into the character of a proud Rajput princess and showing no nervousness of a newcomer. Her training shows in the dance sequences, and she defends herself in front of senior actors.
Samrat Prithviraj has a strong supporting cast in Sonu Sood, Sanjay Dutt, Ashutosh Rana, Sakshi Tanwar and Manav Vij. Sonu plays a dedicated Chand Bardai, who is said to be the narrator of Prithviraj’s story in the epic poem. Sanjay Dutt provides comic relief between serious scenes and also adds weight to the message that the film repeatedly emphasizes – Rajputs will die for honour.
Director Chandraprakash Dwivedi has recreated some of the visual images that have now become a pattern in historical dramas. The film opens with a blind Prithviraj trying to fight off lions at the court of Muhammad Ghori in Afghanistan, in a scene that has become almost obligatory in every period drama from Jodhaa-Akbar to Kalank.
It takes a little while for Akshay Kumar to grow into you as Samrat Prithviraj, and it’s not until the second half that you finally start to see the brave warrior king in him. The script gave the actor ample leeway to deliver his antics. It’s a role where an actor can totally step out of the park with their larger-than-life performance, but somehow this film leaves more room in that department. The dialogue spoken by the main character isn’t as memorable, and the grandeur of the scenes isn’t as impactful as that of historical hits of the past.
Another department where the film could have scored is the music. Although there are many songs in the film, some accompanied by beautiful dance sequences, none of them accompany you until the end of the show.
Even though the film is based on the love story of Prithviraj and Sanyogita, their romance isn’t as much in focus here as Prithviraj Chauhan’s bravery. It is also an attempt to remind viewers that Prithviraj was the last Indian king on the Delhi throne before the invaders took over, only ending when the British left the country in 1947. Although it is surprising that Prithviraj’s story took so long to be told on the big screen, it’s definitely a chapter we need to revisit, and Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s film is a serious attempt at that.
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