Samrat Prithviraj, starring Akshay Kumar, tells the story of King Prithviraj Chauhan and his battles with Mohammed Ghori (Manav Vij). The film, directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, is based primarily on 'Prithviraj Raso', the account purportedly written by the court poet Chand Bardai (played by Sonu Sood) which, many historians have pointed out over the years, has several exaggerated accounts.
So, Samrat Prithviraj doesn’t win many points from historical accuracy. Here are my honest thoughts about the film:
1. The film is about a warrior king who has gained an icon status in India and yet, the film seems like a compilation of vanity shots. Also it almost feels like beating a dead horse to talk about the age gap in Bollywood but can we really not even cast actors the age of the film’s subjects? Akshay, 54, plays Prithviraj and Manushi Chillar, 25, plays his wife. According to some reports, Prithviraj died at the age of 26.
2. I immensely missed Sanjay Leela Bhansali and SS Rajamouli during the entire film because even though the production design by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray (who also worked on Gangubai Kathiawadi) is opulent and brilliant, the film itself doesn’t reach the scale of the set.
3. With that in mind, Samrat Prithviraj is essentially if Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Karan Johar’s visions for a film had a child and then watched Padmaavat religiously for years. The sets are great but literally nobody seemed to remember that ‘colour’ is really important for a visual scene too. Orange and pink should never be put together, ever!
4. I was immensely more mesmerised by Manushi Chhillar (one of Prithviraj’s three wives, Sanyogita, or Sanyukta), Sakshi Tanwar (why didn’t I know she was in this film??), and Manav Vij, than I was by the hero of the film. Pity that, since the film is about him.
5. I miss the Rajat Tokas-starrer Dharti Ka Veer Yodha Prithviraj Chauhan. It's not that Akshay is a bad actor but he often seems out of place in the narrative, especially in his scenes with Manushi.
6. WHY did Prithviraj comically headbutt Ghori? Why do the war sequences seem so staged? The fight sequences seemed like I was watching someone play a bootleg version of Grand Theft Auto (GTA: Ajmer perhaps). So much male chest-thumping, I am TIRED. Kudos to the horses and elephants though, they truly did their best.
7. If you thought the jauhar scene in Padmaavat glorified the act….Samrat Prithviraj took it way further. There is an actual music and dance sequence (I know…) before the jauhar scene. Something that is a terrifying account of how women often face violence in times of war became something…else. I am trying to put it into words but the dance sequence really threw me off.
8. I didn’t expect Samrat Prithviraj to be a feminist film…and I was right. There are some moments where the film truly attempts to make a statement about sexism and women’s rights but it comes off so preachy and male saviour-y that it leaves a bitter aftertaste.
9. The conversation between Sanyogita and her mother (Tanwar) is quite poignant though. Once again, I ask, why nobody told me Tanwar was in this film? The two generations talking about what women are ‘expected’ to do or how they “must” behave is decent writing.
10. The film isn’t all bad though. The music is brilliant, and the script was clearly written after research. What a debut for former Miss World Manushi Chhillar! While she isn’t the best actor on screen, she was memorable and for a debut, that’s good enough.