Filmfare recommends: the best historical Bollywood movies of this decade
Historic films, once staple of the 50s and 60s, have kind of made a comeback lately. They demand a big budget, hundreds of actors, orders for thousands of costumes, the construction of gigantic sets and take forever to shoot. A director has to make sure that everything is in tandem, otherwise things may very well backfire on them. Sometimes such films also cause unnecessary controversy and a filmmaker has to vary in this direction as well. Therefore, filmmakers tend to avoid taking on such arduous tasks. Thanks to the success of the Baahubali films – which in themselves were not historical films but still carried elements of the genre – interest in the genre was rekindled. The producers have realized that the masses love painstakingly executed costumed dramas. Of course, just padding isn’t enough, the story has to be a cracker as well. Present you with a list of best historical films released over the past decade to help you escape to different realms during this time of lockdown.
1. Historical Bollywood Movies – Bajirao Mastani (2015)
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Actors: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra
Bajirao Mastani was a dream project from Bhansali. He had wanted to make the movie since the late 90s but for some reason he couldn’t get off the ground. After going through developmental hell for a long time, the film was finally released in 2015. Ranveer Singh tried out the role of the legendary Peshwa Bajirao I, Deepika Padukone played Mastani, his second wife, and Priyanka Chopra brought the character of Kashibai to life, his first wife. Bajirao was a valiant warrior who extended the power of the Marathas north and south. During one of these campaigns, he meets Mastani, the Muslim daughter of King Chhatrasal and is drawn to her for the valor she displays on the battlefield. She becomes his second wife and a rivalry breaks out between her and Kashibai. Mastani is not welcome at the court of Pune and as a result, Bajirao builds another palace for her and begins to spend more and more time there, causing Kashibai to experience further grief. When he goes to fight Nasir Jung in the South, Bajirao’s mother and his eldest son imprison Mastani and her son Shamsher Bahadur. He succeeds against Nasir Jung but is seriously injured. He wants her released and dies hallucinating to meet her. Ranveer and Deepika were both in their element in portraying the lead roles, but the surprise package was Priyanka, who made us sympathize with Kashibai.
2. Historical Bollywood Movies – Padmaavat (2018)
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Actors: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor
Padmaavat tells the immortal love between the Rajput ruler Maharawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) and his second wife Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), who was a Sri Lankan princess. They fell in love while recovering in Sri Lanka after being shipwrecked off the coast of the island. He marries her and takes her to Rajasthan, and they are considered perfect for each other. Tales of her beauty reach the ears of Alauddin Khalji (Ranveer Singh), who is mesmerized by the description and wants to see it. Ratan Singh, of course, denies it, thinking it is against Rajput pride. This leads to an invasion of Chittor by Khalji. In order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, Ratan Singh challenges Khalji to single combat. They both turn out to be equal at first, but later Ratan Singh seems to have the upper hand. He is killed by treason at this point. Padmavati, upon hearing the news, commits suicide by jumping into a burning pyre and other ladies living in the fortress also join her. The film was a visual extravaganza, with Bhansali going above and beyond to maintain greatness. The three protagonists also gave sincere performances.
3. Historical Bollywood Movies – Kesari (2019)
Director: Anurag Singh
Actors: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra
Kesari is an account of the famous battle of Saragarhi which took place in 1897. 21 soldiers of the 36 Sikh regiment opposed ten thousand Afghan soldiers and did not let them conquer Saragarhi fort until evening. The Afghans’ initial plan was to capture the neighboring forts, Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan on the same day. The sacrifice of the 21 lionhearted Sikhs put the brakes on action. Akshay Kumar, who played Havaldar Ishar Singh was the soul of the film. His appearance, his manners made him a professional soldier of that time. The way he rallies the morale of his comrades and leads from the front is an example of true heroism. The film was not chauvinistic. And it showed that the soldiers were ready to sacrifice their lives for their homeland and not because of an allegiance to the British. The action scenes got more gruesome as the death toll escalated, with director Anurag Singh not sparing us the real horrors of war. We can’t help but salute the bravery of the 21 soldiers who gave their all for a cause.
4. Historical Bollywood Movies – Manikarnika: Queen of Jhansi (2019)
Director: Kangana Ranaut, Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi
Actors: Kangana Ranaut, Atul Kulkarni, Jisshu Sengupta, Suresh Oberoi, Danny Denzongpa, Ankita Lokhande
Rani Laxmibai, Queen of Jhansi, was one of our main freedom fighters who staged an armed revolt against the might of the British. Not only did she personally make life hell for the British, but her immortal deeds also inspired millions to revolt against the British Empire even after her death. Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s famous poem Jhansi Ki Rani is a prime example of the inspiration of her life as Chauhan wrote at the height of India’s freedom struggle against the British and the poem ignited the flame of patriotism in many hearts. Kangana watches the mansion born playing Laxmibai. She channels the spirit of the Warrior Queen and is her fierce best in war scenes and also manages to give us a glimpse of the icon’s mellow side. She is aided by a talented cast including Atul Kulkarni as mentor Tatya Tope, Jisshu Sengupta as her husband Gangadhar Rao, Suresh Oberoi as father figure Bajirao II, Danny Denzongpa as warlord Ghulam Ghaus Khan and Ankita Lokhande as Jhalkaribai, the woman who pretended to be her and helped her escape. Manikarnika is a moving saga and we can all inspire each other when it comes to emulating determination and bravery.
5. Historical Bollywood Movies – Panipat (2019)
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Actors: Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Kriti Sanon
Panipat brings to life the Third Battle of Panipat which was lost by the Marathas under the leadership of Sadashivrao Bhau (Arjun Kapoor). Sadashiv was successful against the Nizam of Udgir in the south and therefore received command of the Maratha army against the Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt). It is a long march from Pune to Panipat and Sadashiv planned to use the services of the Maratha chiefs installed along the way, asking them for rations and men, thus strengthening his army. He also hoped for the support of the Sikhs and the Rajputs against the Afghan invaders. But things did not go as planned. Most of his alliances have failed. His army ran out of rations. They were also crowded with large numbers of civilians who had followed his army. This included the pilgrims, as well as the wives and children of the soldiers. The director pleaded for the unity of Hindu Muslims with the film. Muslim son of Bajirao by Mastani, Shamsher is Sadashiv’s most trusted assistant and fights alongside him. Ibrahim Khan Gardi is also proving to be a crucial part of his war machine. Overall, it’s a detailed war film, showing us how it’s not just bravery but strategy that makes the difference between victory and defeat. The intricately crafted war scenes feature prominently in the film. You can feel the noise and the tremors going through you as the cannons start to blaze. The formation of troops, the deployment of various devices add drama to the story.
6. Historical Bollywood Movies – Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (2020)
Director: Om Raut
Actors: Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Kajol, Luke Kenny, Sharad Kelkar
Tanhaji recounts the capture of Fort Kondhana by the Marathas. This was of strategic importance to Aurangzeb because from there he could keep an eye on the entire southern region. Shivaji had to cede the fort to him as a result of the Treaty of Purandar and was desperate to get it back. His trusted aide Tanhaji Malusare and his band of diehard soldiers captured the fort by scaling seemingly impregnable walls and defeated Commander Rajput Udaybhan who was in charge of the fort. Tanhaji lost his life while gaining the objective and the fort was renamed Sinhagad in his memory by Shivaji because he had fought like a lion. The grand scale of the war drama, the creatively designed battle scenes, and the final showdown between Tanhaji and Udaybhan made it a top-notch thriller. Ajay Devgn has come to life Tanhajihis intensity, his devotion to Shivaji and his undying love for his homeland with the greatest conviction. Saif Ali Khan‘and Shar Kelkar’s performances also garnered much praise.