Bajirao Mastani is a 2015 Indian epic historical romance film directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who also composed its soundtrack. The film was jointly produced by Bhansali and Eros International's Kishore Lulla; it stars Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra. The supporting cast includes Tanvi Azmi, Vaibhav Tatwawaadi and Milind Soman. Based on the Marathi novel Raau by Nagnath S. Inamdar, Bajirao Mastani narrates the story of the Maratha Peshwa Bajirao I (1700–1740 AD) and his second wife Mastani.
In the early 18th century, the court of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shahu needs a new Peshwa, the equivalent of a modern-day prime minister. In spite of Shripad Rao's self-nomination as the Peshwa, Ambaji Pant nominates a young Bajirao. To test his spiritual wisdom and knowledge of weaponry, Shripad challenges Bajirao to split a peacock feather with an arrow. Bajirao succeeds and is given the title of Peshwa. Ten years later, his wife Kashibai is visited by her widowed friend Bhanu, whose husband was accused of spying and was ordered to be executed by Bajirao. She predicts that just as she longs for her husband, Kashibai will yearn for Bajirao.
While travelling to Sironja, an emissary from Bundelkhand enters Bajirao's tent and requests his help to fight invaders. She reveals herself to be Mastani, the daughter of the Hindu Rajput king Chhatrasal and his Persian Muslim consort Ruhani Bai. Impressed by her skills as a warrior, Bajirao assists her with his army and defeats the invaders. Chhatrasal is overjoyed and insists Bajirao spend Holi with them in Bundelkhand. Mastani and Bajirao fall in love with each other and he gives her his dagger, unaware it is a symbol of marriage among the Bundelkhand Rajputs. Bajirao departs for Pune, where Kashibai greets him with a tour of their newly-built Shaniwar Wada and shows him the Aaina Mahal (hall of mirrors), which allows her to see him from her room.
Determined to pursue her love, Mastani arrives in Pune but is treated harshly by Bajirao's mother Radhabai and accommodated in the palace for courtesans. Mastani tolerates this insult and appears to dance before Bajirao. Radhabai scornfully offers her the occupation of a royal dancer but refuses to accept her as a daughter-in-law. Mastani travels to the Chhatrapati Shahu and expresses her desire to be with Bajirao, then leaves to wait for him at a ruin across a river. During a storm, Bajirao crosses the river and chides Mastani's persistence, reminding her he is already married and that his court will never respect her if she is in a relationship with him. She agrees, despite his warning, and he declares Mastani his second wife.
The Marathas prepare to attack Delhi, the capital of the Mughal Empire, but must first ensure the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Muslim ruler of Hyderabad State, will not attack them during their assault. Bajirao leaves to confront the Nizam, Qamar ud-Din Khan, and returns successful. In the Aaina Mahal, Kashibai, who is pregnant, sees Bajirao embracing Mastani, who is also expecting, and leaves for her mother's home. She returns to joyous celebrations months later with her newborn son, who is named Raghunath. Mastani also gives birth to a son, whom Mastani and Bajirao name Krishna Rao. After the head Brahmin priest Krishna Bhatt refuses to conduct the naamkaran (the Hindu naming ceremony) on the grounds that Krishna Rao is illegitimate, Bajirao renames his son Shamsher Bahadur. A few years later, Kashibai and Bajirao's eldest son Balaji Baji Rao, also known as Nana Saheb, returns from Satara and expresses his hatred of Mastani for disrupting his mother's marriage.
Shiva Bhatt, a Brahmin priest, informs Kashibai of a plan to murder Mastani and her son during a festival. Kashibai relays this news to Bajirao, who rescues both of them. Krishna Bhatt kills Shiva Bhatt, enraging Bajirao. To keep Mastani's safe and to grant her a royal home, Bajirao builds the Mastani Mahal for her. Bajirao, however, is heartbroken due to the betrayal of his mother Radhabai and his brother Chimaji Appa. Meanwhile, Pant tells Bajirao he must defeat Nasir Jung, the vengeful son of the Nizam. Bajirao says that although he loves Mastani, his life and allegiance is always to his cause and he leaves for the battlefield. Before leaving, he meets Kashibai in deference to a tradition that the wife sent her husband off into battle. Kashibai tells Bajirao he has broken her heart and compares their love with that of Krishna and Rukmini. Kashibai orders him never to enter her chamber again, and Bajirao accepts and leaves.
After Bajirao leaves for battle, Radhabai and Nana Saheb imprison Mastani and Shamsher Bahadur. After Bajirao receives the news, he single-handedly defeats Nasir Jung's army in his rage but collapses from his injuries. At his deathbed, Kashibai sends a letter pleading with Radhabai to release Mastani so Bajirao can recover, but Nana Saheb burns the letter and refuses to release Mastani. Bajirao, delirious due to his sickness, dies from the trauma of his hallucinations; at the same time Mastani dies in captivity. The ill-fated lovers are shown to be united in death.
Bajirao Mastani received positive critical feedback. Writing for Firstpost, Subhash K. Jha gave it five stars out of five, calling it a "masterpiece", and comparing it favourably with Mughal-e-Azam. Anupama Chopra from Hindustan Times gave four stars out of five, terming it "soaring, searing and visually sumptuous", and writing, "Bajirao Mastani plays out a like an operatic, swooning, feverish love poem". She praised Singh for "combin[ing] towering strength with aching vulnerability and helplessness", Chopra for having the "maximum impact" despite fewer scenes, and called Padukone "riveting". The Times of India also gave four stars out of five, pointing out its "outstanding" cinematography and writing, "Every visual resembles a grand painting – courts with shadows and chandeliers, courtiers with tilaks and teers, chambers gleaming with mirrors, skies blushing with passion".
Taran Adarsh from Bollywood Hungama gave four stars out of five, describing it as "a cinematic gem", and wrote that "fascinating characters and inspirational sub-plots [in the film] advances into a stunning culmination". Zee News also gave four stars out of five and said, "An outright outshining piece of art made unblemished, sprinkled with sincerity and discipline of acting – this love folklore will restore the drama lovers, back in their ‘expectation’ block". Shubha Shetty-Saha of Mid Day gave three and a half stars out of five, and wrote, "Sanjay Leela Bhansali in his characteristic style narrates his version of the story in a Mughal-e-azamesque scale of grandiosity, replete with breathtakingly beautiful sets, elaborate and well thought of costumes and accessories and dreamy cinematography", which transports the viewers to an "unique and stunningly beautiful world". Ananya Bhattacharya of India Today also rated the film three and a half stars out of five, calling it "an experience", and Bhansali "a master love-storyteller". She praised the performance, saying, "Ranveer, Deepika, Priyanka shine ... while Tanvi Azmi plays the intimidating matriarch with elan"; thought she thought the editing "could have been much crisper".
Writing for NDTV, Saibal Chatterjee gave the film three and a half stars out of five, and said, "There isn't a dull moment in this colourful and dramatic film that embraces excess with unabashed abandon". Giving a rating of three stars out of five, Rajeev Masand described the film as "artistic but exhausting" and was critical of the film's length. He praised the cinematography, production design and performances; he credited Chopra for bringing "grace to the character, and practically steal[ing] the film", Padukone for bringing "heft" to her fight scenes, and Singh for finding his character's hidden vulnerabilities.
Namrata Joshi of The Hindu called the film a “historical leap”, and wrote, "Sanjay Leela Bhansali returns with another visual spectacle that wilfully takes liberties with the past that it depicts. But it does manage to engage even as it exhausts." Conversely, Raja Sen of Rediff.com was unimpressed with the film for favouring visual splendour over storyline, rating it two stars out of five. He praised Singh and Chopra, but disliked Padukone's performance. Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express was also disappointed with the film, writing, "Bajirao Mastani had the potential to be a terrific historical. You want to be transported. What it ends up being is a costume drama: too many costumes, too much revved-up, empty drama, and too little plot."