Chronicling the life of the unsung Maratha warrior, Tanaji Malusare, who was one of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s closest aides and a military leader, the movie opens with a sequence of a young boy being trained for war. With motives laid bare in the beginning, the screenplay emerges almost like a graphic novel brought to life through a set of storyboarding artists guiding the sequences as per the artwork.
With all the theatrics and symbolisms in place, audiences are treated to a phenomenal imagery of Maratha warriors carrying out the signature guerilla warfare strategy in the mountains. Upon learning about the approaching battalions horsing through the hills, ropes are swung tight as the Maratha soldiers including the now grown-up and battle ready Tanaji sliding downwards and slashing down the invaders, thereby foiling their sinister plans.
Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj (Sharad Kelkar) had surrendered 23 forts to Aurangzeb (played by Luke Kenny) including the strategically important Kondhana (now called Sinhagad). Rajmata Jijabai (Padmavati Rao) swore that she would remain bare-feet until the fort has the Maratha Flag flying atop again.
Udhayban. who is the anti-hero (played by Saif Ali Khan) has won over Aurangzeb by his loyalty, fearlessness and valour. Having saved Aurangzeb from assassination attempt, Udhyaban is rewarded and tasked with ensuring that Maratha Warriors are kept at bay and precluded from recapturing the fort.
While Udhaybhan is sent with a huge army and a juggernaut of a canon named Naagin, Shivaji Maharaj’s campaign is still underway as he is reluctant to send his dearest friend Subedar Tanaji Malusare on the Battground during the time of his son’s marriage. Tanaji learns about the frenzy and insistently volunteers to be sent to defeat Udaybhan and win back Kondhana.
He explains to his wife about the need of the hour and devices the strategy to break into the rather impregnable fortress. One can hardly point to a war scene imagery of a bollywood movie as creative, sophisticated and thrillingly complex as the what unfolds in the latter part of the movie as the mighty Tanaji with his aides clambers his way into the fort.
With his indomitable spirit for Maratha clan backed by an equally motivated army, he launched into a battle that takes the fort by storm. All the CG elements and even animals like elephants and horses are exceptionally crafted and made indistinguishable from real ones. While Ajay Devgn is in his best form with his trademark intensity and portrayal, the anti-hero depiction by Saif Ali khan is nothing short of phenomenal. Over the years, Khan has definitely evolved an actor which shows through his projects. Bringing out madness and brutality, he also amuses with his antics at some points.
From the VFX perspective, its unarguably one of the best period movies India’s ever produced, setting a benchmark for the scale one can achieve in storytelling through computer generated imagery that doesn’t look off in the slightest.
Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior scores on all fronts — breathtaking action sequences, CGI, storytelling and also the cause of making the sacrifices of the warriors that we were hitherto oblivious to. This is India’s answer to 300.