Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus, Bajirao Mastani, is already setting new records

The historic drama is making waves with its unique companion web series and a mention in the Guinness World Records for a larger-than-life song-launch event attended by more than 5,000 people.

An image from the film’s animated companion web series, Blazing Bajirao. Courtesy Eros International
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Bajirao Mastani, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's upcoming period drama, about a famous 18th-­century warrior, may have been in the works for almost a decade, but its producers have a sound strategy to keep the film in the news until its December release.

A beleaguered history

Rumour has it that Bhansali, a fastidious filmmaker, struggled for years to find the right cast and the right time to make the film. However, after the box-office success of his 2013 hit Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, all the pieces finally seemed to fall into place.

The movie is based on the life of Bajirao Ballal (Balaji) Bhat, known to many as Bajirao I. He was the peshwa (prime minister) of India’s fourth Maratha king, Chhatrapati Shahu Raje Bhonsle. Bajirao was undefeated in more than 40 battles and married twice. He built a separate palace for his second wife, Mastani, in Pune city near Mumbai.

"We wanted to introduce Bajirao Mastani as an Indian film with a truly global appeal," says Prerna Singh, Eros International's chief marketing officer. She believes that a film directed by Bhansali has all the ingredients needed to be an international hit. "The look, feel and opulence that he gives to his cinema is very unique," she says.

The tagline – “Bajirao ne Mastani se mohabbat ki hai, aiyyashi ­nahin” (Bajirao has fallen in love with Mastani, not merely fooled around with her) – reveals that although the film is about one of the greatest unsung warriors in Indian history, it will focus on the love story of Bajirao and ­Mastani.

Online boost

Produced by Eros International and Bhansali Productions, the first glimpse of the film – which boasts an ensemble cast that includes Ranveer Singh as Bajirao, Priyanka Chopra as his first wife, Kashibai, and Deepika Padukone as Mastani – was presented as a teaser trailer in July.

In August, there was a celebration for Bajirao’s descendants in Mumbai, on the 315th anniversary of his birth.

A week later, a trailer was released for an eight-part animated web series, Blazing Bajirao, a prelude to the film that features its stars in animated form.

It introduces the characters, the socio­political backdrop of the time, and reveals the popularity of Bajirao through the historical events it portrays.

“We wanted to target the youth with this series,” Singh says.

Considering that the history of Bajirao is less well known outside of the state of Maharashtra, the web series should help to whet the appetites of young moviegoers and build interest in the film. It will debut this week, with one episode released each week on the ErosNow app (available on iOS and Android platforms) and at www.erosnow.com.

“The idea was to introduce history in a unique and interesting way and have a global reach,” says Singh.

The web series is attracting a lot of attention – although such tie-ins are increasingly common in Hollywood, it is the first promotion of its kind created for a Bollywood film.

Music launch

To emphasise the film's grandeur, the first song was revealed in style. Gajanana, which is an invocation to the Hindu deity Ganesha, was introduced to the world on September 15, when the celebrations for the Ganesha festival began in India.

In addition to the now obligatory online release, more than 5,000 students gathered at the Balewadi Stadium in the Shree Chhatrapati Shivaji Sports Complex in Pune for what proved to be Bollywood’s biggest song launch.

The students held up blocks featuring images of Ganesha which, when combined, created the largest crowd-formed mosaic image of the ­elephant-headed deity.

Sukhwinder Singh (of Chhaiyya Chhaiyya fame) sang the song and Singh and Padukone played the dhol.

The event will be featured in Guinness World Records as the biggest launch ever for a song.

Timely tweets

The song launch nearlywent ahead without the film’s stars. Padukone and Singh’s chopper could not land in Pune because of heavy monsoon clouds. They were forced to return to Mumbai, but were able to charter a flight and reach the event in time.

On the way, they kept the audiences updated and amused with tweets about their progress.

Singh was delighted with the lively crowd and tweeted after the event: “What mad energy in Pune! Well worth the adventurous journey! Mission Bhalewadi is a success! Agent D, you deserve a medal! @deepikapadukone.

“There’s much more that will follow, which we can’t reveal yet,” Singh added.

artslife@thenational.ae

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