Pawankhind: A gripping epic celebrating unsung heroes of Maharashtra

'Pawankhind' is about a famous incident from Maratha history where Chatrapati Shivaji's life was in danger as he was surrounded by the enemy army of Adil Shah II in the Panhala fort near Kolhapur, Maharashtra. 

By Sanjiv Kulkarni

Today is Maharashtra Day! So Jai Maharashtra, Jai Shivaji! A very happy Maharashtra Day wishes to the readers of The Australia Today.

62 years ago Maharashtra state was formed on this day within independent India. I agree with filmmaker Vivek Ranjan Agnijhotri who in his recent tweet highlighted the contribution of Maharashtra to India. We are able to celebrate the creation of an independent Maharashtra and an independent India because of the sweat and blood of several brave warriors – some known, some unknown. Today, as we celebrate Maharashtra Day, we have to celebrate their contributions and sacrifices. 

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Before I get to the story line, I want to mention 2 points: First, It is Paavankhind, not Pawankhind like it reads and I have heard some pronounce (Pavan is ‘wind’ and Paavan is ‘Holy’). This Godkhind or ‘mountain pass’ or literally a place on the mountains through which Ghodas or horses can pass, became Paavan or ‘holy’ because of this incident. This is near Vishalgad fort in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. Second, I watched this movie over a month ago when I was in India. However, I wanted to share this video and review on this apt day. When I watched this film in the theatre it was probably in week 4 and running almost a houseful show even the. I heard whistles and applause in the theatre that was truly unbelievable.  

For a Maharashtrian, or for anyone who has studied and grown up in Maharashtra, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a highly revered name. We have read and heard his stories at school, from our elders and was also part of our childhood games when we would enact those famous warplays! So for us, it is reverential to see any movie of Maharaj on the screen! Shivaji Maharaj was the first, in a Maharashtrian context or even across India, to set a vision of Swaraj, self rule or independence from the Mughals. This dream of Swaraj has stayed alive over the centuries and the subsequent Maratha rulers and eventually the Maharashtrian freedom fighters like Lokamanya Tilak, Swantantra Veer Savarkar. Thanks to this vision, these dreams, we are living in a free world! 

But we have one responsibility and that is not to forget the sacrifices of such great leaders, not just the brave Kings but several brave warriors and generals – the unsung heroes who laid down their lives for their King and his vision of Swaraj! This is our #Lestweforget moment.

Pawankhind is about one such famous incident from Maratha history where Chatrapati Shivaji’s life was in danger as he was surrounded by the enemy army of Adil Shah II in the Panhala fort near Kolhapur, Maharashtra. 

Several brave warriors laid down their lives to ensure Shivaji Maharaj’s safe exit from this fort. Prime amongst the generals were Baji Prabhu Deshpande, Netaji Palkar, Rayarirao Bandal, and Shiva Kashid.

The movie is gripping throughout although many cinematic liberties have been taken in this retelling. The first half builds up the premise while the second half is action oriented demonstrating the brave escape of Shivaji Maharaj and the sacrifice of all the generals. Nobody from the defending team survives. And they knew this when they made the decision to stay back at the Godkhind as Shivaji Maharaj and a team of 300 soldiers escape to Vishalgad. It is difficult to even imagine the state of mind of these bravehearts.

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While the whole film is amazing, I do hope that the makers could have researched and recreated some detailed war tactics used during the fight at the Godkhind. When a handful of soldiers are stopping a massive army, I am sure they would have used several war tactics and strategies that were developed in Maharashtra.

Image source: Pawankhind poster.

Digpal Lanjekar, the director, is on a mission to bring Shivaji Maharaj’s life stories to celluloid. His first movie was Farzand based on the valour of Kondaji Farzand which helped recapture this same Panhala Fort. Then came Faatehshikast which shows the capture of Lal Mahal in Pune. And now Pawankhind. His next venture is titled Sher Shivraj which will be releasing soon. Kudos to Digpal on this mission! We are keen to see many more stories of such unsung heroes! 

Tanaji Malsure is another such great general who laid down his life for the King, and his story was made into a movie two years ago by Ajay Devgn. I sincerely hope all the movies from Digpal also get a wider outreach especially amongst Indians living abroad. His team of actors mostly reprise their roles from the previous movies. Chinmay Mandlekar as Shivaji Maharaj; Mrinal Kulkarni as Jijamata, mother of Shivaji Maharaj; Ankit Mohan, Mrunmayee Deshpande and Sameer Dharmadhikari don various roles in these movies. All the actors, most well-known names from the Marathi film and TV industry, have done a brilliant job in their respective roles. I would particularly call out three actors:

  • Chinmay Mandlekar – Brilliant portrayal of Shivaji Maharaj. He is very charismatic and I am singling his performance for another reason though. His two movies released weeks apart. Pawankhind came first and The Kashmir Files came next. In the first movie, Pawankhind, you feel like giving your life for him as he instils a passion in you. However, in second film you feel like taking his life as he instils so hatred in you. This is definitely cunted as an accomplishment in an actor.  
  • Ankit Mohan – Great portrayal of the valiant general, Shrimant Rayajirao Bandal. Ankit has a superb personality with well built physique that helps him carry such valiant performances very well. He seems made for such roles considering his past performances: Shivaji series where he has played the lead role of Kondaji Farzand and outside the series where he has played the mighty Ashwathama in the newer Mahabharat series on Star Plus.
  • Ajay Purkar – Powerful portrayal of the legendary Baji Prabhu. His personality just suits the brave warrior. You can see some raw moments, but it is consumed by his larger than life persona on screen in the second half. I particularly loved the tense scene where is a lone man standing at the Godkhind and the invading army feels they can vanquish him easil and he just rep[onds: “Chal…” When I was watching this in the cinema hall, the entire theatre erupted in laughter.

I would highly recommend to all of you to must watch this film with family. It is not just an educating film but also highly motivational. In my humble opinion, very few films are able to achieve this combination: excel in storytelling and provide a wholesome cinematic experience.  

The film was shot in 28 days with 250 cast and crew on location in Malhargad and makers have released it as a tribute to the film editor, late Pramod Kahar who passed away during COVID-19’s second wave in India, just after completing this film. His words from an interview will always ring in my head: “Ka thamblat, Maharajancha Naav ghya, Chala evda kaam sampvuya!” (Why did you stop, think about the King, lets finish just this one task!) 

WATCH VIDEO: Pawankhind dedicated to our valiant heroes who gave their lives in the pursuit of Swaraj!!

Contributing Author: Sanjiv Kulkarni is an ardent Indian cinema buff with an interest in the art of movie-making. He shares his take on movies and some rarer movies too. He lives in Melbourne and works as an IT Sales leader.

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