Padmaavat, a Bollywood film showing at New Vision Fitchburg 18, delivers enough backstabbing palace intrigue and epic battle sequences to satisfy any Game of Thrones fan. The controversial film also showcases the intriguing ideological contradictions often on display in Bollywood historical dramas.

Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has loosely adapted a 16th-century epic poem by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, but the central plot is a straightforward melodrama. The power-hungry Muslim sultan Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) learns of the beauty of a Rajput (a Hindu caste) queen, Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), and lays siege to her home city of Chittor in hopes of adding her to his conquests.

After Alauddin kidnaps her husband, Padmavati must assert her authority in unconventional ways to free him. But then she must adhere to traditional values when Alauddin seeks revenge.

Padmaavat has provoked controversies among several groups and death threats against cast members. Conservative members of the Rajput caste have protested the film’s representation of the revered Padmavati, while progressive groups have objected to the film’s portrayal of jauhar, the honor-preserving mass self-immolation of women. In addition to its broad Muslim stereotypes (not unlike Hollywood films), Padmaavat presents an interesting dilemma for American audiences in our #metoo moment: Should we admire a strong woman who makes an ideologically problematic choice?

Despite the richly textured production design and elaborate costumes, a televisual sheen coats the proceedings as occasionally poor special effects fail to mask the digital cinematography. The impression that you’re watching a big television rather than a cinema screen occasionally diminishes the impact of the spectacle.

The musical sequences are generally subdued with one glorious exception. Ranveer Singh delivers an unhinged, hyper-male dance for the song “Khalibali,” in which the evil Alauddin maintains eye contact with the camera as his arms and legs flail wildly while he dances alongside his subjects. This sequence is worth the price of admission.

By : JAMES KREUL