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Weekend Binge: You won’t see Padmavati this week, but why not watch these incredible historical epics?

In an ideal world, we would have been able to see Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati this weekend, but that is not the case. We do, however, live in a world in which other historical epics exist. Here are 5.

weekend binge Updated: Dec 02, 2017 08:41 IST
Weekend Binge,Padmavati,Historical Epic
Russell Crowe as Noah, Ranveer Singh as Alaudin Khilji, and Jet Li.

Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.

While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.

It’s not often we see Indian movies that audiences are genuinely looking forward to. Sure, we all know when a new Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan film is coming out, but they’ve never really inspired the sort of fan frenzy that accompanies, say, a Star Wars movie - with fans camping out on the streets for days. For a while, though, it really seemed as if Padmavati would buck the trend - it would be the crossover hit that Bollywood has been trying so hard to make happen, and sort of did with Dangal.

But alas, as luck would have it, our country never fails to disappoint in matters such as this. All it took were a few protests by right wing organisations and millions were deprived of a couple of hours of fun at the movies. And for what? A thorough misinterpretation of fiction, and typical Indian herd mentality. Well done.

But that’s where we come in. While this list of epic historical movies (tinged with romance) might not satisfy severe Padmavati cravings, or fill Deepika Padukone-shaped holes in hearts, they’ll do for now. They must. They should also remind us all of what experts we are at making mountains out of mole hills.


There’s a really interesting (and slightly disconcerting) theory that most people can trace their DNA back to Genghis Khan - some studies peg the number at 1 in 200. What that says about race and caste in India is a can of worms best left closed. In any case, Sergei Bodrov’s epic movie about the conqueror is quite the spectacle. For history buffs however, it offers a suitable grand vision of one of the most formidable conquerors of all time. And for movie fans, it’s a far superior alternative to Netflix’s big budget misfire Marco Polo, and listening to John Wayne’s muffled screams from behind layers of poor makeup in The Conqueror - a film made in the radiated deserts of Utah, which left over 90 crew members (including John Wayne) with some form of cancer.

Red Cliff

You know, there are few living directors who can handle epic action quite like John Woo. Maybe Ridley Scott, or Michael Bay, but not too many. Red Cliff was Woo’s long-awaited return to his native Hong Kong after a successful stint in Hollywood. And he spared no expense in putting his vision onto the screen. The battle sequences alone are worth watching the close to five-hour-long film, but you’ll also get to experience some truly exquisite set design and action choreography.


And while we’re talking about Asian actions epics, you could do far worse than Hero, arguably director Zhang Yimou’s most beloved spectacle, a film that is the perfect showcase for his immaculate use of colour and fluid action. He made a rather pale imitation in 2016 called The Great Wall, but while that movie boasted refined effects and a central story that would be more appealing to international audiences, it’s nowhere near as great as some of Zhang’s more famous work. The film is based on the story of Jing Ke’s assassination attempt on the King of Qin in 227 BC. One red flag though: It was one of the many international titles acquired by Harvey Weinstein.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Aguirre is as obtuse as Hero is universal. But Werner Herzog movies tend to be like that. It is the story of one conquistador’s descent into madness as he navigates his way through dangerous jungles that envelop the Amazon River in search for the lost city of El Dorado. And once you’re done with this, you could watch James Gray’s The Lost City of Z - a film with a similar premise, but made by a much saner man.


As odd as it may sound, the movie that most resembles the furore that has haunted Padmavati is Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical epic, Noah. His unique vision for the tale transformed Noah into a far-left eco-terrorist - which that was enough to irk the more traditional Christians, and then he went and added stop-motion rock monsters into the mix, and sent his film into some truly surreal areas that to this day ensure that it finds a place on the most ambitious blockbusters of all time list.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Dec 02, 2017 08:40 IST