Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Hindi film Salaam Venky starring Kajol. The trailer of Salaam Venky did promise to be a tear jerker but what amazed me was the casting coup that was pulled off here. Some of the biggest names did feature in the film although I kind of was aware that the screen time for each of them would be limited. But I was equally surprised at the reaction of the film after it was out on Friday. There were very few taking and even the word of mouth seemed to be mixed much to my dismay.
Here, I would take you back to the “Boycott” days when the accusation on Bollywood was that they are only interested in remakes. But from Chup till now, Bollywood has been churning in one original after the other but still with very little takers. Ironically, the only film that did seem to click in a very big way was Drishyam 2 which was a superb adaptation of the original Malayalam film.
But the point which I want to make is that if films like Salaam Venky are not going to be supported and instead also criticized, we will continue to get remakes/adaptations. Lets face it, this is a numbers game and reviewing Salaam Venky will not rake in the numbers even on review sites due to the low buzz. So why even bother to rate it well? A thing for you to ponder about, while I have done my bit in watching and reviewing the film that has a shockingly low buzz. This is not a paid review and I can assure you that it is unbiased in a film that also does have a few flaws. So then is Salaam Venky worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Based on a novel titled The Last Hurrah by Shrikant Murthy, Salaam Venky follows the heartbreaking story of a mother who must fulfill her dying son’s last wish which does seem improbable. What is his dying wish? The story here is heartbreaking and depressing in more ways than one. One of the biggest burdens in life would be to watch your children die in front of you. And more so for the mother who does share a special bond with her children. The loss is unrepairable and quite painful. So the story is really good here. Yet to integrate the topic of Euthanasia in this already heartbreaking tale does give this story a new dimension altogether. The screenplay standing at a shade under 140 minutes does seem slightly long considering that the topic that is being dealt with is heavy. But having said that the writing is nuanced and definitely contributes to many cherishing moments in the drama.
First things first, if you are looking for entertainment while venturing into this drama then you ain’t getting any. The proceedings are grim and depressing and it will leave you a bit hollow by the end of it. We are introduced to the mother-son duo while establishing the fact that the son is suffering from a terminal illness. The two of them share a heartwarming bond which was relatable given the bond that I continue to share with my mother. The humour in the drama is used rather well here particularly in the first hour. And it is a streak that the character of Venky posseses wherein he often mouths an SRK dialogue in the most random situation or while putting his point across to his mother who is not on the same page as him.
The drama is a slow burn and does require patience particularly in the first hour. But anyone who has experienced loss in his life would be able to relate to it. The hospital scenes made me reminisce about my grandparents and what a tough phase that was. At the same time, I did feel that the writing does go marginally overboard with the melodrama. It almost did seem as if the makers wanted to be double sure in making the audience emote a particular way. And that did result in them going a touch overboard especially with the BGM that I will get to in a minute, making the drama less emotional than what it should have been. Yet, the film comprises of several heartwarming and heartfelt moments that do feel like a warm embrace.
Things start to gather a little more steam in the second hour with the introduction of a few more characters. This results in a change of setup too that shifts the drama from the hospital bed to the courtroom scenes. The topic of Euthanasia that has been tackled here is done with sensitivity and dignity while also a bit of realism sprinkled throughout its narrative. The argument which is presented is a relevant one and it does make for a compelling viewing. There is a small flashback that I did find rather unrequired featuring the estranged father, something that did take the focus out of the drama to an extent. But the final act was quite realistic yet the softness of the culmination of the drama(and Venky) was an emotional one and it did hit the right chords, emotionally speaking. So overall, the screenplay is well written and I do feel that the drama will find its audience on OTT!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational yet quite well written with some witty one liners and meta references sprinkled in the drama. The music by Mithoon is good and a couple of songs are enough to make a grown up man cry. The BGM is slightly overdramatic. Before a character does speak an important line, there is a buildup with the BGM that conflicts the actual drama on screen. By that I mean that the emotion which was to hit you 30 seconds later is already built up before those lines are delivered. This does result in letting go of the moment which could have been supremely emotional. The cinematography is able to aesthetically capture a few frames that are beautifully bittersweet. Director Revathy does a pretty good job here. This is a typical Revathy film, more in the mould of Phir Milenge and she does a commendable job here. I feel if this was Malayalam cinema, this would have been better appreciated considering how the “size of the film” doesn’t matter to the audience back there.
The performances are brilliant here by a stunning cast. Aamir Khan adds a lot of star power to the film and his moments with Kajol are beautiful and will make you reminisce about their previous venture together, Fanaa. Prakash Raj as the Judge, Maala Parvathi and Priya Mani Raj as Nanda have their moments to shine. Rahul Bose as Parvez is wonderfully restrained. Aahana Kumra as Sanjana is spunky and wonderful to watch in a job well done. Rajeev Khandelwal as Dr. Shekhar is quietly charming and does a great job. Riddhi Kumar as Sharada is excellent here as a character who has been carrying mountains of pain within her too. It was a very nuanced and textured performance. Aneet Padda as Nandini looks pretty and formulates for some of the most beautiful moments in the film.
But the film belongs to the mother-son duo of Kajol and Vishal Jethwa. Vishal is a talented actor right from his Mardaani 2 days and this was an incredibly good performance that literally fuelled life into his character of Venky. Oh The Irony! He did have that element of humour to his character making him really affable and that SRK reference was so well enacted. Kajol on the other hand did have an insurmountable amount of pain hidden inside her which she did express through her eyes. It was a restrained, textured and nuanced performance as the character also had to deal with a conflict that would result in a loss for her, either way speaking. It was a brilliant act that was emotionally haunting and quite towering in many ways.
Salaam Venky is a heartbreaking drama with brilliant performances that deserves to be watched and appreciated. Available in a theatre near you.