This weekend has been kind of low in terms of new content, primarily because most new releases did happen on and post Valentine’s Day. The one content which did seem promising was The Night Manager but thanks to a grand f**k up by Hotstar, the viewers did get a half-baked deal there. And I wasn’t really excited about the twin theatrical releases this weekend too. After several weeks of exciting content, and probably the first time in months, I had to drag myself into watching content which I would have safely skipped otherwise. With that I finished watching the sole Hindi theatrical releases Shehzada which is the official Hindi adaptation of the original Telugu film Ala Vaikunthapurramullo(lets call this AVPM for the rest of the review can we?).
Right from the time Shehzada was announced, it had been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Initially announced with Ekta Kapoor as its producer, the producers did change to T series eventually. Everyone was puzzled to put it in a nice way as to why would you remake a film whose original film was not great either. To top it, the Hindi dubbed version of AVPM was readily available for free on Youtube. Even the producers of the Hindi dubbed rights, Goldmines had threatened to re-release AVPM in theatres post the release of the Allu Arjun starrer Pushpa – The Rise. Clearly a lot going on and if that wasn’t enough, its theatrical release was further pushed back from 10th February to 17th February ‘out of respect for Pathaan’.
The desperation was quite evident from the makers who happened to shoot a last minute song, Character Dheela, that signified the panic within the camp. Even the news of Kartik Aaryan returning his share of revenue was doing the rounds. Clearly, he had big shoes to fill and was clearly feeling the heat? Don’t get me wrong, Kartik Aaryan has been the sole flag bearer for Bollywood amongst his contemporaries and he has definitely improved his craft with films like Freddy. But to be compared to Allu Arjun is a whole different ball game and so the pressure was always going to be on. Amidst all the chaos and expecting absolutely nothing, I finished watching Shehzada. Is it worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
An official Hindi Adaptation of the original Telugu film Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, Shehzada follows the story of Bantu as he does try to fit into a family from which he was separated at birth. The story isn’t new by any stretch of imagination and to come to think of it, the recently released Tamil film Varisu also did have the same concept. One of the reasons why the original Telugu film had worked was because of the star power of Allu Arjun and some chartbusting numbers. And the makers had their jobs cut out here. The pressure to deliver is reflective of this 140 minute screenplay that tries to replicate its success but in the process ends up as flat as a pancake.
The drama does open on a decent note with the two new borns been exchanged at birth. But the issue does lie in the screenplay which is disjointed and how! The original film also did have a disjointed screenplay but much of it was hidden behind the star power of Allu Arjun. But here, all the shortcomings do surface. The makers have made a few changes here and there. For example, the entire love track here isn’t memorable but atleast it isn’t as problematic as that in the original. A male protagonist oogling at the thighs of the female protagonist in the name of love is unacceptable and glad that this bit was edited out here. But still the love story here is forgettable!
For viewers who have watched the original, know that there was this brilliant boardroom sequence which was almost like a tribute to stalwarts of Telugu cinema. But for an adapted screenplay and the legacy that Bollywood has had over the years, it came to me as a shocker when the makers did leave that portion out. It was such a golden opportunity that was missed for paying a similar tribute here. The proceedings are rather unfunny and drab to say the least. None of the jokes land and the only emotion left to be witnessed was white noise. It won’t be wrong to say that the drama was as flat as a pancake.
Some of the emotional moments in the second half are decent but no-way does the film become watchable due to this. The events leading up to the final act are also flat and half-baked summing up the screenplay which was just average at best. If Bollywood still doesn’t learn from this lesson(of not blindly remaking commercial successful films from the South) then they will have to deal with such failures more often. Fingers crossed for next week when Selfiee is out!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are intended to be witty but this was a watered down cringe fest right there. The loud nature of the lines just did not help its cause here where the drama forgets to do that one thing which is to entertain. The music of AVPM was outstanding and some of the chartbusters are still on my playlist today. But the music here is really forgettable with not a single song that stands out. To top it, the choreography is just so weak here. Yes we do know that Kartik Aaryan us nimble on his feet but that doesn’t mean that all the songs would have the same steps.
Another gripe that I have is with the art design. Despite the cinematography being decent, the art design did feel like cardboard cut-outs of pillars on a location that did seem like a filmset. Very poor indeed! The editing is all over the place with random things assembled together for a film. Even the action sequences are plastic. Director Rohit Dhawan has performed poorly here. It seemed as if he was burdened to deliver here and it clearly reflects onscreen. The effort is there but the problem is that a lot of it shows onscreen when things are being tried out as a desperate measure.
The performances are decent although none of the characters have any sort of depth and most of them are wasted. There were so many actors used as a comic relief like Ali Asgar, Ashwin Mushran, Vipul Goyal and Rajpal Yadav but all of them are wasted. Sunny Hinduja who was phenomenal in The Family Man and Aspirants is another actor wasted here. Even stalwarts like Ronit Roy and Manisha Koirala are used as props in the background. Kriti Sanon looks pretty but yeah that is about it. Only Sachin Khedekar, Ankur Rathee and Paresh Rawal standout and hold their own.
This brings me to Kartik Aaryan who had previously taken giant steps forward with Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and Freddy but now has taken one massive step back here. He is sincere and diligent but he is clearly not Allu Arjun. And so he needs to be clever with his choices if he wants to be a ‘Shehzada’. The industry is less forgiving to outsiders and so I really want him to keep going. But for that smarter choices is the need of the hour for him.
Shehzada is a watered down and unnecessary adaptation of Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo that forgets to entertain and ends up being a pretty average watch! Available in a theatre near you.