Shiv Shastri Balboa
It is a double header this Saturday! And with that I have finished watching the Hindi film Shiv Shastri Balboa which is the sole theatrical Hindi release of the week. I have always been a cinephile all my life. Right from my childhood, I have been luck to witness gems after gems that did formulate my relationship with cinema. And one of the films that I did come across was the Sylvester Stallone starrer Rocky which is a pinnacle for sports films. For many of us, Rocky is just not a film – it is an emotion and philosophy. Such was the writing of the film that it had the potential to lift you up every time you are low. This was a sentiment that I did feel years after at a very different point in my life that did trigger this emotion while revisiting the classic. So when I did come across the film Shiv Shastri Balboa, I was willing to give it a chance for two reasons – one as it had the name Balbao in it(Rocky is an emotion) and two, the film was directed by Ajayan Venugopalan, the man behind the hilarious series Metro Park. Now that I have finished watching Shiv Shastri Balboa, here are my two cents on the same.
Story & Screenplay
Shiv Shastri Balboa follows the story of an aged protagonist, a self proclaimed Rocky fan, who moves to the US and ends up on an unexpected trip. The story here is predictable but better than what I had initially expected. It does have its heart in the right place despite a few curveballs along the way. The screenplay standing at about a 130 minutes does make for a pleasant watch that had me smiling for most parts.
The drama does open with the introduction of the protagonist and his fandom for Rocky. A shift in base to the US would only make things interesting as he initially does find it hard to adjust. Some of the lighter moments of the screenplay are nicely integrated during this period. While witnessing the setup, I had an inkling whether this is another one of those films which would feature children bashing. But to the credit of the writers, the children here are not vilified and it does make for a pleasant watch instantaneously.
The proceedings are warm, light and frothy especially in the first hour. I did like how organic the drama did feel in terms of the protagonist finding friendship in the most unexpected place. The writing was such that it did capture the culture and vibe of the drama accurately. The lingo was spot on and it did translate into an organic world building. There are several heartwarming moments with bits of the Rocky philosophy thrown in(and one drawback being that I wished for a little more of this stuff). Also, there is a bit of innovation thrown in with the cute little pup Casper being given lines almost like the ones featuring in a cartoon(with a ‘cloud’ drawing and an arrow pointed towards the character implying his thoughts). All of these moments result in a sweet little first half.
The writing takes a bit of a dent in the second hour, and one of the reasons was that it did get kind of stuck and partially disjointed. Which is not to say that the drama was bad, it was very watchable in reality. But the humour does dry up a bit and the heartwarming moments are few are far between as I did think that the writing began to stray away from the source material. This could so easily have been a coming of age drama via a roadtrip but it wasn’t to be! Also I did feel that there were a couple of unnecessary subplots which did seem half-baked like the one involving the jailing of one of the characters that did end rather abruptly. But it is the acting that shines during this period(more on that later) that binds the drama together. The film does end on a heartwarming note(although a little abruptly too) summing up the screenplay which definitely has its moments, making it a pleasant watch.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are witty and sharp that do make for a few laughs as well. The music and BGM are alright but the latter could definitely have been a rendition of Rocky or atleast somewhere near its theme. The cinematography is decent too. Director Ajayan Venugopalan does a good job here in delivering a drama which does have its heart in the right place.
The performances are pretty good here. Nargis Fakhri makes her presence felt here. Jugal Hansraj is wonderfully restrained and I really wish to watch more of him often. Sharib Hashmi is fabulous to watch and he is totally in his elements, especially in the second hour when things begin to crumble. Neena Gupta is such a fabulous actor and she is lovely to watch here. You can almost feel the bond that she shares with Mr. Kher offscreen too(both of them are good friends). It was full of warmth and care that did translate well onscreen. Anupam Kher as Shiv Shastri is outstanding and does an amazing job here. He definitely does pack a ‘punch’ and it was fun trip filled with nostalgia, hearing him mouth some of the lines from Rocky.
Shiv Shastri Balboa does spring a surprise. Despite a few flaws, It is a sweet little film that had me smiling from ear to ear for most parts of the drama. Available in a theatre near you.