Synopsis – In the fictitious city of Kaza, a warrior tribe is imprisoned, enslaved & tortured by a ruthless authoritarian Shudh Singh. Shamshera is the a legend for his tribe who relentlessly fights for his tribe’s freedom & dignity.
My Take – Despite being in the industry for only 15 years, following his disastrous debut Saawariya (2007), Ranbir Kapoor, a scion of the Bollywood royalty, the Kapoor clan, has been celebrated for being one of the most charming and versatile actors with a massive fan base, who keenly await his every release.
Now returning to the big screen after a four-year hiatus, following the blockbuster Sanjay Dutt biopic Sanju (2018) where the 39 year old actor picked up the actor’s mannerisms to perfection, in an anticipated YRF offering which pits both Kapoor and Dutt against each other.
Dressed like the KGF films with attributes of the Baahubali duology and his first film, Agneepath (2012), here, director Karan Malhotra, who co-wrote the screenplay with his wife Ekta Pathak Malhotra from a story by Khila Bisht and Neelesh Misra, delivers a pleasant, exciting throwback to 60s-70s dacoit based revenge sagas made especially for the big-screen entertainment.
Sure, the film doesn’t tick all boxes, but mounted on a large scale, like most period films, it boasts of massive sets and structures but nothing takes away the entertainment value of the familiar story-line that contains not one but two Robin Hood-like figures and complete power-packed action sequences.
It also helps that the film is wrapped around dancing, music, plot twists, thefts and a racy narrative that is massy and intriguing. Ranbir Kapoor completely nails it in his first double role, with both intensity and mass heroism, while Sanjay Dutt is deliciously diabolical.
Beginning in 1871 in a fictional Indian under the British rule, the story follows Shamshera (Ranbir Kapoor), the leader of a low caste tribe called Khameran, who were once an illustrious warrior clan, but have reduced to plundering and looting due to continuous oppression and marginalization from the upper castes citizens of the fictional city of Kaza.
A dacoit by action and a free bird by nature, the brave heart terror however, is lured into signing a deal that turns him and his followers into slaves for the British on the advice of Daroga Shuddh Singh (Sanjay Dutt), a conniving Indian officer of the British forces. And, in an attempt to find freedom for his clan, Shamshera transgresses, gets killed and is branded a traitor by his pregnant wife (Iravati Harshe) to prevent any more deaths.
Twenty five years later, his son Balli (Ranbir Kapoor), is a happy go lucky youth, while still being shackled to slavery, aspires to be an officer in the same army that killed his father. But with a twist of fate, upon finding out the truth about his father, Balli ends up forming his own band of merry men, who along with his lady-love Sona (Vaani Kapoor) are determined to leave no stones unturned to free their people from the hands of the British and the Darogah.
Right from the first frame, the background score and the slick VFX-led visuals suck you into this fictitious world created around the late 1800s India. Much on the lines of Baahubali and many more films before it, the film follows the familiar prodigal-son-returns plot with all the elements needed to make a mass masala entertainer hit the right chord. The film is unapologetically commercial, masala-filled Bollywood fare that does not ask to be taken seriously.
It is a dacoit drama laced with action sequences and many songs, and does not pretend to be anything but that. The film has every nostalgic throwback you could hope for from the best of 60s, 70s and 80s dacoit films, yet director Karan Malhotra doesn’t play on nostalgia alone, infusing the film with enough modern elements to appeal viewers of all ages and demographics. Everything from the introduction of the hero to the revenge theme to double roles to rescuing your heroine to fulfilling your prophecies is straight out of the pages of old school cinema, but the contemporary touch is well versed into it.
Sure, at the onset, the film might appear too long at 159 minutes, but the way action sequences unfold and a hide-and-seek game is played, there are rarely any dull moments. Made on a budget of Rs. 150 crore, the production design of the fictitious kingdom of Kaza, the scale and visuals captured by cinematographer Anay Goswamy artfully utilizes the action, emotions, well-written characters and a solid backstory to keep one engaged. Add to that the formidable climax as the crowning glory of a gory duel.
Yes, the film could have been backed by crisper editing and could have done away with a few songs and dance sequences. But having said all of that, this revenge drama set in the 1800s does succeed in reaching its goal.
Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt are without a doubt the lifeblood of this period action drama. In fact, each time the actors are together on screen, their exchanges are quite powerful. As always, it is a treat to watch Ranbir on screen again after several years, and brings in yet another winning performance. He completely nails his first double role, versatile that he is, Ranbir brings gravitas to Shamshera and imbues Balli with multiple shades. The film requires him to shed his the fumbling softness and vulnerability and wield an axe like Thor and rescue the downtrodden. And he delivers.
Sanjay Dutt is deliciously diabolical as the crafty, menacing and heartless Darogah, at times even stealing the scene from more than an efficient Ranbir. With an abundance of mischievous dialogues and credible motivations, Dutt throws himself into his role with a lot of gusto and panache. He might be no match to his Kancha Cheena act from Agneepath, but he is funny yet menacing and vicious at the same time.
Vaani Kapoor, who wowed everyone with her act in Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (2021), is reduced to a glamorous sidelight. But makes use of whatever chance she gets and shares a good chemistry with Ranbir. The supporting cast comprising of Iravati Harshe, Ronit Roy and Saurabh Shukla are in fine form. On the whole, ‘Shamshera‘ is an enjoyable mass entertainer with right amount of ingredients and an excellent Ranbir Kapoor.
Directed – Karan Malhotra
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 159 minutes