Shehzada (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – Bantu is hated by his father Valmiki since he was a toddler. Samara, his boss show him affection and love until he discovers that the Jindals are his parents. Bantu decides to seek Jindals love and protect them from threats they facing.

My Take – When done with sincerity and added value, Hindi remakes of South Indian films have always managed to be very successful. Something which was witnessed recently by the exceptional box office run of the Ajay Devgn starrer Drishyam 2 (2022), however, the basic notion of remaking 2020’s Telugu blockbuster Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (AVPL) seemed like a very bad idea from the first go.

Mainly as the Trivikram Srinivas directorial was in itself a very average film, that was mightily elevated by its National award winning soundtrack and Allu Arjun‘s performance. But while writer-director Rohit Dhawan’s adaptation has Kartik Aaryan, also a co-producer on the film, as its leading man, who is at his all-time high following the blockbuster box office performance of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (2022), he is sadly no match to the style, swag and sass of the Telugu superstar.

Though one can see the charming lad do bulk of the heavy lifting with campy humor and action, but there is only so much he can do as filmmaker Srinivas’ original story continues to remain as mediocre as it was in the original, resulting in the remake falling short to work as the expected mass entertainer.

Yes, it’s not particularly bad or painful, it just feels entirely pointless. More like a fan service for Kartik Aaryan followers who are granted the sight of their idol as yet another middle-class hero, who navigates the challenges of life by dishing out toothy grins and one-liners and putting in a spirited performance.

Beginning with a prologue that sees a nurse and Valmiki (Paresh Rawal), an office clerk, exchange his biological son with that of his former colleague and current employer, Randeep Nanda (Ronit Roy), who life soared to success upon his marriage to Yashoda (Manisha Koirala), the daughter of multi-millionaire Aditya Jindal (Sachin Khedekar). Believing that this is his change to get upper hand, Valmiki wants his own child to lead a luxurious lifestyle, something that he believes was denied to him.

Twenty five years later, the story follows Bantu (Karthik Aaryan), the original Jindal heir, who grows up as Valmiki’s son, feeling trapped in a middle-class household with his spiteful father. While he finds a bright spot in his life with the arrival of Samara (Kriti Sanon), however, upon discovering his true identity, he vows to protect his real family from a villainous drug lord, Sarang (Sunny Hinduja) and help the family sort their issues.

Comparisons with the Telugu original are inevitable, while Kartik Aaryan plays his cards right in a film packed with exciting action, witty one-liners, and a hint of humor in the dialogue, the tale falls flat. In terms of story, writer-director Rohit Dhawan (Desi Boyz, Dishoom) has made small but significant changes to the Telugu original, but they only serve to dilute the characterization, relationships and conflicts of the central plot.

Of course, while the original was filled with clichéd, here, director Dhawan has made no attempt to improvise anything. Most of the dialogues have been translated verbatim in accordance with the screenplay, resulting in rather stale fare.  It’s pretty obvious from the get-go that the film wants to be a story about classism and how class divide can cause the underprivileged to take drastic steps to seek equality. In doing so, it does present the middle class in a negative light, while the treatment of the upper class is way more nuanced.

The film tries to make a point about how struggle and suffering help in character building, while luxury and mollycoddling make one immature. However, the message is delivered in such an insensitive manner that it fails to make any kind of impact. As a social critique, the film is confused and it’s made duller by the lack of any clear sense of conflict or drama in the plot. It also doesn’t help that none of the tracks by chart-buster king Pritam are memorable.

Performance wise, Kartik Aaryan does well as the incorrigible and brave Bantu. Kartik might not have the inherent swagger of Allu Arjun or the effortlessness with which the superstar pulls off action but the one thing that he has at his disposal is humor. And the man is in his comfort zone yet again mainly because of his impeccable comic timing. The absurdity and self-aware humor with some outlandish lines land almost only because of Kartik‘s charm and affability.

Kriti Sanon looks stunning in every frame and her on-screen chemistry with Aaryan is easy on the eye, but there’s nothing else for her to contribute to the story. Manisha Koirala makes a graceful return to the big screen, and is well supported by Paresh Rawal, Ronit Roy and Sachin Khedekar. Even Ankur Rathee does well as the ignorant heir. Sadly, Sunny Hinduja is wasted in his role. On the whole, ‘Shehzada’ is a middling entertainer driven further down by its underwhelming elements.

Directed –

Starring – Kartik Aaryan, Kriti Sanon, Manisha Koirala

Rated – PG

Run Time – 142 minutes

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