‘SHAKEELA’ | 25 December, 2020

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Sammys Magic Cinema’s Shakeela (A) is a biopic of South’s successful actress Shakeela. It talks about the pain of being the heroine of sex films, however successful at the box-office they may have been.

Shakeela (Richa Chadda) hails from a lower middle-class family. Her father dies while she is still young (Kajol Chugh), leaving the responsibility of her mother (Archana Atawle) and four little sisters on her. Since Shakeela’s mother had worked as a junior artiste in films, Shakeela soon finds herself in the world of Malayalam cinema. As it is, Shakeela loves to act and dance.

Shakeela hates what she does in the name of acting because she is cast in sex and adult films only. However, her films soon start becoming money-spinners, making her a hot favourite of the masses. Malayalam cinema’s superstar, Salim (Pankaj Tripathi), is a lecherous guy in real life, which is quite unlike his screen image of a family film hero. He finds Shakeela very desirable but she shuns his moves. This doesn’t go down well with the self-centred Salim who swears revenge. Even as Shakeela is going from strength to strength, she is accused of being the reason for the increasing rape cases in society. Her films are banned, financiers stop backing her films, and she suddenly finds herself sitting at home without work. Her opportunist mother also almost deserts her.

Shakeela now stays with her close friend and body double, Suhana (Ester Noronha). Time flies. One day, her regular producer, Rajan (Vivek Madan), approaches her with the good news that the ban on her films has been lifted. He once again wants to make adult films with her featuring in the lead because they guarantee profits. But Shakeela is in no mood to now act in such films which had brought her fame and money but also disrepute. It is then decided to make a biopic on Shakeela’s life. As it is, Shakeela is looking for an opportunity to cleanse her image and she views this film as a golden chance. Is the biopic made? Is Shakeela able to remove the blot on her reputation?

Indrajit Lankesh has written a story which borrows from actress Shakeela’s life. The story is interesting but reminds of The Dirty Picture. The screenplay is penned by Sunil Agarwal, with additional screenplay by Janardhan Maharshi, Rohan Bajaj and Naireeta Dasgupta. Rather than showing the humiliation faced by Shakeela as an actress of adult films, the screenplay just about touches upon the point, leaving the rest to be understood by the audience. Even Salim’s lecherous side is shown more through dialogues rather than scenes. All this reduces the impact of his villainy and greatly dilutes the impact of Shakeela’s sufferings. As a result, the viewers don’t feel the pain of Shakeela, they don’t cry with her. Shakeela’s outburst against producer Rajan appears too harsh if only because he thinks like a businessman, which every film producer has a right to do.

In short, the screenplay is written for a class audience whereas Shakeela was the heroine of the masses. In a film of this kind, there is no charm unless the audience becomes one with the protagonist and feels her pain at every stage. In this drama, the viewers remain passive spectators, without really becoming part of her life. In the absence of scenes showing her feeling humiliated repeatedly, the masses will not even be able to comprehend the reason for Shakeela’s dejection. Dialogues, written by Rohit Banawlikar, Rohan Bajaj and Akash Waghmare, are excellent at places but not consistently so.

Richa Chadda does a fine job as Shakeela. Her expressions are very convincing and she has used her body language to great advantage. Pankaj Tripathi plays superstar Salim in his unique style which is rather entertaining. But one point needs to be emphasised — both, Richa and Pankaj don’t play to the gallery as their acting is subdued. Ester Noronha leaves a good mark as Shakeela’s friend, Suhana. Rajeev Pillai is alright as Shakeela’s childhood friend, Arjun. Kajol Chugh is terrific as young Shakeela. Archana Atawle makes her presence felt in the role of Shakeela’s mother. Vivek Madan shines as producer Rajan. Suchendra Prasad is superb as the production manager. Sandeep Malani has his moments as the film director. Others are adequate.

Indrajit Lankesh’s direction is nice but caters to the class audiences mainly. Music (Meet Bros. and Veer Samarth) is okay. The absence of hit songs is sorely felt. Lyrics (Kumaar) are in synch with the mood of the film. Song picturisations (Vishnu Devaa and Murali Krishna) are so-so. Veer Samarth’s background music is okay. Santosh Rai’s camerawork is decent. Ballu Saluja’s editing should’ve been sharper. A word here about the mixing. The film seems to have not been mixed properly because a lot of dialogues are not clear even after the viewers strain their ears.

On the whole, Shakeela is a well-made biopic but it is too class-appealing to be true. Also, absence of big names in the star cast will tell upon the public patronage. Besides, given the low audience turnout due to the coronavirus fear, the film will not be able to do anything substantial at the box-office. Rather, it will go largely unnoticed.

Released on 25-12-’20 at Inox (daily 3 shows) and other cinemas of Bombay thru UFO Cine Media Network. Publicity: so-so. Opening: dull. …….Also released all over. Opening was weak everywhere.