‘SHEHZADA’ REVIEW | 17 February, 2023

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T-Series Films, Allu Entertainment, Haarika & Hassine Creations and Ramara Films’ Shehzada (UA) is a film about mixed identities. Valmiki (Paresh Rawal), who works for Randeep Nanda (Ronit Roy), exchanges his new-born child with his employer’s new-born. As a result, Valmiki’s son grows up like a prince as the son of industrial magnate Randeep Nanda and wife Yashu Nanda (Manisha Koirala) whereas Randeep and Yashu’s son is brought up by Valmiki as a middle-class boy. While Randeep Nanda’s biological son is named Bantu, the son of Valmiki is christened Raj Nanda. What happens when, years later, Bantu (Kartik Aaryan) gets to know the truth about his real identity?

The film is an official remake of Telugu film Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. The original story and screenplay are written by Trivikram while the adapted screenplay for the Hindi remake is penned by Rohit Dhawan. The story is of the kind which went out of fashion many years ago. The adapted screenplay is so full of holes that the drama completely fails to engage the viewers. If the comedy falls flat on its face most of the times, the emotions touch the heart at barely one or two places. The biggest minus point, perhaps, is that the film looks like a film rather than a seamless drama unfolding in front of the audience.

There are so many defects in the screenplay that one wonders how anyone could write it. Sarang (Sunny Hinduja) is a sworn enemy of Randeep Nanda because the latter had filed a complaint against Sarang for smuggling contraband in toys, using his transportation tools. Sarang wants Nanda to withdraw his complaint so that he can restart his business. The writer has not been able to explain how the withdrawal of the complaint would be enough because there must have been a police case and a court case after the contraband was seized. There is a scene in which Randeep Nanda is grievously injured by Sarang in the former’s office. Bantu and his girlfriend, Samara (Kriti Sanon), rush Nanda to hospital but, believe it or not, the office staff is shown to do absolutely nothing! What’s more, once they reach the hospital, Samara excuses herself so that she can inform Nanda’s family over the telephone. Why? Was the office staff sleeping? Bantu is livid and emotional when he gets to know that he had been exchanged as a new-born. Would you believe that he thrashes out the issue with his guardian, Valmiki, on the street!?! What’s worse is that in this very sequence where the two are involved in a heated exchange words, Bantu starts doing comedy after a while! The scene when Randeep Nanda calls Bantu to thank him for having saved his life is so weird that it makes one wonder whether anybody in today’s time and age would speak the way Nanda speaks to Bantu. Again, there’s a scene in which Bantu gives Raj Nanda (Ankur Rathee), the biological son of Valmiki, a piece of his mind. That scene is so heavily inspired by the iconic supersonic-speed scene from Kartik Aaryan’s Pyaar Ka Punchnama that it looks silly, more so because it is not a patch on the earlier scene. Another big minus point is that the swag and attitude required in the hero is completely missing. The character of Bantu without swag is lacklustre. The scene in which Randeep Nanda asks for his wife’s forgiveness is half-baked. Hussain Dalal’s dialogues are ordinary except at a few places. The kind of dialogues the doctor (Vipul Goyal) mouths in Nandas’ bungalow don’t suit him. The iconic dialogue of Amitabh Bachchan from Pink about ‘no’ meaning ‘no’ has been used in a lighter vein in a scene in the film but it has zero impact. In the scene in which Bantu chides Raj Nanda, he says something to the effect that except for his maternal grandfather’s surname (Jindal), Raj, unfortunately, doesn’t have any other qualities of his grandfather. Pray, if one goes by tradition, since when have people started ‘inheriting’ their maternal grandfather’s surname? If one understands correctly, traditionally speaking, it is the surname of the paternal side which is ‘bequeathed’ generation after generation. If it was otherwise in the case of Raj Nanda (which it wasn’t), it ought to have been specified. However, for the ordinary dialogues, one would also blame the terribly weak screenplay, besides the dialogue writer.

Kartik Aaryan does a fairly good job but he is not extraordinary, which is what was needed. Also, as said above, his character doesn’t hold much water without swag and attitude. Kriti Sanon has quite an inconsequential role. As Samara, she looks very beautiful, though. Manisha Koirala is okay as Yashu Nanda. Ronit Roy is quite alright in the role of Randeep Nanda. Paresh Rawal does a fine job as Valmiki but there’s nothing extraordinary about his acting. Sachin Khedekar is quite good as Aditya Jindal, father-in-law of Randeep Nanda, but he could’ve been better. Ankur Rathee acts quite well but the character of Raj Nanda, that he plays, is too weird to be true. Sunny Hinduja is so-so as Sarang. Rajpal Yadav lends a touch of comedy in the single scene in which he appears as police inspector Yadav. Sharvari Lohokare impresses as nurse Sulochana. Ashwin Mushran (as Kailash Jindal), Ali Asgar (as Arun) and Shalini Kapoor (as Aarti Jindal) hardly have anything concrete to do. Kunal Vijaykar (as Cadbury butler) has been hopelessly wasted. Incidentally, he doubles up as a delivery boy although Randeep Nanda lives in a palatial house and would be expected to have a battery of house helps. Debattama Saha (as Bantu’s sister, Nisha) is okay but her track is cut short abruptly. Rakesh Bedi is natural as Samara’s father. Vipul Goyal makes his presence felt as the doctor. Sangram Rai (as Sarang’s man), Aishwarya Narkar (as Valmiki’s wife), Rashul Tandon (as the port worker), Sukriti Chaturvedi (as Simran), Faisal Rasheed (as Harmeet) and Vinay Rana (as Vikrant) lend decent support. Others are average.

Rohit Dhawan’s direction is dull. He seems to be confused about whether he wanted to make a comedy or a family fare. Resultantly, the film is neither here nor there. Pritam Chakraborty’s music is appealing but there is not a single song which is a chartbuster. Lyrics (by Kumaar, Mayur Puri, Shloke Lal and I.P. Singh) are ordinary. Song picturisations (by Bosco-Caesar and Ganesh Acharya) look like a job hurriedly done. A couple of song picturisations are good but not phenomenal. The picturisation of the Diwali song is so childish that the audience gets to know that there will soon be a song the moment they see about 15 to 20 girls — who are guests at the Diwali party — dressed in similar outfits! Julius Packiam’s background music is quite alright. Sanjay F. Gupta’s cinematography and Sudeep Chatterjee’s additional cinematography is nice. Anl Arasu’s action and stunt scenes are fairly appealing. Suresh Selvarajan’s production designing is okay. Ritesh Soni’s editing ought to have been sharper.

On the whole, Shehzada is a dull fare with glaring defects in the screenplay. It will get the audience’s thumbs down.

Released on 17-2-’23 at Inox (daily 10 shows) and other cinemas of Bombay thru AA Films. Publicity: quantitatively good, but qualitatively weak. Opening: below the mark. …….Also released all over. Opening was not up to the mark at most of the places.