Aman is killed by his own after being branded a traitor even when he was working tirelessly to uphold their cause. His son, a spitting image of the father, starts off as a wayward rake, but graduates to becoming a rebel to clear his father’s name and also to free his people. The film boasts expensive and expansive action set pieces, the cinematography is top notch. The setting is period, the story fictional. No, we haven’t gone back to watching Bahubali. This is Shamshera.
Ranbir Kapoor’s first film in nearly half a decade has almost all the ingredients needed for a larger-than-life, big-screen experience. But Shamshera — co-written by Ekta Pathak Malhotra and Karan Malhotra, who also functions as its director — has a story so uninspiring and stale that it will immediately remind you of half-a-dozen similarly-themed outings, primary among them being the Bahubali films. Which, unfortunately for Shamshera, is never a good comparison given the high standards set by the SS Rajamouli franchise.
Like Bahubali, Shamshera, currently playing in theatres, is a spectacle. Unlike Bahubali, it lacks substance and soul. The story, as mentioned, is too familiar to make an impact. The visuals, filmed brilliantly by Anay Goswamy, deserved a better film. And so did the actors.
Ranbir plays two characters here, but unlike Bahubali where Prabhas’ Amarendra and Mahendra were given equal screen time, with their tracks running almost parallely in the second film and giving rise to two different flesh-and-blood characters with definite moods, moves and motivations, one of the parts in Shamshera hardly has a few minutes’ worth of screen time, reducing Ranbir’s scope to distinguish between the father (Shamshera) and the son (Balli).
Set in British-ruled India and attempting to make a statement on caste divide in the garb of a period entertainer (RRR, anyone?), Shamshera focuses on the backward Khameran caste, led by their leader Shamshera, that is tricked into an agreement that promises their clan a better future but pushes them right into the pit of slavery. The villain of the piece is not so much the British as is their Indian daroga Shuddh Singh (played with evil relish by Sanjay Dutt). A guilt-ridden Shamshera dies trying to free his people, and a quarter-of-a-century later, his son rises. The film then goes through the familiar beats of a revenge saga, meshed with a love story and an action caper, to deliver a watch that feels stretched, with Mithoon’s unmemorable songs only serving to bog it down further.
Which is a shame because Ranbir Kapoor delivers on all fronts. Starring in what is the first spectacle film in his 15-year career, Ranbir plunges into his character(s) with effortless sincerity, but the film itself is so poorly written that there isn’t much that he can do to lift it beyond a certain point. Vaani Kapoor plays a combination of Katrina Kaif and Fatima Sana Shaikh’s characters in Thugs of Hindostan. Any mention of that disaster, least of all a comparison, is a sureshot death knell. Sanjay Dutt seems to be the only one having some fun. Wish we could say the same about ourselves.
Director: Karan Malhotra
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Vaani Kapoor, Ronit Roy, Saurabh Shukla, Irawati Harshe
Running time: 159 minutes