Salaam Venky lifted by super performances

Kajol and Vishal Jethwa in Salaam Venky. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

If you are one of those who get sold on a medical story, Salaam Venky is for you. If you want to see an understated but terrific Kajol, playing Sujata, mother to a dying teenage son, Venky (Vishal Jethwa), then, too, you must visit this movie. If you want to watch a male performance that shakes you with its sheer mature brilliance, also go for it. Take a bow, Vishal.

But, on the other hand, you need to be looking at a movie that hits a socker punch on your emotional solar plexus, then this film, directed by Revathi after much sincere research, may not be your cup of tea. Forget Anand (whose line ‘Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin—Life should be big, not necessarily long— is used as inspiration here), the Oscar nominee Shwaas or even the 1975 Mili—this film does not reach anywhere near some lesser movies among such medical tragedies.

The reason is not hard to seek: Revathi gets obsessed so much with the tragedy itself, the interplay between mother and son and the legal aspects—the real mother had fought for euthanasia 20 years ago—that she forgets a vital factor: the audience. Keeping the film too long at 137 minutes is just one aspect, but the story gets tediously repetitious, blander then even Revathi’s 2004 directorial on AIDS—Phir Milenge—and devoid of anything that the audience can find gripping and touching. Correction: the length and monotonous recycling of similar scenes and sentiments test our patience and decimate the involvement.

Make no mistake: moviegoers are human and are definitely influenced by poignant human dramas. But the right chord is not struck all through, except in spurts. I, for one, found journalist Sanjana (Aahana Kumra)’s meeting with Venky as well as the judge (Prakash Raj)’s interaction very organic and moving, but by and large, there are several sequences and situations that are literally not explored (not exploited for the gallery, mind you!) to their full emotional potential.

The appearance of Venky’s father (Kamal Sadanah), who had once referred to the sensitive and within-earshot child as a “dead investment”, is one such case. The scenes related to his churlish cruelty are explained in two spurts rather than at one go. The sister’s sad story is sketchily depicted. The Sujata-versus- husband conflict, since it was real, should have been much more detailed, as it was the driving-force behind Sujata;s mental make-up and steely determination.

On the other hand, too much footage is given to the weird character of Aamir Khan. The Sujata-Venky interactions become too boring because of their essential sameness. Pre-interval, a colleague who had come in 20 minutes after the movie began and shared the next seat, asked me after an hour what had happened before he entered. I had to honestly answer, “Much the same as what you have been watching since!”

A gamut of cameos also fail to help, though Revathi handles the court sequences convincingly and crisply. I must also compliment the production designer for a damn good job in general, considering the specialized requirements. But editor Manan Sagar is very lax in his work and the songs by Mithoon help the boredom along. The lyrics fail to grip you—a vital need for a film advertised as “A Mithoon musical” and the less said about the compositions, the better.

From the rest of the cast, Aahana Kumra, Rahul Bose and Prakash Raj are sincere, but I liked Rajeev Khandelwal (as the doctor) and Maala Parvathi (as sister Clara) more. Priyamani’s is the only cameo that makes a mark as the counsel who argues against euthanasia. Aneet Padda as Nandini is meant to be cute, and succeeds. Riddhi Kumar, on the other hand, is expressive and effective. Ananth Narayan Mahadevan has nothing to do.

Except for the terrific performances by Kajol and Vishal Jethwa, the film fails in its mission. For a real story to count, and a message to go home, the cardinal point is to connect with the audience so that the important issue is not missed. But that does not happen.

Rating: **1/2 

Blive Productions & RTake Studios present Salaam Venky Produced by: Shraddha Agrawal, Varsha Kukreja & Suraj Singh Directed by: Revathi Written by: Shrikant Murthy, Sammeer Arora & Kausar Munir Music: Mithoon Starring: Kajol, Vishal Jethwa, Rajeev Khandelwal, Prakash Raj, Aahana Kumra, Riddhi Kumar, Kamal Sadanah, Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, Rahul Bose, Maala Parvathi, Aneet Padda & others Sp. App.: Priyamani, Aamir Khan & Revathi






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