Shamshera goes terribly wrong all through

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Ranbir Kapoor puts in heart, soul and the grime of his shooting venue in Shamshera. Photo: YRF

My apologies to you, dear audience: the unimaginable hit quotient of one KGF 2 and the rejection of Runway 34 had made me doubt your sagacity and wisdom against my better instincts: I forgot that you are the same (pan-India, Hindi film watchers’ universe across all parameters) people who welcomed The Kashmir Files, RRR, Sooryavanshi, Tanhaji—The Unsung Warrior et al and summarily rejected Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Samrat Prithviraj, Jugjugg Jeeyo, Bachchan Pandey, Attack—Part 1 and Heropanti 2.

For a fleeting moment after Shamshera finally (!) ended, I even imagined a scenario wherein Shamshera would be taken to the skies by the auds, but I soon landed on mental terra firma and realized that nothing would stop this film from heading towards disaster trek—and maybe faster than Samrat Prithviraj, Bachchan Pandey and some other South atrocities with a pan-India release.

And it struck me all over again that the prime, or maybe the only reason for the crisis the Hindi film industry is in remains befuddled producers and their “influencers” that make them indulge inept directors who sign the wrong teams for writing a film. Naturally these factors are all interrelated and for a film (very tragically) inter-dependent!

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This was a project that should been abandoned at concept level and most certainly after the script was penned!

Karan Malhitra’s Agneepath remains a film I did not like but did well (like with KGF 2, exceptions I guess, prove the rule so far as my faith in both Hindi cinema and audience goes!) and his direction in his second film, Brothers, was self-indulgent because of the big setup. Both films were overlong for their content, but Shamshera makes us feel that brevity was the virtue of both those films!

Karan exudes over-enthusiasm in his co-written script itself. He details too many needless things too much, stretches the action choreography unbearably, forces in fake, non-relatable or exaggerated emotions, uses technical wizardry like VFX and DI, wastes humongous resources on sets and props that could have probably financed a couple of Mardaani or Hichki level of film, and also woefully chooses the wrong people for key jobs—notably Piyush Mishra for the dialogues and Mithoon for the music.

No, he does not get a single great one-liner in (the hackneyed script still had scope for a few). One-liners, as we all know, are the life of the masala film. Mithoon strives to Laxmikant-Pyarelal heights (as per the director’s own statement) and reaches to about two out of hundred—of L-P’s ordinary work! Worse, Karan and Mithoon themselves, along with Piyush, try to also be two percent of Anand Bakshi, Yash Chopra’s favorite songwriter since 1989. And even in both these fields, the strained effort shows.

The cinematographer (Anay Goswami) and technical crew, including the stunt coordinators (Pervez Sheikh and Franz Spillau) try their best, including Rushi Sharma and Manoshi Nath’s costumes, which look correctly grimy. But since when did accessories compensate for the core?

In such a calamity, does the storyline even matter? But I give it to you. Shamshera (Ranbir Kapoor) is the leader of the Khameran, a clan of warriors and helpers of Rajput-turned-dacoits (brigands) that loot the high-class residents of Kaza who have discriminated against them. The Kaza-ians approach the Britishers for help and Indian inspector Shudh Singh (Sanjay Dutt) takes the responsibility of bringing them to justice.

After a chain of events, Shamshera, who wants freedom for his tribe and nothing else, is stoned to death by his own tribe, with the first stone thrown by his pregnant wife (Iravati Harshe) who terms him a ‘bhagoda’ (deserter) out of instructions from none other than Shamshera himself. Why on earth? Well, there is a good reason!

25 years later, their grown-up son, Babli (Ranbir again) learns a few life’s lessons from the British and Shudh Singh (still in command!) and also the truth about his father from his mother and his father’s associate Pir Baba (Ronit Bose Roy). He decides to complete his father’s mission, meets Shamshera’s old associate Doosh Singh (Saurabh Shukla, who speaks important things in rhymes!!) and the clan who are in hiding. What is the mission? Freedom for the oppressed Khameran!

We are never told why Shamshera’s truth was not told to the tribe. It is shown that Shamshera does not find a secret way out from where the imprisoned Khameran and tortured daily (presumably at British expense of roti, kapada aur makaan for 25 years!!) can escape. But Balli incredibly manages to do so. Also how did Doodh Singh and his tribe escape? The script does not explain that either.

These are but a few of the loopholes we get to see. The most important factor is that the film does not seem to end (it is 158 ennui-inducing minutes long!). And the foremost tragedy in all this is Ranbir Kapoor, who really puts heart, soul and the shooting venue’s grime into his performance. Poor guy! As in Bombay Velvet, Rockstar. Tamasha, Anjaana Anjaani and Besharam, he has got into something he should not have touched with the proverbial bargepole. Of the rest, Rudra Soni impresses in his brief cameo and the others are just okay. Vaani Kapoor exhibits more skin than talent.

Yes, Sanjay Dutt, yet again as a villain, carries many a scene and his wide-eyed expressions amuse and interest until they get repetitious.

Rating: *1/2

Yash Raj Films’ Shamshera  Produced by: Aditya Chopra Directed by: Karan Malhotra  Written by: Neelesh Misra, Khila Bisht, Ekta Pathak malhotra, Karan Malhotra & Piyush Goyal  Music: Mithoon  Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Vaani Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Iravati Harshe, Ronit Bose Roy, Saurabh Shukla, Craig McGinlay, Chitrak Bandopadhyay, Mahesh Balraj, Rudra Soni & others

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