Salaam Venky review: Kajol's mother-son drama doesn't hit hard enough | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Salaam Venky review: Kajol and Vishal Jethwa’s mother-son drama never hits you hard enough

Dec 09, 2022 12:08 PM IST

Salaam Venky movie review: Kajol and Vishal Jethwa's film gets better in the second half but still cannot inspire too many emotional reactions.

Salaam Venky is no masterpiece. It doesn't move you to an extent that you are left teary-eyed too often. Though a true and inspiring story of how everyone should be allowed to live and even die with dignity, the film just doesn't connect or create an impact that stays with you for long. (Also read: Blurr movie review: Taapsee Pannu's tryst with dark and edgy thrillers continues)

Salaam Venky review: Kajol plays mother to Vishal Jethwa in the film.
Salaam Venky review: Kajol plays mother to Vishal Jethwa in the film.

Directed by Revathi, the film is inspired by the true story of a 24-year-old chess player Kolavennu Venkatesh and loosely based on fiction novel, The Last Hurrah. At the onset, Salaam Venky is a riveting tale trying to highlight a subject like Euthanasia, but the execution falters at many places. Especially, the first half had some needlessly melodramatic yet underperformed scenes and dialogues that make you wonder what even is happening.

The film follows the story of terminally-ill Venkatesh Krishnan aka Venky (Vishal Jethwa) who suffers from degenerative disease DMD (Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy), and of his mother Sujata Prasad (Kajol) who is not ready to give up on him just yet. While doctors predicted that Venky won't live past the age of 16, he continues to challenge medical science at 24, courtesy his own zeal and zest to live, and his mother's determination to keep him alive. Venky's wants to donate his organs before he dies and urges his mom to appeal for Euthanasia, but Sujata can't fulfil his last wish. That's the dilemma and helplessness Salaam Venky tackles for most part. By the end of it all, even though his request is not accepted by the law, Venky leaves a mark in everyone's hearts, having challenged not only the state but the law of the country.

Of its 136 minutes runtime, the first half deals with this mother-son conflict, while the second half sees them fighting for a common goal and being one in this battle. And from being a medical drama in a hospital, the film moves to a courtroom drama post interval, which is way better than how the film began.

Kajol as a single mother dealing with the most difficult circumstances gives her all to this character that's stuck in a dilemma of whether or not she should fulfil her son's last wish of death by will. She has a charming and strong screen presence and she brings a fine balance in showing her vulnerability and strength as and when a scene requires. One thing I couldn't help but notice is that although Sujata wears plain, worn-out cotton sarees, her hair is always prim and proper for hospital visits, sometimes even nicely curled.

Kajol and Vishal Jethwa in Salaam Venky.
Kajol and Vishal Jethwa in Salaam Venky.

Nevertheless, I loved the portions between Kajol's Sujata and Aamir Khan (in an extended cameo) and are the highlight of the film. The Sujata we see with her son and the one we see with Aamir's character are classic examples of a great performance. Aamir's guest appearance has more impact than his disappointing performance in his last film, Laal Singh Chaddha.

Vishal Jethwa, who earned accolades after his villainous debut in Mardaani 2 is not even half as good in Salaam Venky. Wheelchair-bound or bed-ridden throughout the film, he is convincing in parts but lacks any wow moments. The scenes towards the end when his facial muscles have stopped functioning and he talks through sign language while his mom speaks on his behalf are emotionally-charged.

Revathi's direction is on-point and she knows what she wants from her characters, but the problem is when those well-written scenes also fail to evoke emotions. Sammeer Arora and Kausar Munir's adapted screenplay moves at its own speed and has ample blank spaces or flashback sequences that just come and go. There are quite a few filmy dialogues and references that lift the mood in this otherwise serious film. Be it Amitabh Bachchan's 'Aaj khush toh bohot hoge tum', or Rajesh Khanna's 'Zindagi lambi nahi badi honi chahiye' or Shah Rukh Khan's Palat from DDLJ, the film tries to pepper some humour here and there.

Among other ensemble cast, Priyamani and Rahul Bose as lawyers and Rajeev Khandelwal as Dr Shekhar deliver decent performances, Prakash Raj as the judge stands out. Ridhi Kumar as Venky's sister is very good in her part and has a pleasant screen appearance. Aahana Kumra as a TV reporter and Anand Mahadevan as Swamiji are just passable characters and just wasted.

There's no way a film like Salaam Venky won't remind you of Shonali Bose's The Sky is Pink or R Balki's Paa and that's where you feel it could have been so much better and hard-hitting. The film may have had its heart at the right place, but the soul, I felt, was totally missing.

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