Shamshera: Of two Ranbir Kapoors, angry crows and Sanjay Dutt mocking his own film
Shamshera is almost a mockery of masala entertainers that often work at the box office. The treatment of the Ranbir Kapoor-starrer appears as if it was an attempt to revive that kind of cinema for Hindi films.
Ranbir Kapoor returned to the silver screen after a gap of four years with Karan Malhotra's Shamshera and his double role, as father and son, does not make up for the failure of a film that it is. Shamshera is almost a mockery of masala entertainers that often work at the box office. The treatment of the film appears as if it was an attempt to revive that kind of cinema for Hindi films. Shamshera features Vaani Kapoor opposite Ranbir while Sanjay Dutt plays the antagonist in the film. (Also read: Ranbir Kapoor says he needs 'tyrant' Alia Bhatt to produce his directorial debut)
Set in the 1800s, Shamshera traces the story of Balli (Ranbir) who aspires to be an army officer but belongs to a tribe that has been enslaved by the British. Ranbir also essays the role of Balli's father, Shamshera, who was the tribe's leader. Both Ranbir characters lead their tribe in rebellion against the British.
Despite all her pre-release interviews and false claims, Vaani has little to do in the film except display the skills of a great dancer and seductress. She had said her character Sona (Vaani) - a travelling dancer in love with Balli - is an emotionally vulnerable one and there are layers to the character. Sona flaunts all the characteristics typical of a dancer in Hindi films from the 90s and 2000s - she wards off her lover with mean words, sticks to him despite all odds and often uses her seduction skills to help her lover. There are zero layers and no depth at all to this one.
In fact, certain sequences are reminiscent of the Bollywood era of badly-made gangster films that showed murders in the background even as a heroine made sultry moves in a dance bar.
After a disclaimer that announces that graphics were used to show all kinds of birds and animals, Shamshera uses murder of angry crows as a weapon of the protagonist. During one scene, they even appear without any trigger and help Ranbir defeat his opponent.
Ranbir Kapoor as the father and son looks convincing and does an okay job of getting into the skin of the characters as well but fails to uplift the film and overcome the shortcomings of the film's writing. He now desperately needs his next, Brahmastra to work.
The film does aim high - it makes clear efforts to highlight the social evils of the caste system, but ends up making a caricature of the characters themselves. The worst case is that of Shuddh Singh - the upper-caste, extremely privileged, cruel and inhumane cop who serves the British for his personal benefit. The loss is also that of Sanjay Dutt as he plays the character of Shuddh Singh. With Shamshera, Karan Malhotra seems to have asked Sanjay to revisit his Kancha Cheena madness from their 2012 film together - Agneepath.
The problem is, that Shuddh Singh is worse than Karan's Kancha Cheena. He appears more gawkish and is even more caricaturish. The use of sanskrit shlokas (couplets) in an eerie voice as the background music for all mean and cruel scenes involving Shuddh Singh dictates the scenes, often undermining the cruelty and fear the situation demands.