Director: Indrajith Lankesh
Cast: Richa Chadha, Pankaj Tripathi
Stars: 1.5 out of 5
Actors Richa Chadha and Pankaj Tripathi may be consummate actors known for perking up the most limpid of films, but even their presence couldn’t save their latest biopic ‘Shakeela’ from being soul-crushingly boring and frustrating.
It’s one of those biopics that make you wonder why this project was green lit in the first place, especially since Vidya Balan’s epic turn in ‘The Dirty Picture’, loosely based on Shakeela’s blazing predecessor Silk Smitha, had already given the farm away. There’s nothing new or revelatory in director Indrajit Lankesh’s ‘Shakeela’, that Balan’s film hadn’t already explored. The backstory of a spunky adult star — who was secretly adored and the object of forbidden desire for many young men — simply didn’t have enough meat to keep us invested.
The film opens with Shakeela’s reasons for acting in tawdry films. Her doting father was a lovely soul, but his death from Tuberculosis leaves her as the sole breadwinner to her five siblings and an ambitious mother who doesn’t think twice about trading her daughter’s flesh for some quick cash.
While the abject poverty and desperation made Shakeela enter the risqué adult industry, the pace and narrative is so choppy and predictable that you remain unmoved by what’s happening in her life.
Chadha is terribly miscast as a South Indian siren. She isn’t convincing as this bodacious Malayali siren and the parts in which she returns to her native roots isn’t effectively played. Her pronunciations of words such as ‘Kochi’ and her wishing her childhood crush a happy Onam — which would slid off any authentic Malayali’s mouth with ease — is wonky. But that’s the least of the problems in this underwhelming feature.
Even Pankaj Tripathi as this smarmy superstar, who’s a predator in secret but is adored by millions for his family-man image, couldn’t salvage this film. Initially, his act evokes a few laughs, but it gets old and monotonous soon.
The sole silver lining in this film were the scenes that featured the two sparring. Tripathi as the ageing matinee idol detested Shakeela’s growing clout and bankability at the box-office and like any surly man, played dirty to stall her career.
Folklore has it that Shakeela’s R-rated films became a threat to hero-led, good vs evil family dramas and those male heroes took it upon themselves to bring her down. The film touches upon these points liberally, but it doesn’t move you. The dialogues seem clunky too and the supporting actors — barring this pair — are forgettable and ordinary.
The tangent where Shakeela meets her high school sweetheart doesn’t help things along. Her rags-to-riches-to-rags story might have worked as a short story, but as a feature film, it falls short of expectations. Barring Chadha’s brief monologue on the hypocrisy about Shakeela and her explicit films being blamed for inciting rape, there’s very little that’s redeeming about this movie. Watch it at your own risk.
Shakeela is screening in UAE cinemas