‘Prassthanam’ (reign) should serve as a lesson to all those who believe a star, albeit a rusty one, is enough to earn top dollar at the box office.
It’s equally frustrating to watch a film, knowing the potential it holds, but bad execution and a regressive storyline lead the train to derail even before it leaves the station.
Director Deva Katta, who directed the original Telugu film nine years ago, returns to captain the Hindi language adaptation, but stumbles in this Bollywood update, with actor-producer Sanjay Dutt leading the charge in front of the camera.
Dutt plays Baldev Pratap Singh, the patriarch of a political dynasty whose legacy comes into question when his two sons are unwittingly pitted against each other.
Ali Fazal plays older son Aayush, the supposed heir to the political throne, but a quick flashback determines his succession isn’t without a few hurdles.
Younger son Vivaan (Satyajeet Dubey), a sociopath for all purposes, wants to grab the power for himself and the petulant child throws enough tantrums to make himself heard over the course of this film.
As viewers, this isn’t our first rodeo into a political thriller. In recent times, films such as ‘Rajneeti’ and Ram Gopal Verma’s ‘Sarkar’ trilogy have all ridden into this very ring with various successes — although the third ‘Sarkar’ was a stretch for everyone involved.
You will see shades of Amitabh Bachchan’s Subhash Nagre in Dutt’s Baldev, down to the very scene where he greets his well wishers from his sick bed after a foiled attack. But while Bachchan’s Nagre stood stoic in the face of his son’s transgressions, Dutt’s Baldev appears almost exhausted by the weight of his role and producing this film.
That said, Dutt redeems himself at times but those scenes are simply too fleeting to hold mettle.
Manisha Koirala as Saroj, Baldev’s long-suffering wife, attempts to bring a dignified presence to her outtakes but fails to deliver in her regressive role. Sorry Mr Katta, but women have fought long and hard to rise above this helpless woman stereotype that existed in Bollywood in the 80s and 90s.
Jackie Shroff as Baldev’s loyal friend Badshaah hams his way through the poorly written character, while Fazal appears to have stumbled off the sets of Amazon Prime’s ‘Mirazapur’ and picked up ‘Prassthanam’ right where he left off. That said, he still holds his own during the emotionally-charged moments.
A useless love track featuring Amyra Dastur is exactly that, while the attempt to pepper this film with songs to seemingly make it more commercial is a wasted effort as well.
Aside from Fazal, the only other saving grace in this poor man’s game of thrones is Chunky Pandey as Bajwa Khatri, a swarmy businessman who would willingly sell his soul to make a quick buck. Pandey, in his limited role, is a revelation at times.
Dubey as the destructive son shows potential but even his efforts fail in his stereotypical character arch.
‘Prassthanam’ attempts to recapture the glory of the original 2010 film, but this bid for power is best left to struggle in silence.
Director: Deva Katta
Starring: Sanjay Dutt, Manisha Koirala, Ali Fazal, Jackie Shroff, Chunky Pandey and Satyajeet Dubey
Stars: 2 out of 5