Shehzada: Kartik Aaryan drives this entertainer with rare aplomb
Remakes, in the era of OTT, are very dicey, and after some phenomenal washouts last year, here is one more example of the original’s producers attempting another. The Telugu film, Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, released about two months before the lockdown had been declared in 2020, and would have emerged a blockbuster had the nationwide eventuality not curtailed its progress. It got its remaining due on OTT, where I too had watched the wholesome and completely riveting entertainer with some great music and a solid emotional connect.
I watched that breezy film with the basic plotline of babies being deliberately exchanged when simultaneously, and in the same hospital, a tycoon, Randeep (Ronit Bose Roy)’s wife as well as his humble employee, Valmiki (Paresh Rawal)’s wife both give birth to boys.
The latter has the ulterior motive to get his own son a royal life as the tycoon’s son and take a kind of revenge on his employer’s baby by ill-treating him in his humble abode. His employer and he had started as equals in their jobs but Randeep had married the founder, Aditya Jindal (Sachin Khedekar)’s daughter, Yashoda, and climbed up the ladder in a flash.
25 years later, however, destiny plays its own games and Valmiki’s grown-up ‘son’, the cheerful Bantu (Kartik Aaryan) comes to know the truth. Valmiki’s biological son, Raj (Ankur Rathee), meanwhile, is nowhere as bright as Bantu, despite all his privileges, and thanks to his upbringing amidst rich ‘parents’, has no say in his own future. Even his marriage is arranged to Samara (Kriti Sanon), who actually is Bantu’s employer (she is a legal counsel) and the two are in love.
Finally, after a chain of events, Bantu finds himself as his father’s employee and sets right all the wrong things going on in the house. In the process, he teaches his foster-father a lasting lesson.
Frankly speaking, the Hindi remake has been simplified in many areas but still falls short of the original in terms of logic and sensibilities. It is completely rescued by a powerhouse performance from Kartik Aaryan as Banto. Going the complete hog as the quintessential Hindi film hero, he is perfect as the deprived heir, who is still completely cheerful, honest, dutiful and conscientious at the same time. Kartik makes the silliest or most trite sequences likable and sails like a breeze through his character. His sequence with Rajpal Yadav is a classic example: this very-David Dhawan-like old-school comedic sequence is actually made funny by their interaction.
Sadly, Kriti Sanon as his ladylove gets shortchanged in the process, barely appearing in the second half of the 146-minute saga, remaining absent from crucial sequences, not even coming into the main plot and being presented more as an object with long legs and a hot body. She is even absent from the end-credits video, which is also mysterious. As her father, Rakesh Bedi is reduced to virtually a junior artiste!
Among the rest, while Sachin Khedekar (the only artiste who reprises his role from the original), Ronit Bose Roy and Manisha Koirala are adequate, two artistes who stand out are Paresh Rawal as the slimy Valmiki, and Ankur Rathee as Valmiki’s biological son.
Rohit Dhawan shows command over his direction, but should have concentrated on a better script (he writes the adapted screenplay too) if he had to change the original at multiple points. Hussain Dalal’s dialogues do light up many sequences, though.
And Julius Packiam’s background score makes a big and positive difference to the film, though Pritam’s songs, unlike with the same director’s Desi Boyz and Dishoom, are very run-of-the-mill. Lyricist Kumaar’s song Munda sona hoon main reprises in a way the thought behind his Dilliwali girlfriend in Pritam’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, though over here, the thought is illogical as Banto has no previous girlfriend!
Cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee and Sanjay F. Gupta, the action by Anal Arasu that stops short of gore, and the production design by Suresh Selvarajan are all of high caliber. But Ritesh Soni’s editing is often jerky, as if he has been instructed to take care of the overall length of the film at any cost.
The film entertains smoothly, and Kartik is superb, so I guess Shehzada falls into the category of yet another remake (of any one language into another) that does not match the original. A good 90 percent of remakes fall in this category, and I might have enjoyed this one more had I, like in the case of last year’s Vikram Vedha and Mili, not watched the original.
On the other hand, after watching Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha and Satte Pe Satta decades back, I had happened to view their respective originals, French Kiss and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and had found the Indian versions far better.
But then remakes will remain a permanent source of debate!
T-Series Films, Geetha Arts, Haarika & Hassine Creations & Brat Films present Shehzada Produced by: Kartik Aaryan, Allu Aravind, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Aman Gill & S. Radha Krishna Directed by: Rohit Dhawan Written by: Trivikrama Srinivas, Rohit Dhawan & Hussain Dalal Music: Pritam Starring: Kartik Aaryan, Kriti Sanon, Manisha Koirala, Paresh Rawal, Sachin Khedekar, Ronit Bose Roy, Ankur Rathee, Debattama Saha, Sunny Hinduja, Vinay Rana, Rajpal Yadav, Rakesh Bedi, Ali Asgar, Ashwin Mushran, Shalini Kapoor & others