Left to their own devices, commercial cinema and realistic cinema can each result in an enjoyable experience for viewers. But they are polar opposites in terms of film-making styles; like oil and water, two items that donīt mix well. And yet Srideviīs first foray into production , Shakti: The Power (spelt Shakthi during the title credits) is a confused product trying haphazardly to mesh the two style together. And as expected, it often does not work.
Nandini (Karisma Kapoor) is a young Canadian Indian, whose parents have passed away. (When, where and why, we are not supposed to care.) She lives with her two uncles, who take care of her departed dadīs restaurant business. They have been pressuring her to get married. So she ultimately relents and weds buddy Shekhar (Sanjay Kapoor), after an impromptu proposal over ice cream. Years pass by, Nandini and Shekhar have a little boy Raja (Jai Gidwani), and life could not be better. But it could be worse. Especially when you are watching a film and you expect something to kick-start the plot.
Nandini and the audience are made aware that Shekhar is not the orphan he has always claimed to be. Upon watching televised news of problems in India, Shekhar is forced to confront his demons and admit that he has an ailing mother and other family members half way around the world. He ran away from them years ago because his relatives are party to an unending intra-family blood battle; a war that has seeped into their very being. He takes Nandini and their son, Raja, to India, to be with his mother. But since itīs a movie, he tells nothing about his family or his past life to his wife until a few days after their arrival. Not even during the twenty plus hour flight to their destination.
Nandini is nearly traumatized on the voyage to her husbandīs home town, as she has never been to India before. The attempts on Shekharīs life along the way, donīt help matters much. Issues compound as we are introduced to Shekharīs lunatic father, Narsimha (Nana Patekar), a man whose violent nature, regressive thoughts and low intelligent quotient are a dangerous mix. Not only is Narsimha ashamed by his sonīs "girlish" acts - in escaping to foreign lands instead of fighting for his people at home - but he continuously disapproves of his new daughter-in-lawīs "shameless" attire.
Family battles repeatedly ensue, as grand-dad dearest tries to impart some battle knowledge to the preschool Raja, and exposes the youngster to weapons and bloodshed galore. Nandini yearns for home and Canada, but each request she makes to leave is thwarted by the desperate appeals for a few days more by Rajaīs mother (Deepti Naval).
Nothing increases Nandiniīs resolve as much as the murder of her young husband at the hands of his fatherīs enemies. Our young NRI mother can bear no more and wants to leave the country with her young child. But Narsimha is not as receptive to the idea. He is willing to do anything to prevent the "madam" from foreign shores from taking away the only remaining male heir to his "empire". And he proves it to Nandini too.
Director Krishna Vamsi, who also wrote the story, certainly came up with an interesting tale. And yet his execution and delivery does not have as much conviction. (Sure, the film is a superhit in Vamsiīs original regional language adaptations, but that does not make it faultless.)
The basic message of a mother being willing to go to any lengths to protect and save her child was better conveyed in 2001īs "Chandni Bar". Shakti has plenty of its own meritous scenes, those that make you want to applaud the film-makers. Scenes of realism, where the violent and illiterate village folk communicate in the crudest and most vulgar language possible. Where a marriage proposal doesnīt have to be in the most romantic and elaborately set-up sequence in the universe. Where dehydration and exhaustion can take their tolls on the lead characterīs body.
Unfortunately, itīs just not enough, and the positive attributes are more than eliminated by the ridiculous commercialism Vamsi throws in after or during a dramatic sequence. I see very little need for all the flashiness. Why open the proceedings by lingering on shots of the heroine sleeping seductively on her opulent bed? Why show a man walking away from inside a car that was just bombed to pieces, only to have him subsequently hunted down again a few minutes later? Why show song, dance, mischief and merry-making with belles galore immediately after a scene of a grotesque murder? Why show a corny and pointless comedy sequence inside a police station, at the same time a woman is being brutally punched and kicked outside the same building? Why end the movie without delivering true justice for the protagonist? These are all elements of commercial film-making, but they are juvenile and inappropriate for a movie that takes itself this seriously. And expects us to do the same.
There are numerous characters and talented artistes in the flick. And Vamsi doesnīt know how to do justice to them all. Patekar, Karisma and Naval are all incomparably excellent, and deserve each minute of their allotted screen time. But you have to wonder why Sanjay Kapoor needed the same. He still lacks true acting prowess, and I cannot help but conclude that his inclusion in the movie was forced due to familial affiliations. Shahrukh Khanīs character, though periodically fun to watch, is another needless commercial compromise in an otherwise serious movie.
The songs? They do not even make sense in it all. If you own the soundtrack, you will realize that most of the tunes did not make it on screen. The ones that do appear, they jar with the mood and proceedings. Thereīs excitement adrift watching Aishwarya Raiīs boogey to Anu Malikīs audibly horrible "Ishq Kamina" in isolation. But it is horrible timing in the context of the immediately preceding and following scenes in this movie.
S. Sriramīs cinematography is passable. And Allan Amin does an umpteenth retread of the Matrix action sequences, this time focusing on the infamous backward bending moves. Over and over and over again.
I think I have finally disproven the adage that "the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts". In the case of Shakti, I would have liked the movie a lot more if it was missing some of its scenes, and others were reshot in a simpler manner. If only the production team of this "Not Without My Daughter" adaptation realized that excess is not always better. If you can tolerate tense drama combined with stupid comedy at the exact same time, you still may like it. If not, wait for someone else to remake this movie ten years from now. And pray that it is better next time.