Movie title: Vakeel Saab Cast: Pawan Kalyan, Nivetha Thomas, Prakash Raj, Anjali and othersDirector: Venu Sriram Rating: 3/5
In ‘Pink’, whose remake ‘Vakeel Saab’ is, Amitabh Bachchan was more of a supporting actor who was at the centre of a momentous courtroom drama in the film’s second half. In the film under review, which has Pawan Kalyan (as lawyer Satyadev) reprising Big B, heroism is not a footnote but a mainstay. For the first forty minutes of the film, we see the superstar in just two scenes – both of which involve low-intensity dishoom-dishoom stretches. Once director Venu Sriram starts narrating his backstory, the remake becomes an unapologetic star vehicle where Pawan could at times be hearing out the marginalized who have come to meet him at his Jana Sena Party office.
‘Vakeel Saab’ is not interested in being a dark thriller from the word go. The initial moments are staged with a tinge of sentimental rush. We see the introductions of Nivetha Thomas (as a Hyderabad-bred professional), Anjali (as a traditional woman from a Muslim family) and Ananya Nagalla (as a village belle who looks somewhat intimidated by the city) against the backdrop of the Sid Sriram-rendered ‘Maguva Maguva’, which is laced with a generic tribute to the womenkind. It’s only after this relaxed, orthodox telling that the film moves to the fateful night where the three women are almost molested.
In an attempt to save herself, Nivetha’s character smashes the head of a male harasser (Vamshi Krishna, as the spoiled son of a powerful MP) with a bottle. She comes to be accused of an attempt to murder. The bad guys draft in the services of Nanda (Prakash Raj), an unscrupulous lawyer who doesn’t think twice before humiliating the weak.
The film becomes an out-and-out showreel of Pawanism (for the unversed, Pawanism is an emotion as well as a mission for the actor’s legions of fans) at a number of places. Believe it or not, even the second half has got two fights (thankfully, they are not over-the-top). A character or two say lines that are clearly targeted at Pawan’s political constituency in Andhra Pradesh. Even the closing portions of the film suggest that the lawyer is going to be on a crusading spree after winning the court case for the women.
This is not to say that ‘Vakeel Saab’ is always itching to satisfy the fanbase. In one of the scenes, the judge tells Satyadev not to make noise. A superstar having to hear this in a part-masala star vehicle is not a small thing.
The second half is uniformly engaging. The ‘No means no’ theme hits home. The message will never run out of steam no matter how many films might reiterate it from now. Pawan, with his inimitable talent, animates the anti-sexism theme with astonishing charm. There is vigour when he shames the misogynist characters, especially Nanda.
All said and done, the film doesn’t cover itself in glory when it comes to the flashback stretches. The scenes that play out in the backdrop of a University belong to the old school. After a point, we lose count of the number of times one or another oppressed individual comes rushing to Satyadev for help. He is more of a Saviour Saab than a Vakeel Saab. He is the go-to man for justice-seekers, and more often than not, he uses his mass hero skills to render instant justice. He is ultra-focused on saving people and the only force in the solar system who can distract him is a fangirl played by Shruti Haasan, who unfortunately comes across as a prop.
Had it swum past its formulaic flashback (complete with melodramatic wailing and a suicide), the film would have had a very good first half as well.
In summation, the film marshals Pawan’s image as much as the pertinent theme of ‘Pink’. S Thaman’s background music, the performances, PS Vinod’s cinematography and the run-time (155 minutes) are alright. Go watch it!