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Shamshera Review: Hit Or Not, Ranbir Kapoor Film Is One Of YRF's Best Period-Action Films


The difference between a 'KGF's Yash and 'Shamshera's Ranbir is the mellowed down Bollywood hero in contrast to the superhuman charisma of a Yash or even a Salman Khan in an action flick.

New Delhi: 'Shamshera' starring Ranbir Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Vaani Kapoor is without doubt one of the good period-action films which will go down in Yash Raj banner's history as an honest attempt at recreating the Hindi cinema-going experience of the 'big-picture of the 70's.

Although the syntax of 'Shamshera' is 'KGF' like; a disowned tribe 'Khameran' with a leader like Yash in Ranbir's character who frees them of their bondage in slavery. However, the difference between a 'KGF's Yash and 'Shamshera's Ranbir is the mellowed down Bollywood hero in contrast to the superhuman charisma of a Yash or even a Salman Khan in an action flick.

Ranbir plays his charateristic self, the Bollywood hero type he and many of his contemporaries have been playing for the very many years, of a hero that is sensitive, empathetic, does not possess super-humanly mind-boggling powers.

Shamshera Movie Review

'Shamshera' begins with a thundering opening credits music which reveals the cast and the technicians of the film. This template felt lack like a walk down memory lane to the time when opening credits solely played in the backdrop of a 'dha-dha' music score before the film unfolded onto the screen.

A kind of deliberate move to perhaps set the tone of what is to follow, 'Shamshera' tick all the marks of a typical Yash Raj banner film with it's music, dialogue, drama, action and performances-a full pack masala entertainer which is somewhat long past it's age.

For some reason, even when 'Shamshera' was so well-balanced on all scales like actors' performances, design, cinematography, music and editing; there was something amiss. It was either the grandeur in the hero's personality we have gotten used to with 'KGF: Chapter 2', or 'RRR' or 'Pushpa' or something about the pace that got too lost in it's own material.

In the very Marvelesque opening sequence, under the influence of a voiceover, we are told the backstory of the Khameran tribe which is in search of a land to call home in Kaza. Their leader is Shamshera, Ranbir Kapoor's older version.

Ranbir is introduced in the typical hero style-with a close up of the eyes then a mid shot and then a master shot of the people he leads and the respect he commands. His opening shot is undercut by an action sequence complimented by a good background score that organically furthers the narrative.

Sanjay Dutt is introduced as Shudh Singh, an upper caste Darohar Sahib( policeman) whose vicious sense of upper caste entitlement becomes a personal agenda to wipe off every Khameran from the face of the earth.

The cinematic composition of Shamshera is blue and grey-toned which 25 years after his death changes to yellow-brown until they mix together to form a composite contrast of both tones to bring out a beautiful visual composition. And, for that reason too a film like 'Shamshera' should be rightfully watched in a theatre.

There is a fraction of a sense of a chaplinesque humour with a bit of physical comedy and a childlike innocence in a sequence that introduces Shamshera's son 'Balli'( Ranbir, who is in double role) which is one of the most memorable and worth-mentioning sequences of 'Shamshera'.

'Shamshera's songs and background scores are another commendable narrative devices that are befittingly used in the film. A qawali rendition brought out in such a playful and humourous way which also happens to introduce Vaani Kapoor's characters is great.

Although, the typical song sequence to always introduce Vaani as a great dancer is a bit cliche, the music is fresh.

Besides the one mentioned, 'Fitoor' song from 'Shamshera' is already a favourite and although beautifully shot could have been completely avoided in the film post interval.

Besides these songs, the background victory lalkar songs or poetic renditions which sing of 'Shamshera's glory and Balli's valour are great tropes which may give goosebumps to an already enthralled audience.

Likewise, long poetic monologues by Saurabh Shukla and the fantastic dialogue written by Piyush Mishra lend a kind of density to the text which suits a chronicle of a king/warrrior; something like a Ranbir-e-nama.

The poetic element in dialogues like 'humne raat ka sahara lia th, ye to suraj peeth ke gaya chehre par', 'dharam se bada mukhota kaunsa hota hai' standout.

The use of contrast, allegory in visuals of day and night, forest and deserted landscapes, in character performances is also another layer that the filmmaker, Karan Malhotra adds to 'Shamshera'.

The ample use and mixing of a variety of shots and camera angles amplify the emotion and tone of circumstances and the characters in it is a good use of image complimented by sound.

Perhaps the period-action genre commands a certain degree of slowness in pace for being heavily loaded in all aspects, but 'Shamshera' manages to balance this so well with the scales of music, dance, drama, screenplay, action, design and performance.

In fact, Ranbir does not really have a lot of dialogue in the film but the supporting cast and other narrative devices make his grandeour so big which is only mellowed down by the humaneness of his own performance.

Another thing the team of 'Shamshera' does right is its design. Vaani and Ranbir and the entire cast dress in the monotones of fabric that suits the time the film is set in is a good decision.

Besides all of these, the actors' performances in 'Shamshera' is great. In fact, in many parts, you feel Sanjay Dutt steals the show with his electric performance. After 'Agneepath', Karan Malhotra brings out an even more terrific Sanjay Dutt as an epitome of villany.

Sanjay Dutt's character has his own backgorund score and a kind so horrific and befitting the character that one must confess, it is the best villain background score composed for a negative role after a really, really long time.

Ranbir Kapoor borders betwen the mellowed-empathetic hero and a powerful-mad hero. His performance is great.

Vaani Kapoor does not have a lot written out for her but she manages to do her parts well.

However, 'Shamshera' does have it's own set of problems.

Like the post-interval film which is excellent in sequences could have been edited well; more sharply and objectively to reach the suitable climax. Constantly puncturing the first half with sequences and moments for the big symbolic 'train robbery' of the yester year Bollywood films to happen in the second half was not a very smart move although it does provide an enriching and entertaining experience to the audience.

Everytime, as a modern audience you expect an unexpected thing to happen, this Yash Raj films hits home the fact that it is thoroughly traditional. It conforms to the formula set by the old larger-than-life Hindi action flicks which have to have horses, a villain whose villainy is to be multiplied until completely punctured at the end of the film, and hero coming back from the blow of death, supporters being gheroed and killed in typical fashion, and a climax befitting the glory of it's hero whose shirt has to come off in a certain way etc. etc.

The use of fantastical and subaltern tropes like giving it back to the righteous British Empire, the use of crows ( bord species poorly represented mostly in all forms of arts) are sometimes used in an over-the-top fashion.

And, as 'Shamshera' closes at the end with Ranbir leading his Khameran tribe into a vast expanse of sunset on horses and with crows to accompany them, it feels like a literal end of a fantasy film and a genre that desevers all the due respect past it's age.

All in all, 'Shamshera' may or may not be a hit film but it is definfitely a good film which will go down in the history of Yash Raj Films as perhaps one of it's best period-action films till date.


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