Shamshera review: Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt set the screen on fire with their loud action avatars
Shamshera review: The Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt-starrer has its faults but manages to hit enough right chords to be an enjoyable masala entertainer.
Riding a horse amid a sandstorm, holding an axe with his face covered, enters Shamshera, who we are told is “karam se dacoit, dharam se azaad”. He might look scary in that get-up with long, unkempt hair and beard, but his tribe worships him for being their saviour. Now watching Ranbir Kapoor on the big screen after four years is in itself a good enough a bait to draw audiences back into theatres. But Shamshera isn't just riding on its protagonist's shoulders. It has all the elements needed to make a mass masala entertainer hit the right chord. It has action, emotions, well-written characters and a solid backstory. Mounted on a large scale, like most period films, it does boast of massive sets and structures but nothing takes away from the depth of the characters and somewhat believable story-line. Also read: Karan Malhotra recalls Sanjay Dutt battling cancer throughout Shamshera shoot
As Hindi film audiences, we're pretty used to watching elaborate costume dramas with larger-than-life characters in the name of period films. And Shamshera doesn't tick any of the boxes on your period drama checklist. It's neither glamorous nor does it resort to over-the-top setting to make every person and setting beautiful. And no, I'm not complaining. In what comes as a breather and a refreshing change from stereotypical period dramas, director Karan Malhotra's Shamshera creates a dark and dense world and takes on the caste bias prevalent during the British rule in 1870s.
A warrior lower-caste tribe called Khameerans led by Shamshera (Ranbir Kapoor) is imprisoned in a fictitious city of Kaza. They are enslaved and tortured by a ruthless authoritarian general Shuddh Singh (Sanjay Dutt), who looks down upon them and tells a British officer: Jaanwar hai, gand toh machayega hi (These are animals, will pollute). After a lot of humiliation and physical assault, the tribe loses leader in his quest to free his people and that's where a fresh chapter starts. 25 years later, we are introduced to Balli (Shamshera's son) who looks exactly like this father. You must be living under a rock if you still didn't know that Ranbir Kapoor has a dual role in the film.
Balli is unlike his (mostly serious) father — he likes to dance, sing, wants to join the security forces working for the British and is still oblivious to the truth behind his father's painful death. And when he finally learns about how his tribe has suffered, he takes over Shamshera's mantle and begins a new fight for the freedom of his people and their self-respect, and avenge his father's death.
While the first half has some light moments with Balli showing his antics, the second half picks pace right from the word go. There's no breathing space to make out the why and how and it's just Ranbir Kapoor taking on the bad guys in some intricately choreographed action sequences. It's not always a safe bet to make a good-looking hero turn into their ferocious, action hero, but Ranbir gets into the skin of the character with so much ease and owns it, making it look so believable. The physical transformation he has undergone for this part is evident and you won't really miss the Ranbir Kapoor you're used to seeing romancing on-screen.
And then there's Sanjay Dutt, who seems to have mastered the art of looking menacing on screen. Each time Sanjay comes on the screen, there's an eerie music that's played in the background and he makes you hate him for everything he does. It's quite a physically-taxing character and given that Sanjay shot for Shamshera while battling cancer, I was amazed to see the force he has put in some of the action scenes or where he yells his lungs out in anger. However, I wish makers had thought of a better look for his character and not made him look like a villain from the 80s. We're done with that!
Being a period drama, Shamshera is visually appealing though I felt in some scenes, the VFX could have been less clumsy. Neelesh Misra and Khila Bisht's story is engaging and entertainment at the same time. At the onset, the film might appear too long at 158 minutes, but the way action sequences unfold and a hide-and-seek game is played, there are rarely any dull moments. Piyush Mishra's dialogue are poetry in motion. The scene where Saurabh Shukla's character narrates a couplet to remember his friend Shamshera is epic, and that's even turned into a song later for Vaani Kapoor to show some moves.
Vaani Kapoor appears much later in the film with a couple of dance numbers and a handful of scenes. Her character, sadly, is the weakest of all in the script as even the supporting actors — Saurabh Shukla and Ronit Roy — shine in their important parts. The love angle between Vaani and Ranbir turns out to be quite forced as it doesn't add any value to the story.
Nevertheless, Shamshera has enough moments to give you adrenaline rush. And Ranbir Kapoor totally justifies his new avatar, makes it all worth the wait.