'Shaakunthalam' Movie Review
Cast: Samantha, Dev Mohan, Sachin Khedkar, Mohan Babu, Ananya Nagalla, Aditi Balan, Shiva Balaji, Madhubala, Kabir Singh Duhan, Subbaraju and others.
Music: Mani Sharma
Dialogues: Sai Madhav Burra
Producer: Neelima Guna - Dil Raju
Writer - Director: Gunasekhar
Known for his different movies right from the beginning of his career, Gunasekhar has arrived after a long time with 'Shaakunthalam'. His last film 'Rudhramadevi' was released in 2015 and there was a lot of debate regarding the actual history and how it was showcased. He worked on 'Shaakunthalam' for a really long time and it has finally hit the screens. Samantha is playing the title role and let us see how this movie turned out.
In order to distract the penance of sage Vishwamitra, Menaka (Madhubala) was sent to the Earth and she gives birth to a baby in this process. She leaves to the heavens after leaving the baby on earth. Sage Kanwa Maharshi (Sachin Khedkar) takes care of the baby girl and she is Shakunthala (Samantha). She grows up in Kanwa Maharshi's Ashram and falls in love with King Dushyantha (Dev Mohan) and marries him. King Dushyanta promises to bring her to the kingdom with all the regal honors and returns to the empire. But he never comes back. In the meanwhile, Shakunthala gets pregnant and when she goes near Dushyanta, he says that he doesn't know her at all. Why did he say that? How did Shakunthala face this tough situation? Will she get united with her husband again? The answers to these questions form the rest of the story.
There are a lot of examples in recent times that people encourage historic, mythological or folk movies. But it is quite tough to showcase such stories in a convincing manner. Making it look grand is just not enough. Gone are the days when people were amazed by huge sets and heavy graphic work. The screenplay and emotions have to work big time. The roles have to be well-written and the actors have to be able to pull them off in a perfect manner. Unfortunately, 'Shaakunthalam' lacks a lot of these things. Gunasekhar and the team's attempt to narrate the mythological story backfired. Though the grandeur is evident, we get a feeling of an artificial atmosphere and the overdramatic nature works against the movie. The feeling you get when you read this story is not the same as when you watch this movie. In the end, there are no stand-out moments in 'Shaakunthalam'.
When it is a folk story or a fictional film in a historic backdrop, the director's imagination can get wings. No matter what they show, it can be justified. But historic films will not have that option. There are a lot of limitations to it. People walk into the theatres knowing the story and the screenplay have to be very tight in order to please them. The scenes should amaze them. But there is not even a single episode in the entire film that makes you feel that way. The only time we get this feeling is when we see Allu Arjun's daughter Arha being cute and saying words in an adorable manner. This explains a lot about how the proceedings were.
Those who know the history will have an imagination of how Shakunthala will be and Samantha is in no way similar to how the books narrated her character. This is the biggest minus of the movie. Sam is a good actress with her own brand image. She did her best to do justice to this huge role but you get a feeling that she is not apt for this character. On top of that, they casted an unfamiliar actor like Dev Mohan as her pair. All his heroics do not create a lot of impact as he is new face to the Telugu audience. He did the best he could but it is tough to own him. When the lead actors are not able to connect with the audience, how can a love story emotionally bond with the viewers?
There are a lot of emotional sequences in the movie but Gunasekhar failed to showcase them in a touching manner. The lack of naturality and overdramatic nature hinders the flow of the movie all the time. The makers focused on the sets and graphics a lot in order to give a visual experience but the naturality went missing because of that. The Ashram scenes did not look natural and the war episodes fail to impress you as well. People who were spoiled by Rajamouli's visual grandeur in the last decade cannot be convinced with the war scenes showcased in this flick. Though there are interesting turns in the story, the execution does not excite the viewers. The scenes and the conversations between the characters too are a bit dramatic which tests the audience's patience. On the whole, 'Shaakunthalam' can be termed as a big misfire.
Samantha single-handedly carried all the heroine-oriented films she did till date. But she failed to do that with 'Shaakunthalam'. Firstly, she was not apt for the role as it needs an actress with flawless beauty and a goddess-like stature and posture. Though the makers tried to showcase Sam in the best way possible, she did not suit the role. She excelled in a few scenes but her screen presence leaves a lot to be desired. On top of that, her dubbing felt very odd as she failed to deliver the lines with rich literary value (Grandhikam). Dev Mohan is convincing as Dushyantha and he is quite handsome. But he is a completely new face to everyone and a well-known actor would have been a lot more impactful. Sachin Khedkar and Mohan Babu showed their experience as Kanwa Maharshi and Durvasa Maharshi. Ananya Nagalla, Aditi Balan and Gauthami did justice to their roles. Shiva Balaki, Kabir Singh Duhan and Madhubala are okay.
Though Mani Sharma looked like the perfect choice for such a mythological story but he did not deliver as expected for 'Shaakunthalam'. The songs come and go but nothing leaves a mark on the listeners or viewers. There is a lot of scope of songs in this movie and good songs would have helped the proceedings a lot. His romantic songs were quite ordinary and his background score is decent. Sekhar V Joesph's cinematography is impressive and the production values are good. The grandeur can be seen in the movie and the graphics are okay considering the amount they spent. Sai Madhav Burra's dialogues are quite impactful. One should appreciate Gunasekhar's conviction to narrate a story like 'Shaakunthalam' to the current generation but he failed to amaze the audience with this film. His screenplay and direction are quite regular and there are no bright moments in the film.
Verdict: 'Shaakunthalam' - Something Missing!
Disclaimer : This Review is Just An Opinion of One Person. Please Do Not Judge The Movie Based On This Review And Watch Movie in Aha OTT