Shakti

Here is a list of things we know the film makers didn’t spend the reputedly huge budget on:

  • A hairdresser for Ileana
  • Good quality CGI
  • Historical research
  • Decent wigs
  • A good story

Here is a list of things they did invest in:

  • Scarves
  • Stars
  • Helicopters
  • Excessive editing
  • Guns and rocket launchers
  • Cars (to be blown up)
  • Locations
  • Oversized glowing props
  • A slide announcing that no matter when or where people lived, for the purposes of this film everyone speaks Telugu.

The story opens at the pyramids with lots of Ancient Egyptian-ish folk speaking Hindi. We also catch our first glimpse of topless Sonu Sood, although not topless in our preferred sense. He first appears as a severed head in a bag. So of course, his grieving lover’s first reaction is to gouge his eyeballs out and preserve them in a jar of something orange and smoking.

Skip forward to rich girl Aishwarya (Ileana) slipping away from her father’s security detail to go touring with her gang of friends which includes Ali as Tommy, a character at least 20 years too young for him. While in Jaipur they cross paths with Shakti (Tarak) and he appoints himself their groups’ highly paid guide and protector. How to resist a man who arrives on elephant back, kicks assorted bad guy arse and can get tickets to first day first show of Wanted?

To summarise: Aishwarya accidentally took a very large mystical jewel from her family safe and doesn’t notice she is carrying it in her bag. The Faux-gyptians want it to destroy the world or something. And there are the good guys seeking to protect the jewel and ensure it is used in the ritual required to keep several holy cities in India, or maybe the world, safe.  And Shakti is the son of the man killed performing the last saving the world ritual (either several hundred or maybe thirty years ago).

The first half of the film is a blend of road trip, romance and action in some lovely Indian locations as Shakti has to constantly rescue Aishwarya from her own stupidity as well as from the villains who are tracking her. The second half of the film is a less successful blend of exploding cars and storms of bullets with the mythology underpinning the story of the jewel and the elaborate ritual. We were slightly surprised to learn that the Ancient Egyptians, or a cult, who lived outside the pyramids at Giza had tried to invade Andhra Pradesh on horseback either a couple of thousand or twenty years ago. But compared to all the other nonsensical stuff going on (not a tourist in sight at the pyramids, roads in Hyderabad with no traffic at all), we were only very slightly surprised.

The special effects were cheap looking considering the budget. A sacred sword was made of red plastic, and the significant trishul was yellow plastic with little light bulbs inside it. There was clearly a vision, but it was translated in a very clumsy way. Even in the fight and dance sequences, where we expect Tarak to absolutely shine, the overly jumpy editing and poor effects were a distraction and really diminished his impact. We are well accustomed to seeing action footage sped up or slowed down for impact, but in Shakti the slow bits were often so slow they highlighted the CGI and wires, and the fast bits were jerky and cartoonish. A couple of the songs had huge sets and lots of costume changes but lacked the ‘Wow factor’ we expect from this style of film. The opening Rajasthani song was a great example of what didn’t work – the dancing and choreography were great, the costumes and sets were stunning, and the editing made it look bland and disjointed. We were very hopeful once the rocket launchers appeared, but sadly once the director had blown up umpteen cars and people, it was time for more ‘creativity’ and the film deteriorated. The climax set in an underground temple full of more glowing props was too repetitive as it mimicked a long preceding flashback and the visual effects were not great.

Every film comedian except Sunil made an appearance and it was just too much. We have no idea at all why Jackie Shroff was in this film. His role could have been played by anyone in a brocade jacket and every time we saw him poolside we just prayed he would keep his clothes on. From the look on their faces, so did the gori extras paid to cavort around him! Sonu Sood did his usual villain thing and made an appearance (head attached) in a flashback in the second half. The angrier he got the less he wore, so as you can imagine we were very interested in his scenes. The whole subplot with his lover and her supernatural vengeance was a confused mess, and not helped by the wig department. But there was lots of eye stuff happening, mostly anatomically correct too, which pleased Heather! The orc-like baddie sent to destroy Shakti was blind at first, but after years of punching and headbutting Egyptian columns into shards (think Juggernaut from X-Men), he was apparently given Sonu’s eyes although disappointingly we never saw the actual installation procedure.

Tarak and Ileana were good considering what they had been given by writer/director Meher Ramesh. They had no chemistry as a couple but Ileana did what she could with an under developed character and the nonsensical behaviour required of her. Tarak delivered his usual robust physical performance and rousing speeches. Shakti (the character) had only two facial expressions for most of the film – surly and surlier. We would be peeved too if we got landed with The Wig. The flashback exposition was inexplicable in style and chronology. If this was 20 odd years ago, why was Shakti in a pageboy wig? We were a little bemused by the decision to try to create flowing warrior locks with the use of a wind machine. Sadly, the breeze lacked sufficient oomph to stir the clumpy and hideous wig so it was all for naught. And that inability to make a concept work sums up the whole film.

There were some positives. The audience were laughing a lot at some of the comedic dialogues and they appreciated Tarak’s big speeches. Some things were really fun – Shakti’s dramatic reveal as super agent A1 of the NSA, the rocket launchers, CGI snakes (especially when carried as a concealed weapon), Brahmi and Tarak’s scenes together and the backing dancers who really did give it their all. The Ladakh and Haridwar scenes were beautiful even with all the gimmicky camera work.

This is a film solely for the hardcore fans.

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14 thoughts on “Shakti

  1. I hope at least it was in the “so bad it’s good” category. 🙂

    What a mess it sounds, though! I’m still musing on the symbolic meaning of all the Egyptian pharaohs speaking Hindi. Does this indicate that Hindi speakers to Telugu speakers are as alien as Egyptians? Or that really, Egyptians (at least the ones in this film) are really part of India, too? Or that they really weren’t Egyptians, but Indians, just from outside Andhra Pradesh? And the pharaoh costumes and the pyramid background are just the usual kind of imaginative “picturizations” that are par for the course in songs, only now they’ve been used for the speaking scenes, too.

    It is clear that the team behind this film didn’t really understand what made Magadheera a hit.

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    • hi mm 🙂 It was almost SBIG but not quite enough of the G…it lacked a certain flair and took itself very seriously I’m afraid. I still laughed a lot, but I was laughing at things more than I was laughing with them. I just loved that the Hindi dialogues started seconds after the screen advising that all characters in the film would speak Telugu regardless. The whole Egypt thing was bizarre, and in these few sentences you have given it much more thought than anyone involved in the film did. I read a review after writing this that said the filmi Pharaohs and their horses rolled up to invade in 1984. Clearly history was not a consideration. I really did get the feeling that someone had seen a Rajamouli film and thought they could make one just like it. Epic masala just isn’t that easy! There were some hilarious scenes of the evil witch queen lounging around in her gold and enamelled throne, surrounded by bored attendants and golden coffee tables, supposedly outside a pyramid. What were they thinking? It’s a shame as they had all the resources and performers to make a really good film, but botched it. Cheers, Temple

      PS – Your grasshopper gravatar? The little blue creature? We set the blog to generate monster avatars for visitors who don’t have their own icons and the system decided this would best represent you.

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      • Yeah, I read that review where they said the Pharaohs invaded AP in 1984. So there are obviously hidden Orwellian subtexts as well. 🙂

        Thanks for explaining about the gravatar/avatar. Now, can you also tell me how I can set my own image, as I get really freaked by insects? 🙂

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      • Look at you, still searching for some kind of meaning or subtlety 🙂 You don’t give up easily!

        Now I am not 100% sure about the gravatar but I think if you click on your monster icon, it should take you to your own gravatar page and there is an option to upload an image of your choice.

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  2. You publish this just in the nick of time for me to plan my day! As Temple has heard, Shakti is playing at a little town about 40 minutes drive away – at 9:30 pm. HMMMM. If I had a comrade-in-arms to take with me, I would go in a heartbeat, but I think all the driving and the lateness and the not-even-SBIG sink this. But I am SO tempted! If it were in my town and involved only 5 minutes of driving, I’d be there. I mean, FAKE-PRETEND EGYPTIAN HISTORY!!!! How can I resist?

    Temple has heard this too, but: after seeing the picture of plaid vest, white hat, and sneakers, I had to go look up his age to back up my point that he is far too old to dress like that. Imagine my surprise when I found out he is in his late 20s (apparently)! Gah!

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  3. “(either several hundred or maybe thirty years ago).” Hee, I spent most of the second half trying to figure out the time period. “OK, now we’re in ancient times? no, wait, the father is wearing glasses.” Also, there were several interminable stretches of exposition speeches in the last third. Don’t tell, show. This movie definitely made me appreciate Rajamouli even more, and I may have to pop in Yamadonga or Magadheera to cleanse my palate.

    They put Jr NTR in all kinds of outfits (cowboy, fedora, Reservoir Dogs-style suit, plaid pants) and I was fairly impressed that he managed to pull them all off. Until the Wig.

    On the plus side, the movies are back at the theater that shows movies dubbed and subtitled in Spanish, so there’s the fun of watching trivia in Spanish before the show, while snacking on Mexican candy.

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  4. Ya I don’t know if it is SBIG but I think it would be a blast for a watch-a-long. I loved the parachute ride down and then back up the mountain! And in the flashback when heads are flying and the wife is in labor, the friend decides the most important thing she needs is privacy, so he runs around finding branches to sort of conceal her.. I mostly agree with your review except I loved Thaliya Thaliya and I thought the editing was ok the first half but bad in the second half. I also liked Tarak’s Rudra look even the wig. I wrote a review too.

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    • Hi Jill
      Maybe subtitles would help but the time frame of the film seemed really mixed up. I just find that chopping style of editing to be really annoying – just as you focus on one character they’ve changed to someone else, or Tarak’s feet and it was just too hard for me to work out what I was looking at. I loved the costumes in that first song but didn’t get a chance to really see them properly – that might be my motivation for watching on DVD 🙂
      There are some good moments but mostly I thought Tarak was wasted in such a mish-mash of a film!
      Heather

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  5. @ Dolce – I think it’s worth watching some scenes and the songs but until I get a fast forward control in the cinema, I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend this one 🙂

    @ Beth – All it takes is a Faux-gyptian Pharaoh and you’re there! I don’t think Tarak looked that old, but maybe that’s just because I’ve seen more of his films so I don’t tend to think about his age. And it’s a stubble thing. He does look more mature than some of the waxed wonders. Oh – He does a cowboy themed song with those little side kicks you love 🙂

    @Limette – Heather has a theory that all films called Shakti are terrible. I’ve only seen this, and the same Hindi film as you and so far, the evidence seems to support her theory!

    @ Liz – The chronology was all over the place, and the Wig didn’t help! They did play dress-up with Tarak quite successfully up to that point, I agree. I skimmed through Magadheera again last night for the exact same reason (Yamadonga unfortunately has more Tarak with bad hair and I just wasn’t feeling strong enough). I love a good epic, and how I wish this had been one! Nice that you get Mexican snacks and can practice your Spanish though. That’s a nice little value-add.

    Cheers,

    Temple

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  6. Sadly, I discovered too late that there was a Special Showing of Shakti at one cinema in Toronto on the weekend, because, even as terrible as it sounds, I think I would have dragged my husband to the theatre with me to see it. Likely just for the Faux-gyptians. 🙂

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    • Hi Katherine,

      I really don’t think you should feel too disappointed. The Faux-gyptians were just people in bad wigs which just got worse and worse as the wig storage facility obviously wasn’t rodent free. Or maybe they just left them on for the duration – who knows?
      I think subtitles and a FF button will make it much more watchable, although I know that the crowd atmosphere was one of the high points of our viewing experience!
      I’m very impressed you can drag your husband – mine will not come with me at all. Although he does end up watching quite a few Southern Indian films at home – so there’s always hope 🙂
      Heather

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