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:
- Excessive editing
- Guns and rocket launchers
- Cars (to be blown up)
- 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.