Move to RRR. Shamshera is Bollywood’s answer to South Indian masala films

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Shamshera has both muscle and heart. It does what Bollywood has always done best – have an oppressed hero fighting tyranny and an unredeeming villain. Directed by Karan Malhotra, who rose to fame with the 2012 film Agneepaththis is Bollywood’s answer to anyone who loses faith in his masala movies – especially at a time when South Indian action thrillers captivated audiences.

The Ranbir Kapoor-Sanjay Dutt star is backed by a stellar cast that includes Satish Kaushik, Ronit Roy and Iravati Harshe. Shamshera builds on the classic trope of a lone hero who rises above the rest and unites his tribe. Ranbir Kapoor shines like the desi Robinhood in a dual role of Shamshera and her son Balli. He plays the dacoit who plunders gold but also has a heart of gold. Kapoor returns with finesse on the big screen.

The film is a pure and hard artist in the line of Baahubali (2015) and RRR (2022). What makes it good Hindostan thugs missed in 2018. Shamshera keeps you constantly engaged despite its 2 hour 39 minute runtime.

Perfect wicked, perfect ‘masala’

Sanjay Dutt recreates his magic Kancha Cheena from Agneepath – a villain without redemption. He delivers a brilliant performance as the slimy Daroga Shuddh Singh, a British mercenary in colonial India. The showdown between Balli and Daroga gives audiences the satisfaction of seeing a fitting end to a battle of good versus evil.

Sona (Vaani Kapoor) gives you a deja vu of Suraiyya (Katrina Kaif) Hindostan thugs. Suraiyya and Sona play a similar role in the story with their steamy appearances and mesmerizing dances. But that changes after the interval of Shamsheraand Vaani Kapoor manages to show good acting on screen.

The chemistry between Sona and Balli is sizzling, especially in the song Fitoor which leads to their marriage. After that, she becomes part of the dacoit gang.


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History and caste

The comparison with RRR is inevitable – both are fantasies in the context of British rule in India. In Shamshera, however, there is also a caste angle. Khameran is a tribe exploited and subjugated by upper castes. Shamshera’s desire for a free life is crushed by the upper caste’s deal with the British to enslave them. In Shamsherahowever, there is more anger directed at the upper caste – Shuddh Singh’s character – than at the British.

Violence is not the usual Bollywood machismo. It is disturbing and heartbreaking. The internal conflict and divisions created by decades of torture pit the Khamerans against each other in a desperate bid for survival.

The music could definitely have been better. None of the songs stand out, and even Vaani Kapoor’s sizzling performance doesn’t leave you wanting more. It’s a major failure because a big-budget artist like Shamshera needs her songs and dances to propel her collection. The climax is predictable but impressive. It’s both emotional and satisfying.

Whereas RRR relies heavily on VFX, Shamshera affects the heart and feels more realistic and robust. It’s Bollywood’s answer to the Southern domination game. Whether the box office sees a turn in the tide remains to be seen.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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