A director who is best known for his offbeat style of filmmaking, a young lead pair that has never been cast together before, a thespian who is an effortless actor, larger-than-life locations, a title that suggests an unconventional entertainer, and the power of marketing… all this spells sure-shot success. Perhaps it’s just too good to be true, for Shaandaar is a disappointment on many levels. A lacklustre journey of screenplay from storyboard to big screen, Shaandaar is uninspiring, with a few interesting sequences few and far between.
Films are all about developing and fleshing out a story from of a raw concept on the drawing board. Shaandaar is a perfect example of a good concept turning out to be a damp squib. Director Vikas Bahl, whose last outing Queen impressed the audience and trade alike, fails to weave together a noteworthy story which when translated on to the big screen has nothing to offer apart from whimsically glossed locations. The film is a Bollywood take on the typical fairytale with a motherless princess, evil stepmother, a prince charming and a castle.
The film starts with animation, with Naseeruddin Shah’s voiceover, where he introduces us to an orphaned child, Alia (Alia Bhatt), who is adopted by a very rich but humble man, Bipin Arora (Pankaj Kapoor). But Bipin’s bossy mother, Kamla (Sushma Seth), and controlling wife, Neetu (Niki Aneja Walia), disapprove of the little girl. Bipin has an overweight but adorable daughter, Isha (Sanah Kapoor), who treats Alia like her own sister. Cut to the girls all grown up… Alia grows up to be an eccentric young woman who suffers from insomnia since childhood and Isha is still overweight and as humble as her father. Bipin hopes that Alia’s insomnia will one day be cured by a man who will take her to bed.
Enter Jagjinder Joginder (Shahid Kapoor), a wedding planner who is assigned to plan Isha’s grand wedding. Kamla wants to marry off Isha to Robin (Vikas Verma), as part of a business deal with Robin’s brother, the overly flamboyant Sindhi tycoon Harry Fundwani (Sanjay Kapoor). Alia and Jagjinder fall in love, and how the film unfolds further forms the crux of
Vikas Bahl disappoints hugely this time around. He could have made his storyline more eccentric if only the screenplay was stronger. He fails to lace together a substantial film. Writing is a major letdown here. Though the first half of the film is still reasonably enjoyable, post-interval, the film disappoints and the climax is utterly ridiculous. Having said that, kudos to the way Bahl has incorporated special effects and animation in the film, which looks grand.
Bahl should have worked harder on the story because what we see is a concept, not a story. And, apart from visuals, there is nothing appealing about the so-called story. There aren’t enough scenes that justify Bhatt and Kapoor’s romance, which is central to the film. The scene where the frog appears is funny only the first time. The film is a series of ludicrous happenings and instead of stretching the imagination, it is utterly incredulous.
To make a rom-com, the filmmaker needs to maintain the right balance between romance and comedy. The romance has to be believable and the comedy appealing. However, this film is lacking in both departments. The vagueness in the screenplay is more irksome than impressive or comical. Despite maintaining the fairytale angle, the sub-plot of the family wedding being part of a business deal fails to make any impact. The film provides some genuinely affectionate moments — one where the father-daughter duo converse and the sisters bond.
Background score is fantastic and so is the music. Cinematography by Anil Mehta deserves full marks. Locations are breathtaking and the costumes are apt. Editing by Sanchari Das Mollick could have been better. The segue between the scenes is unpleasant and fails to connect with the audience. The climax is prolonged, bringing down the early shades of pleasure. With a run time of 145 minutes, the film is too long.
Performance-wise, Pankaj Kapur steals the show from the word ‘go’. His versatility as an actor is commendable. Although Shahid Kapoor’s character is weakly sketched, he plays his part with confidence. Alia Bhatt does justice to her role and plays her part with flamboyance. Sanjay Kapoor is hilarious but at times is over-the-top. Sanah Kapoor is adorable. Niki Aneja Walia is good. Vikas Verma is okay. Anjana Sukhani has nothing to offer. Sushma Seth impresses. Sagar Arya does justice to his part. The others fit the bill.