Mumbai, 21 Sep 2019 7:00 IST
Deva Katta's remake of the Telugu hit of the same name is bogged down by a past-his-prime Sanjay Dutt and a poor Jackie Shroff, tepid writing and a meandering, soulless script.
Any film about a family in politics split by warring brothers has the potential for drama, intrigue, social commentary and controversy. Deva Katta's Prassthanam is not that film. While the storyline had the potential for all of these elements, the film itself does not capitalise on any of it, simply meandering along into a sad mess that leaves a bad aftertaste.
Set in the fictional district of Ballihari in Uttar Pradesh and shot mostly in Lucknow, the story begins in the past when Baldev Pratap Singh (Sanjay Dutt) is forced to step up to take power in his town after political rivals kill his brother (Anup Soni). He consolidates his power by marrying his widowed sister-in-law Saroj (Manisha Koirala). This alienates Saroj's daughter Palak (Chahat Khanna) though it meets with the approval of her son Ayush (Ali Fazal).
The fraught relationship is fractured further as the years go by. Ayush grows up to be a capable leader waiting to step into Baldev Singh's shoes while Vivaan (Satyajeet Dubey), the maniacal younger son, seethes with envy. As Baldev enters the battle for his fifth consecutive electoral win, Vivaan's ambition sets him on a path of mistakes that end up destroying the family.
The above storyline, properly treated, could have made for the fascinating tale of a family's downfall. Similar storylines have given birth to epics like The Godfather (1972) and, of course, the ones mentioned in the film, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Each character has a selfish motive, a thirst for power, but never the right reason for his actions. Yet, Deva Katta and Farhad Samji (screenplay) conspire to bog the film down with meandering plot interventions and verbosity that simply does not let the tension build up.
In its attempt to explain all the characters, the film becomes unnecessarily lengthy. Worse, it feels lengthy. There are few sparkling dialogues that stand out, but they are too few to lift the film's tempo. The introduction of unnecessary song sequences (which are not too memorable either) just causes the story to drift at times.
The film is patriarchal, but that by itself is no flaw given the setting. The flaw is the poor performances of the actors. Sanjay Dutt looks leaden, burdened by age, and unable to summon the fire and intensity that his anger had in the past. The actor's angry breakdowns, and even the action sequences at the beginning, seem forced and heavy-handed. He is accompanied by Jackie Shroff as Badshah, the kaftan-wearing, Lucknowi ninja assassin. Shroff walks through the film with a stoned, confused look. Even his eventual revelation is handled disappointingly.
Ali Fazal fares well and deserved better. The actor performs with sincerity and delivers a performance that eventually reaches you despite the mess. Satyajeet Dubey as Vivaan is erratic in his expressions and goes full pelt to suit his character, but that feels forced. As Robert Downey Jr said memorably in Tropic Thunder (2008), "Never go full retard, man."
They are supported by Zakir Khan (entertaining in a cameo) and Chunky Pandey who plays the high camp style with elan.
Manisha Koirala leads the female brigade that bears all this violence and tragedy with the silence expected of women in the industry. The female characters are hardly explored, even when at the centre of the story. Koirala does her best with what little she has in the script. Chahat Khanna offers a good dimension with her performance as Palak. Amyra Dastur has a role that hardly makes a difference to the story.
Deva Katta's film teeters between being a soap opera with its verbose style and a crime thriller with its secrets. Eventually, it fails to register on both counts. The dated narrative and over-the-top handling make this one difficult to digest.
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