'Shakeela' movie review: A wasted opportunity

'Shakeela' movie review: A wasted opportunity

Shakeela. Credit: Special Arrangement.

Language: Hindi

Director: Indrajit Lankesh

Cast: Richa Chadda, Pankaj Tripathi, Kajol Chugh, Ester Noronha

Rating: 2/5

When the trailer of 'Shakeela' dropped recently, many questioned the need for a biopic on a yesteryear soft-porn star. Well, if biopics are stories of popular personalities, then Shakeela's life definitely deserved a retelling on the big screen. 

Today, the Malayalam film industry is one of the finest in the country. Since the last decade, the industry has enjoyed a consistent upward spiral. Yet, a marginal ignorant audience still judges it by its soft-porn boom witnessed in the 90s. The sole reason for it being Shakeela and her wave, popularly known as the 'Shakeela Tharangam'.

It was an unprecedented rise of a woman, who shed her inhibitions in life and clothes on screen, to strip the sex-starved men of all their money. It didn't matter to them if their wallets went empty as they got a high flooding the theatres screening Shakeela's films.

The soft-porn films upstaged the mainstream Malayalam industry, a phenomenon unheard of in India till then. What were the factors that led to this trend? How was the quality of mainstream content? Were there repercussions for the people in the industry and the public? What does it tell about the community's conflicted association with sex?

Sadly, the film, made by Indrajit Lankesh -- who predominantly makes Kannada films -- scratches just the surface of this exciting premise.

'Shakeela', starring Richa Chadda and Pankaj Tripathi, is a bore-fest. The film is a wannabe 'Dirty Picture'. Now, that film, anchored by a terrific Vidya Balan, was on 'Silk Smitha', a sex symbol in the 80s.

Silk, unlike Shakeela, graduated to the mainstream set up and shared screen space with the biggest of stars from the South. So it's a much broader career compared to Shakeela, giving an advantage to the makers of 'Dirty Picture'. Also, the film had all the ingredients of a superb 'masala' entertainer. Great acting, catchy music and solid narration, everything that 'Shakeela' lacks.

If popular narratives are to be believed, then Shakeela was proud of her 'liberated' outlook to life but here, the film follows the predictable template a struggling woman's rise in the film industry. Even if Indrajit's intentions are noble, his execution falters. The transformation is the most important aspect in these kinds of films. Here, Indrajit buries Shakeela's rise under a dull song.

There is a brilliant scene. Unable to overcome the humiliations in the early phase of her career, Shakeela nearly kills herself before hearing the news of Silk's suicide. The film should have taken off from this point. But, it just becomes a routine face-off between a cornered actress and a toxic male superstar.

Indrajit also gets the backdrop wrong. Shakeela, shown hailing from rural Kerala, moves to Cochin (now Kochi). But some scenes take place on the streets of Bengaluru. Also, did the film have to be in Hindi? It appears bizarre as only the main actors speak Hindi while you hear the rest speak Malayalam in the background. The inconsistency in language is jarring.

Gifted actors like Pankaj Tripathi and Richa Chadda go through the chores with nothing extraordinary to do. A story with many interesting shades had to be more pulpy and gripping.