Vidya Balan’s much-loved 2011 film THE DIRTY PICTURE tells the story of a southern mermaid silk smita. The audience loved the 80s portrayal of Southern industry and the hypocrisy of society that was exposed in the Milan Luthria-directing. 9 years later, Richa Chadha now starred in the film with another popular Southern heroine Shakeela, named SHAKEELA. So does SHAKEELA manage to give the audience an entertaining and thought-provoking time? Or does it fail to impress? Let us analyze.
Shakeela is a biopic of adult star Shakeela. The year is 1990. Shakeela (Kajol Chugh) is a young school girl who lives in the small town of Vallamkulam in Kerala with her parents and siblings. She belongs to a poor family and her mother is constantly troubled by their condition. Shakeela has always been interested in acting and when she gets a chance to play Draupadi in a school drama, she readily accepts it. She also wins a trophy and a cash prize of Rs. 1000. On the same day, however, his father passes away. His mother takes Shakeela and her siblings to the city of Cochin. Her mother was at one time a junior artist in the film industry and decided to try her luck in cinema again. Soon, however, her mother has a change of plan. She takes Shakeela to filmmaker Rajan Pillai (Vivek Madan) and asks her to take Shakeela in one of her adult films. Rajan agrees. Shakeela, however, runs away from the first day of shooting and blasts her mother for acting in such films. However, her mother tells her not to go back outside as this keeps her family’s standard of living right. Shakeela has no choice but to go with the flow. Soon, he starts getting a lot of film offers. After 9 years, Shakeela (Richa Chadha) has grown up and has gained popularity but is not yet a star. He is a big fan of superstar Salim (Pankaj Tripathi) and one day, he gets a chance to become a junior artist in his film. Salim has a twinkle in his eye and is attracted to him despite being a family. He tells Shakeela that she will play the lead role in her next film and he should meet her for a ‘Katha’ at her farm house at night. Shakeela gets the gesture and refuses to leave. She sleeps with no one, climbing the ladder of success. There comes a day when he becomes as popular as Salim. Salim becomes insecure. He tells his friends in the media to spread the fact that it is Shakeela’s soft porn films which are responsible for the increasing sexual offenses in Kerala. It ignites a debate and people come out on the streets, demanding a ban on his films. The producers of his upcoming films are nervous and have no choice but to refund the fees paid for those films. What happens next is the rest of the film.
The story of Indrajit Lankesh is fine, but may be shocking fare. Sunil Kumar Aggarwal’s script (Janardhana Maharishi, Rohan Bajaj and Nayetta Dasgupta’s additional screenplay) is the biggest culprit. The writing is weak and overpriced, with so many writers scripting, it becomes a case of spoiling the broth of so many cooks. The tone of the film changes every 15–20 minutes. There are only a few scenes here and good scripts. Rohit ji Banwalikar, Rohan Bajaj and Ashish Waghmare have very poor dialogues. There were some key scenes where the effect could be great but the dialogues play a game of spoiling. Some of the dialogues were sharp and acidic but the producers force the characters to repeat them and therefore, the effect is diluted.
Indrajit Lankesh’s direction is lacking. To give credit to where it is due, the director makes sure that no one remembers THE DIRTY PICTURE, despite both films being on the same lines. And in addition, Silk Smita, the protagonist of that film, also has a part in SHAKEELA. However, DIRTY PICTURE had class despite being a sexy siren. On the other hand, SHAKEELA seems to be just another soft porn film that Shakeela did in the prime of her career. Funnily, the film evokes the double standards of society, but the focus on body shots and titillation goes against the film’s very message. Until the first half, the film was still compelling. In the second half, it becomes bizarre. The audience is suddenly told that Shakeela’s best friend is Suhana (Esther Noronha), who is her body double. However, the makers decided not to show their friendship for an entire hour. Shakeela’s bond with her mother was a great track but it was treated superficially. His family, in fact, is forgotten for the most part of the film. Shakeela’s epic dialogue at the climax comes very late in the day. Finally the text that informs the audience about Shakeela’s current situation is a shocker. Instead of praising the producers, someone rages on them because the audience will feel that it was such a great story, but has now gone down the drain due to poor handling.
Richa Chadda: “AKHangal Sholay mein nazar aaye, fir unhe apni medical fees of liye dusron se…”
The early scenes of SHAKEELA give an indication that this is going to be a cheap product. Shakeela’s childhood part seems cute. The scene where schoolchildren are made to create Draupadi’s scene cheer haran Playing in a school is hard to digest. The film got a bit better as Shakeela waved to success. However, the film never really goes high. After Interval, the film melds into disorganized and staggering scenes. Shakeela’s struggle to make a ‘clean’ film should have been an entertaining plot point but the attention went to a large extent. The ending, though shocking, fails to produce an effect.
Richa Chadha is decent but her performance leaves a lot to be desired. She tries her best but the end result is not satisfactory. Kajol Chugh playing the role of young Shakeela is better and leaves an impression. Pankaj Tripathi is fine as an arrogant superstar. The film has some of the best scenes when a fight master helps them cheat shots while shooting action sequences. These scenes had no connection to the main plot but made the film a bit more engaging. Esther Noronha has a good presence but is lethargic due to poor dialogues. Rajiv Pillai (Arjun) is fine. Vivek Madan and Sudeep Malani (director Swami sir) are fine. The actors playing Sheva Rana (Resham) and Shakeela’s mother, actress Bhavna Menon, writer Ahmed Ali, Danny Fight Master and Thomas Financier are nothing great.
There is no scope in the music, although a film should have had a good, retro soundtrack. ‘Tera Ishq Satave’, In opening credits, is forgettable. Looks forced to keep random scenes of intimate scenes. Till here ‘Taaza’ Not memorable and the same goes for romantic tracks. Veer Samarth’s background score is slightly better.
Santosh Rai’s cinematography is passable. Focusing on body shots for titillation could have been avoided. Production design gives no reason for complaint. Ballu Saluja’s editing in the second half is random.
Overall, SHAKEELA rests on a very good and shocking story, but it is executed in a very poor way. It is released in theaters without any discussion and therefore, it will sink without a trace.