Shaakuntalam Movie Review Rating: 3.5 Stars
Star Cast: Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Dev Mohan, Sachin Khedekar, Kabir Duhan Singh, and ensemble.
What’s Good: One positive aspect of the movie is a small section of the background score that appears to be intended for a more artistic film but was featured in the wrong one. Additionally, Samantha’s performance is noteworthy when she has no dialogue.
What’s Bad: The VFX and CGI department did a lazy job and Samantha’s decision to dub her own Hindi dialogues for a period movie is questionable.
Loo Break: It’s better to decide whether you want to invest two hours of your time in this movie before watching it.
Watch or Not?: My heart breaks to say that the movie would be better off watched on a digital platform rather than in theaters.
Language: Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada & Hindi
Available On: Theatres Near You!
Runtime: 149 Minutes.
Based on Poet Kalidasa’s iconic play Abhijnanashakuntalam, Shaakuntalam traces the love story of Shakuntala and King Dushyant as a sage’s curse tears them apart and the longing shapes one of the most legendary love stories of the Indian folklore.
Shaakuntalam Movie Review: Script Analysis
Adapting Indian folklore into visually stunning films is a rare feat that not many filmmakers can accomplish. The genre has been successfully tackled by the likes of K. Asif, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Ashutosh Gowarikar, but Shaakuntalam, the latest offering from celebrated Telugu filmmaker Gunasekhar, falls short of expectations right from the start. The film opens with a bird carrying a baby across the planet, landing it in a forest where a sage finds it and explains its origins. The girl, played by Samantha, grows up quickly, and the story that the filmmakers want to tell begins.
Unfortunately, the film’s opening is so haphazard that any hope of a compelling story is dashed immediately. If a film expects its audience to suspend disbelief based on an animation about an “Apsara” and her short-lived relationship, it is asking too much. Although the film draws on Indian mythology and folklore, it fails to convince the audience to believe in its magic. Magic cannot be so fast-paced that it forgets the need to create a believable world. Shaakuntalam seems least interested in engaging its audience and instead chooses to rely on convenient plot devices.
As the film was originally a play, the scenes were written with actors standing in the aisles, waiting to enter the stage and play their parts. A movie should take the effort to place the characters in a way that resembles a real geography. Characters cannot just appear out of nowhere the moment someone calls their name. Shaakuntalam fails to create a believable world or connect with its audience.
The film also lacks the glue or conviction necessary to bind its multiple stories and jumps in time. The filmmakers do not want to invest in marinating the audience in the flavor of their film. They don’t feel the need for a slow-burning love story that builds up to a climactic moment. Instead, the film rushes from one sequence to another without creating any connection with itself or the audience.
The love story is magical, but the filmmakers rush through it, failing to capture the longing and hardship that the characters experience. Instead of focusing on these essential moments, the filmmakers opt for shortcuts. For example, they place two female characters as Shakuntala’s friends, using them as Mythological Google for the audience’s questions. The two girls know everything and spout lines as though they are in an annual school play.
Shaakuntalam falls short of expectations. Despite the filmmakers’ efforts to adapt Indian folklore into a visually stunning film, the lack of attention to detail and storytelling leaves the audience feeling disappointed.
Shaakuntalam Movie Review: Star Performance
Samantha delivers a strong performance in Shaakuntalam, using her acting skills to effectively convey emotions and make the silences speak. However, her attempt at dubbing her Hindi dialogues falls short, as the period film’s dialect and language require a certain level of expertise that is lacking in her performance.
Dev Mohan, who impressed in his debut movie Sufiyum Sujatayam, fails to deliver a convincing performance in Shaakuntalam. His portrayal lacks the mystery and depth that he brought to his previous role, and his emotions come across as forced and lacking in rehearsal.
The remaining characters are mostly underdeveloped and exist solely to drive the plot forward.
Shaakuntalam Movie Review: Direction, Music
The direction by Gunasekhar in Shaakuntalam is disappointing. The attention to detail is lacking and there are inconsistencies in the film such as nail paint on Samantha’s nails or her wearing footwear in one scene and not in the next. The VFX is weak and not up to the mark. The sets look like sets and lack reality. Overall, the film could have been better in terms of direction and attention to detail.
Mani Sharma’s music is good in some parts but overall it is quite generic. There is nothing special or outstanding about the music in the film. It could have been better and more memorable.
Shaakuntalam Movie Review: The Last Word
In Last Word, Shaakuntalam is a disappointing attempt at adapting Indian folklore into a visually scintillating film. Despite being directed by Gunasekhar, a celebrated Telugu filmmaker, the movie lacks attention to detail and does not invest in marinating the audience in the flavour of the film. The love story is rushed through without focusing on the moments that matter.
Samantha Ruth Prabhu delivers a convincing performance, but the fact that she has dubbed her Hindi dialogues poorly ruins her portrayal. Dev Mohan’s performance is unconvincing compared to his debut movie. The direction, attention to detail, VFX, and music are all weak, and the sets do not look like reality. In short, Shaakuntalam fails to catch up with the artistry its contemporaries have already achieved, leaving the audience and the actors with a sense of disappointment.
Shaakuntalam releases on 14 April, 2023.
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