Director: Meher Ramesh
Writer: Meher Ramesh
Runtime: 160 minutes
Available on: Theatres
I never thought I would say this in my wildest dreams, but the greatest accomplishment of Bholaa Shankar is that it makes the incredibly lethargic, bland, tiring, and boring Acharya (2022) look like a better film. In its 154-minute runtime, Acharya had exactly one good scene, in which Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan refer to each other as “Ram garu” and “Prasad garu” as they go on a killing spree casually. That was the only good scene in Acharya. There isn’t a single noteworthy moment in Bholaa Shankar. No, not even one.
At one point in the film, as Chiranjeevi, who plays Shankar, a local ruffian, frolicked around with his gang who keep heaping praises of him, I started thinking about the times we are living in. Films are supposed to be a reflection of our times and society. What have we become? Chiranjeevi’s films like Jai Chiranjeeva (2005) and Andarivaadu (2004) were deemed underperformers back in the day. Although they are far from perfect, both films remain incredibly entertaining features with a solid emotional core and abundant heroism. It’s mind-boggling that these films couldn’t match up to the level of other Chiranjeevi hits in the 2000s. If those two super-fun films underperformed, it only reflects how higher the standards for masala entertainment were back in the day. And if Bholaa Shankar is considered the standard for entertainment now, I don’t think we have progressed. The Nachos I had in the theatre were pretty good though, thankfully. Something tasteful on a Friday morning.
If you wonder why I’m not saying anything about the film, it’s because there isn’t anything remotely remarkable in this bland, low-effort film whose idea of celebrating its hero is by making every random character deliver lines glorifying him for no valid reason. In Chiranjeevi’s previous film, the much superior (there’s no comparison if you ask me) Waltair Veerayya, the lead character was the butt of so many jokes; it still had liberal doses of heroism and references to his legacy but there was some effort to make them a part of the story. The writing in Bholaa Shankar is so unimaginative that it makes you wonder if an amateurish fan edit of the actor’s songs and fights made by a 14-year-old would be a more passionate tribute. Chiranjeevi is a great actor and there’s no denying the significance of his legacy, but filmmakers have to be more inventive with the ways they tip their hats. Just appreciating your hero is not enough. But my recliner seat was pretty good. At least that was comforting; not the brother-sister bonding or comedy or music of the film.
If you want to know how the film is, it’s a remake of Vedhalam (2015), a strictly mediocre revenge drama with a couple of great mass moments, with the close-up shot of Ajith Kumar going from sad to evil, being the coolest of the lot. This moment has been avoided in the Telugu version. It’s understandable if the creators chose to avoid unfair comparison, but do they do something new with their version? NO! The lack of effort is more disappointing. Instead, what we get is a bland fight we have seen a million times in the past. Vedhalam had two great dramatic moments: one, when the brother talks to his sister after committing his first murder, as she serves him food and two, when Vedhalam is reminded of his money-minded nature by a man dying in his arms. Well, they have been omitted too.
It’s completely fine to adapt a story and present their own version of it. But if you kick most of the good parts (there aren’t many either) of the film and retain only the most infuriating ones — Tamannaah’s comedy track — the filmmaker’s vision can be perplexing. The villains wear suits and surround themselves with women whose punk aesthetic makes you wonder if Raghavan Lawrence directed these portions. The projection quality of the theatre, however, was so clear that I could see Hyderabad doubling up for Kolkata in many scenes.
Bholaa Shankar is a product of unimaginative writing and the mindset that packaging a film with just enough comedy, action and sentiment suffices. It’s evident in the film’s look and feel. The artificiality of the sets is tangible. There’s hardly any smoothness in the edit, as the film goes from comedy to sentiment to comedy to action with zero finesse — you can hear the abrupt change in the background score between scenes. The way the story segues into songs is a farce. Are we still in 2003? The placement of the 'Milky Beauty' is so random that it made the entire theatre gasp and the eight people seated in the theatre reached out for their phones. Yes, I counted the number of mobile screens that were turned on precisely during that song. It was still a more fun exercise than seeing the song.
The loudest cheer in our theatre came for the entry of the great Brahmanandam, who appears in a wasted cameo. The theatre was silent for the rest of the film. Dead silent. You know that we, the audience, were in that auditorium on a Friday at 9 am because we wanted to have a good time. We deserve better films. And Chiranjeevi deserves better stories and filmmakers. But the Nachos were great... and the recliner too. They offered more enjoyment than the film.