'Shaandaar': A Brainless Entertainer

23/10/2015 8:38 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Bollywood actors Shahid Kapoor, left and Alia Bhatt pose for the media during the trailer launch of their movie ‘Shaandaar’ in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015.(AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Shaandaar, directed by Vikas Bahl, revolves around an orphan girl named Alia, an insomniac, and her adoptive family. Alia's condition worries her adoptive father and he keeps feeding her with fairy tales hoping they will eventually cure her by inducing some dreams. But, it's all in vain until one day she is swept off her feet by someone special. Shaandaar stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapur, Sanjay Kapoor, and Shushma Seth in the pivotal roles.

While the theme of wedding is quite common to Hindi films, Shaandaar toys with the idea of destination wedding--it's a trend that's fast picking up in India and Bollywood these days has pockets that go deep enough to pounce on any such promising opportunity. In Shaandaar, Vikas Bahl takes some creative liberties such as opting for the use of animated cartoons to narrate certain sections of the film including the opening and closing sequences with Naseeruddin Shah's voiceover narration. Although, this technique is new to Hindi cinema, filmmakers around the world have been employing this creative technique to spice up the conventional narratives. One is reminded of Quentin Tarantino's use of Japanese Anime in Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

"While the movie lacks any real substance, the creative thought that went into it needs to be commended."

While watching Shaandaar, one is repeatedly reminded of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It appears to be a conscious choice on the part of Bahl and team to create a wonderland of sorts for their characters to inhabit. Alia is bored by her monotonous life and finds solace in the fairy tales fed by her adoptive father. Like Alice, she is driven by curiosity as well as the desire to live an adventurous life. And, just like Alice, she has the gift of imagination. Carroll's wonderland is a home to a panoply of colorful characters. While the characters in Shaandaar are nowhere near as vibrant, they nonetheless are fun to watch with their endless idiosyncrasies. Let's not forget that at the end of the day Shaandaar is a commercial Bollywood film!

As far as Hindi cinema is concerned, films that revolve around wedding are the safest bet at the box-office. It's the kind of cinema that the Indian masses crave for--a formula that just cannot fail in a diverse and colorful country like India. For, we Indians love to celebrate. The dozen or two religious festivals are just not enough. Festivities are an innate part of our lives. And marriage functions are the grandest of them all. We don't see marriage as merely a union of two individuals; it's essentially an alliance of two families. It's an occasion that gets everyone excited--be it the children, the young, or the old--for it is perceived as the greatest celebration of life. In short, the marriages are a singularly viable business. For Bollywood, it's a bankable subject like no other. Evidently, some of the biggest commercial hits in the history of Bollywood have been the films revolving around the theme of wedding. Given its rather innovative theme of destination wedding, it would be quite interesting to see how Shaandaar fares at the box-office.

Overall, Shaandaar can best be described as a nonsensical entertainer that epitomizes commercial escapism in modern-day cinema. While the movie lacks any real substance, the creative thought that went into it needs to be commended. Probably, the movie's greatest strength is that it makes us laugh, nonstop. It's over the top but it is fun nonetheless. Barring Pankaj Kapur, who delivers a solid performance, the acting on display is pretty average. The film features a flashy, tasteless cameo from Karan Johar who's the movie's co-producer. Shaandaar, while, for the most part, makes little sense, it is a perfect way to spend time with one's family during the festival season. So, go for it, if you are looking for a popcorn flick, else stay put!

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