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Director: Indrajit Lankesh

Starring: Richa Chadha, Pankaj Tripathi , Kajol Chugh

Written by: Sunil Kumar Agrawal, Rohan A. Bajaj, Noireeta Dasgupta

SHAKEELA is the biopic of popular south Indian adult star Shakeela. The film starts in 1990. Shakeela (Kajol Chugh) is a young school girl living in the small town of Vallamkulam, Kerala with her parents and a couple of siblings. She hails from a poor family and her mother is very upset over their living conditions. Shakeela is always interested in acting and when she gets a chance to play Draupaudi in the school play, she readily accepts it. She even wins an award and cash prize of rs 1000. The same day, her father passes away and her mother takes her and her family out to the city, to Cochin. Being a junior artist, her mother tries her luck in films again. Soon, she has a change of plan and one day takes Shakeela to Rajan Pillai (Vivek Madan) and asks him to cast Shakeela in one of his adult films. Rajan agrees but this doesn’t go well with Shakeela and she runs away on the first day of shoot and gets angry at her mother for this. But her mother emotionally guilt trips her into doing it because it would help them make a living and she reluctantly agrees. Nine years later, Shakeela (Richa Chadha) has grown up and has achieved popularity but is not yet a star. She is a huge fan of superstar Salim (Pankaj Tripathi) and one day, she gets a chance to be the junior artist in his film. Salim has an eye on her and tells her she is going to be a lead in his next film and calls her to his farm house at night for a narration. Shakeela gets a hint and refuses. She climbs the ladder of success without sleeping around and one day becomes as popular as Salim. Becoming insecure with her growing popularity, Salim spreads a word in media that sex crimes are increasing in Kerala because of her films. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Shakeela’s life may have been eventful, much more than seen in this film too but the film doesn’t really do any justice because of the way the film has been narrated and written. There are more writers in this film than you’d like and what we observe in the film is a case of too many chefs spoiling the soup. The writing is the biggest flaw in the film and after that is the execution. Barring this the film falls into its own trap that it made for itself unknowingly and becomes exactly what this film seems to be giving a message against. The film opens on an okay note and that sets the bar for the rest of the film.

Technically, the film is fine. The cinematography by Santosh Rai is ordinary and passes for the film. Subtlety would have worked better in places. Editing by Ballu Saluja is below average and there could have been a massive improvement. The music has no scope in the film. Production design and costume design have been done well and made to look as authentic as possible. The writing is the biggest flaw of the film and it shows.

Performances from the actors have been great. Richa Chadha fits the part very well and is looking every bit as voluptuous, vulnerable and resolute as Shakeela. But her performance is quite restrained and you wonder if she is limiting herself or it’s the writing. Pankaj Tripathi is dependable as ever. He is the film industry’s very own working class hero. Plays his part earnestly. Kajol Chugh as the young Shakeela is very endearing and plays her part exceptionally well. The rest of the cast offer good support.

Director Indrajit Lankesh must be disappointed to not get the best out of this film. Partly to be blamed is the poor execution and partly to be blamed on poor writing.

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