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Vidya Balan’s much-loved 2011 film The Dirty Picture told the story of Silk Smitha, a southern mermaid. Audiences loved the portrayal of ’80s Southern industry and the hypocrisy of society that was exposed in the Milan Luthria-directed. After 9 years, now Richa Chadha plays the role of another popular southern heroine, Shakeela in the film titled Shakeela. So does Shakeela manage to give the audience an entertaining and thought-provoking time? Or does it fail to impress? Let’s analyze.

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Shakeela is a biopic of adult star Shakeela. The year is 1990. Shakeela (Kajol Chugh) is a young schoolgirl living in the small town of Vallamkulam in Kerala with her parents and a few siblings. She belongs to a poor family and her mother is constantly troubled by her condition. Shakeela has always been interested in acting and when she gets a chance to play the role of Draupadi in a school play, she readily accepts it. She also wins a trophy and a cash prize of Rs. 1000. However, on the same day, his father passed away. His mother takes Shakeela and her siblings to the city of Cochin. His mother was once a junior artist in the film industry and decided to try his luck in cinema again. However, soon, his mother’s plan changes. She takes Shakeela to filmmaker Rajan Pillai (Vivek Madan) and asks Shakeela to cast her in an adult film. Rajan agrees. Shakeela, however, runs away from the first day of shooting and reprimands her mother for acting in such films. However, his mother tells him not to hold back as it will help their family to build a decent standard of living. Shakeela has no choice but to go with Flow. Soon, he starts getting a lot of film offers. After 9 years, Shakeela (Richa Chadha) has grown up and gained popularity but is not a star yet. She is a huge fan of superstar Salim (Pankaj Tripathi) and one day, she gets a chance to become a junior artist in his film. Salim’s eyes are rolling and he gets attracted towards her despite having a family. He tells Shakeela that she will play the lead role in his next film and that he should meet her at his farm house for a ‘narration’ at night. Shakeela gets the signal and she refuses to leave. She climbs the ladder of success without sleeping with anyone. There comes a day when she becomes as popular as Salim. Salim becomes insecure. He asks his friends in the media to propagate that Shakeela’s soft porn films are responsible for the rising sex crimes in Kerala. This ignites a debate and people take to the streets, demanding a ban on his films. The producers of his upcoming films are in panic and they have no option but to refund the fees paid for those films. What happens next becomes the rest of the film.

Indrajit Lankesh’s story is fine, but could have fare a shocking one. Sunil Kumar Agarwal’s screenplay (additional screenplay by Janardan Mehrishi, Rohan Bajaj and Nairita Dasgupta) is the biggest culprit. The writing is weak and furthermore, with so many writers scripting, it becomes a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. The tone of the film changes every 15-20 minutes. Only a few scenes here and there are well scripted. The dialogues of Rohit ji Banawalikar, Rohan Bajaj and Ashish Waghmare are very poor. There were some important scenes where the effect could have been great but spoils the dialogue. Some of the dialogues were sharp and acidic but the makers force the characters to repeat them and hence, the effect gets diluted.

Indrajit Lankesh’s direction is weak. To give credit where it is due, the director makes sure that no one is reminded of the Dirty Picture despite both the films being on the same lines. And apart from that, Silk Smitha, the protagonist of that film, also has a part in Shakeela. However, DIRTY was PICTURE’s class, even though it was all about a sexy siren. On the other hand, Shakeela seems to be another soft porn film which Shakeela did in the early days of her career. Curiously, the film exposes the double standards of society but the focus on body shots and titillation goes against the message of the film. Till the first half, the film was still bearable. It gets weird in the second half. The audience is suddenly told that it is all Shakeela’s best friend Suhana (Ester Noronha), her body double. However, the makers decided not to show their friendship for an entire hour. Shakeela’s bonding with her mother was a very good track but it is treated superficially. In fact, his family is forgotten for much of the film. Shakeela’s epic dialogue in the climax comes very late in the day. The text that informs the audience about Shakeela’s current status at the end is shocking. Instead of praising the makers, they get angry as the audience will realize that it was such a good story but has now gone down the drain due to poor handling.

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Shakeela’s opening visuals indicate that this is going to be a substandard product. Shakeela’s childhood part seems lovely. The scene where school children are made to act as Draupadi’s scene cheer haran Difficult to digest in school games. The film gets a little better as Shakeela reaches the pinnacle of success. However, the film never really goes that high. After the interval, as random and surprising sequences pop up, the film goes downhill. Shakeela’s struggle to make a ‘clean’ film should have been a gripping plot, but the focus is largely staggered. The ending, though shocking, fails to make an impact.

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 who plays the young Shakeela is much better and makes a mark. Pankaj Tripathi is fine as a cocky superstar. Some of the best scenes in the movie are when a fight master helps him with cheat shots while shooting for action sequences. These scenes had nothing to do with the main plot but made the film a bit more engaging. Esther Noronha’s presence is good but is disappointed by the poor dialogues. Rajeev Pillai (Arjun) All right. Vivek Madan and Sandeep Malani (Director Swami Sir) are fine. The cast that plays Sheeva Rana (Silk) and Shakeela’s mother, actress Bhavna Menon, writer Ahmed Ali, Danny Fight Master and Thomas the Financier are nothing great.

Music has no qualms, although a movie should have had a nice, retro soundtrack. ‘Tera Ishq Satve’, played in the opening credits, is forgettable. Randomly placing intimate scenes feels coercive. Till here ‘Taaza’ Not memorable and the same goes for a romantic track. Veer Samarth’s background score is slightly better.

Santosh Rai’s cinematography is prevalent. Focusing on body shots for the titration could have been avoided. The production design gives no reason to complain. Ballu Saluja’s editing in the second half is random.

Overall, Shakeela is based on a very good and shocking story but it is executed badly. It has released in theaters without any buzz and hence, it will sink without any trace.

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