Vakeel Saab : Mirages of content bubbles
Star Cast: Pawan Kalyan, Shruti Haasan, Anjali, Nivetha Thomas, Ananya Nagalla, Prakash Raj, Naresh, Mukesh Rishi, Dev Gill, Subbaraju, Vamsi Krishna.
Music Director: S Thaman
Producer: Raju & Sirish
Director: Venu Sriram
Censor Certificate: UA & Runtime: 155 Minutes
Powereshwara, Pawaneshwara, Kalyaneshwara ….. Bandla Ganesh summed up in few words how some amount of Pawan Kalyan fans presume and treat their favorite hero/matinee idol as. They don’t consider him less than God and they tend to put him on the highest pedestal possible on their respective priority lists. Pawan Kalyan accepts it all as their love but does he put in enough effort in terms of choosing tight, right scripts to entertain these fans? Does it take it all for granted? Does he deserve it? Well, he did some of the best possible films early in his career and lost interest with the failure of his directorial venture‘s debacle. Why I am discussing so much about Pawan Kalyan? This film proved that if he tries to put in the effort, he is still one of the good performers in TFI. In the same film, in two halves, he proved how he does when he doesn’t put in efforts and when he does.
Yes, the Telugu version of the Pink (2016) movie became a tale of two halves, or to put it right, a tale of mirages of content. Venu Sriram, the director who took credit for writing should be blamed for it. He just cared less for any attempt at genuine storytelling. We can see that in his impact less writing during the first half of the film. He had established the complex web of male chauvinism that three “easily misunderstood girls” go through for their “one possible misstep”. At the center of the pump, facing all the heat is a more modern free-bird Minal. She gets molested again, gets named as a tramp, gets called a prostitute, even her father disowns her thinking that there would some merit to all the mud being thrown at his daughter. He chooses to restrict her than let her fly. The other two women Falak and Andrea become victims too as they take Minal’s side which male chauvinists warn them not to do. Pink became a mirror to those people who tend to disown their own daughters, friends, lovers, sisters just on the basis of their attitude towards life. They are judged for being free-spirited. An old man who at first seems to be another creep who is judging these women for their free-will ways turns out to be the only hope for these women to breathe free again. The lawyer turns out to be a man who lost confidence in himself and a person who almost lost his voice being unable to fight against fate, all his life. This win becomes a triumph for him.
This gets transformed into a star lead’s story in Tamil as Nerkonda Paarvai (2019) but it doesn’t miss out on the impact. It still keeps the movie as a story about three women who can be “easily misunderstood”. The hero who saves them saves himself by giving a direction to his pain, agony, frustration, and anger. Ajith came up with a stand-out performance while H. Vinoth managed to understand the complex web that Shoojit Sircar, Aniruddha Roy Choudary managed to create. He doesn’t miss out on the impact front. Vakeel Saab doesn’t become a good star story and even doesn’t become an honest film about three women too. He ends up being a propaganda statement for Pawan Kalyan’s political ambitions. The tendency to become “more than” what original makers attempted at telling as a compelling story about women’s problems in the society ends up becoming an incompetent tale that Stars – Prakash Raj and more spirited Pawan Kalyan in the courtroom scenes carry on their shoulders to the shores.
Why Venu Sriram became so incompetent? He did not become but he let himself be one. He wanted to make use of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to direct Pawan Kalyan. He unnecessarily forces added a flashback that doesn’t serve to the story. He force added a thin line to the “hero’s journey” saying that he needed to find a “right way of expressing his anger”. He lost the impact in plot by trying to make the film a celebration of womanhood. “Maguva Maguva” song literally brings down the entire work of the original story by giving more back story to these women leads. Once you say that the women who came from different households went to a resort with boys because they felt these people were safe rather than they liked their company, dilutes the entire premise. It looks like these women were forced to be misunderstood rather than they are easily misunderstood. The basic plot about how city life transforms women and debate about how modernization, is good or bad for them and the main point, “No means No” is thrown under the bus during the start of the film, itself.
What if a girl decides to live on her own away from her parents? What if a woman with huge money problems and issues decides to loosen out one night and let the world take a hike? What if a bystander kind of a girl decides to take a leap of faith to be a part of “crazy” stories rather than just a mere witness? Should they all regret this as their misstep? Mistake? Or should they be allowed their free will? Should they judge about their actions or should they give freedom to learn? This is what Pink says. Pink asks women to let be and learn, evolve from their actions to what their life should be like. If they say No, I am against a male deciding my life, then “No means No. If they say, “I am comfortable with one-night stands” and No, I don’t want burdens of relationship, then “No means No”. If a woman decides to not go through with an arrangement even if she turns to have a questionable past, then she should get the free will to execute her right to say, “No means No”. Pink asks society to let women decide their course of action and then derive at their destinies rather than force it upon them, even if they seem to be rebelling against the convictions. Even if they seem to be too broad-minded. Even if they seem to be “crossing some limits for fun”. See the story is not about “Sati-Savitri” but it is about misunderstood “Ahalya“.
Ahalya is misunderstood by her own husband for no mistake of hers. Does Ram know about her past? But his mere touch washes out the punishment, she has been forced to face. There are two ways in looking at this story. One – Ahalya got tricked and that resulted in her husband Gauthama also getting tricked to give her punishment. Two – Ahalya did not get a chance to exhibit her free will and all the mistakes committed by men against her needed another pure man to wash off. The second way of understanding gives you Pink, the first way – Vakeel Saab. So, what is wrong in trying to let the story be seen in the first way, which our elders have been propagating for centuries? It has been the “Only way” that our elders have asked us to look at the story and the second way is the “New Radical Alternative Narrative“. This pure man later doesn’t force Sita to prove her “purity”, he doesn’t ask her to go through a test. He tells her that accepting her will lead to a problem for him as the perception of society about women who were in captive on another man is wrong and as a King, he cannot force change it. He fears the judgment of people and thinks accepting her will lead to people looking at him as a weak individual, which he presumes to set the wrong example for future Kings of his lineage and bring heavy bad name to forefathers. She chooses to die and the universe decides to keep her alive. If I look at Ramayana’s last leg of the story like this, then you won’t talk about how misogynist Ram was. You would rather say how gullible Ram was to the perception of people during his era. He could have easily thought about not giving importance to judgemental perceptions. But he did because of his fear of judgments and their “impact” on his family’s pride.
This kind of Alternative Narrative is what Shoojit Sircar wanted to bring to the table challenging perceptions and convictions. Venu Sriram in his ambition to direct a Star lost an opportunity to make the film another modern age Damini (1993) that even Tamil director failed to completely mount. Still, the movie works when it sticks to courtroom arguments as the original had convincing ideology behind the points it raised in courtroom scenes. Had the original kept them simple, the film would have ended up being even more incompetent. Really, Pawan Kalyan‘s interest to portray a good character heart fully seems to have changed the film team’s goal in the mid-way and helped them set the sail in the right direction. But the storm still wrecked the ship to such extent that it ended up being torn apart before it rod the self-induced cyclonic path with misdirection.