‘Bhola Shankar’ film review: Chiranjeevi’s unoriginal story

Bhola Shankar Film Review

Watching the Telugu film Bhola Shankar, starring Chiranjeevi and directed by Meher Ramesh, seems like stepping back a few decades, but not in a good way. The film repackages tired, conventional clichés and offers them with the assurance that star power — Chiranjeevi, Tamannaah Bhatia, and Keerthy Suresh — will be enough to save a drab plot. Meher Ramesh, who is credited with’story development,’ adapts an eight-year-old Tamil film Vedalam, starring Ajith, which was also not very good. What emerges is a concoction of a mushy brother-sister bond, cardboard-ish villain characters, a leading lady who is supposed to contribute to outrageous fun but comes off as completely ridiculous, a lot of tasteless humour, and loud, forgettable music. 

Bhola Shankar takes place in Kolkata. The setting is irrelevant because, aside from a smattering of Bengali and images of the Hooghly bridge and Durga puja festivities, many sequences have clearly been filmed on sets. Shankar (Chiranjeevi) arrives in town with his sister Mahalakshmi (Keerthy Suresh), with whom he enrolls in a fine arts program. Later in the film, I believe she mentions pursuing architecture for her degree. But never mind. We’re not expected to recall and examine things like this. Her character suffers from memory loss, so perhaps we should as well. Meanwhile, the story is busy paying homage to Chiranjeevi’s other renowned Shankar, Shankardada. 

Shankar starts working as a taxi driver for Vamsi (Vennela Kishore), whose colorful persona and the equation he shares with his wife and father-in-law (Pradeep) set the way for some campy fun. An occurrence in the first section, followed by a character’s claim about the appearance of a monster-like saviour, makes it abundantly clear that Shankar’s naïve act as an average man is a farce. It isn’t long before the plot shifts into vengeance drama mode, allowing Chiranjeevi to take on any number of villains with sadistic pleasure. 

The rapport between Shankar and Mahalakshmi is extremely sweet, and the story includes a similarly good-hearted Srikar (Sushanth) in addition to Lasya (Tamannaah Bhatia) as a stupid criminal lawyer followed by her juniors (Viva Harsha and Hyper Aadhi). There’s also a cameo from Brahmanandam, Murali Sharma and Tulasi later in the story, Sreemukhi, Rashmi Gautam, and a slew of comedic performers, from Venu Yeldandi to Satya, but none of them leave an impression. They must be content with simply appearing in a ‘Boss’ film. 

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The Boss doesn’t have anything new to chew on. There are numerous references to his previous films, like Annaya and Aapadbandhavudu. There are numerous allusions to Pawan Kalyan’s Kushi and Ram Charan’s Rangasthalam. All of this nostalgia, rather than adding to the starry atmosphere, falls flat in the absence of an empathetic narrative. The story is about human trafficking, and one of the main characters is in danger, but it fails to elicit an emotional response.

Shankar’s persona stays on the surface as well. In the original, Ajith is portrayed as a cunning gangster who will do anything for money, and his conversion is not easy. However, Shankar’s character, while appealing to Chiranjeevi’s larger-than-life superstardom, refrains from going all out to portray him as ethically twisted. As a result, his change of heart has no effect. 

All that remains once the film reveals its vengeful objectives is the encounter. Shankar’s encounters with Shawar Ali, Tarun Arora, and other caricatured villains are defined by unoriginal action set pieces punctuated by forgettable tunes. 

The 160-minute film is a chore to see. Chiranjeevi and Keerthy Suresh have done significantly greater work. Tamannaah, to some extent, seemed to have had fun playing an eccentric character.

It is past time for Chiranjeevi to perform in new, current stories and embrace his age. The actor-star with an enviable collection of work requires reinvention, and even fan service may benefit from new ideas.

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