'Shamshera' review: Ranbir's class-apart act bogged down by formulaic narrative
Karan Malhotra's Shamshera arrived in theaters on Friday. The high-octane actioner, produced by Yash Raj Films and starring Ranbir Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Ronit Roy, and Vaani Kapoor, marked Ranbir's return to celluloid after the 2018 blockbuster Sanju. Here, Ranbir played the man, the myth, the legend, the titular Shamshera in his career's first-ever period drama. Was the wait worth it? Here's our detailed review.
'Shamshera' is a saga of filial piety and revenge
The film follows the life of Shamshera and Baali—father and son—both played by Ranbir Kapoor, who live in pre-Independence India and lock horns with the British government. The primary antagonist is Shuddh Singh (Dutt), who works for the Crown and annihilates and thrashes Indians who he considers no better than vermin. Shamshera, thus, chronicles the story of revenge that is best served cold.
Ranbir's performance scores a definite homerun
Shamshera works largely because of Ranbir's commanding screen presence and magnetism that effortlessly hooks the viewers in each frame—especially when he plays the titular character. Shamshera also boasts a terrific background score that elevates the atmospheric tension, without taking anything away from the narrative. In the beginning, the credit scenes set against the backdrop of thunder establish the stage for what will transpire next.
Sanjay Dutt knocks it out of the park, yet again
Sanjay Dutt has repeatedly proved that he shines as an antagonist and Shamshera is no different. He has gotten into the skin of the character to the extent that his mere presence evokes fear and terror and he has completely owned the author-backed part.
Cinematography is a visual spectacle and impresses throughout
The cinematography deserves special mention and the drone shots capture the film's grandeur and majestic scale well. The movie has been marketed as Kapoor's first action avatar and the action choreography certainly does not disappoint on any front. There is a terrific mountain climbing scene where Ranbir's acting, the cinematography, and a thunderous background score merge together excellently, making it a spectacular cinematic spectacle.
But it's all show, no story
Shamshera falls victim to a cookie-cutter storyline and done-to-death narrative. Even though Dutt's character is deliciously devilish, it is painted with an unnecessary comic touch that doesn't go well with the malice that defines him. Events leading up to a consequential torture scene are rushed and one doesn't feel pity for the victims because there's no time for them to tug at our heartstrings.
'Shamshera' tries too hard to fit into different categories
After a phenomenal beginning, Shamshera loses itself and meanders through various paths: romance, drama, and action without successfully clinging to one. Not to mention the extreme amount of deus ex machina that sabotages the narrative repeatedly. Unsurprisingly, Vaani doesn't have much to do here, though she has crackling chemistry with Ranbir. Moreover, her costumes don't seem to belong to the movie's time period.
A sure-shot treat for Ranbir's fans
Shamshera will go down in Ranbir's filmography as one of his career-best performances, particularly the climax sequence which is a show-stealer. Although it falls prey to a fatigued storyline, Shamshera remains watchable due to Ranbir's class-apart act and "massy" entertainer elements. There are also intelligently embedded metaphors—such as crows beings harbingers of doom. Watch Shamshera only for Ranbir and the cinematography. Verdict: 3/5 stars.