Venu Sriram’s Vakeel Saab is an official remake of the Bollywood hit Pink, a film that managed to break barriers and generate conversations, especially around consent. While the film has been tweaked with a generous dose of masala to not just suit Pawan Kalyan’s star image but also his budding political career, Venu manages to get the balance right for the most part. Pallavi (Nivetha Thomas), Zareen (Anjali) and Divya (Ananya Nagalla) are roommates who work hard to make a living for their middle class families. Their happy, simple and carefree life soon turns upside down due to an unfortunate encounter one night. Facing charges of solicitation and attempt to murder, the girls find themselves painted into a corner by an influential man and his friends. Vakeel Saab aka Konidela Satyadev (Pawan Kalyan) is an alcoholic lawyer who hasn’t returned to court since the day he was suspended a few years ago. He drinks to mask the pain of a past he cannot correct and cover up guilt he cannot let go of. But when he seems to be the only hope for these girls to prove their innocence, he gets his act together and fights for them. Towards the fag end of the film, Satyadev beats up a few goons and says, “Court lo vadinchadam telusu, coat teesi kottadamu telusu.” (I know how to fight both in court and off it.) This dialogue shows just how different his character is from that of Deepak Sehgal, Amitabh Bachchan’s character from the original. Where Deepak takes the route of lesser said the better and subtlety, with a touch of sarcasm, Satyadev believes in going all out – be it with his sarcasm or his fists. Venu Sriram does a good job of setting up his character and while his back-story in first half ft. Shruti Haasan as his wife might seem inconsequential at first, the film circles back to how Satyadev can’t change who he is at the end of the day, be it at a protest or in court. Pawan Kalyan too seems comfortable in the skin of his character. Nivetha carries the weight of the film after him and few scenes featuring her are not just heart-wrenching, but also painful to watch. But then again, the predicament she finds herself in is a hard reality for many women in this country. Anjali comes a close second with her character Zareen, who always seems to give off a calm exterior but simmers right beneath the surface. Ananya’s character Divya does not have too many lines, but she manages to make her presence felt in what she’s given. So does Shruti Haasan, even if her character doesn’t get enough time or space for us to sympathise with her. Venu Sriram sticks to the plot of Pink for the most part but tweaks the screenplay given how differently Pawan Kalyan’s character has been fleshed out. Two fight scenes in particular, while stylish, seem placed for the heck of it and do not gel well with the flow of the film. Thaman’s songs too manage to get the job done, but it’s the BGM where he truly shines and gives it his all. Now the question remains if Vakeel Saab manages to make you as uncomfortable as Pink did due to the nature of the crime, especially in the court scenes. It does not, because Satyadev’s dialogues in these scenes are placed to elicit whistles while also getting the point across. And despite all that neck rubbing and table flipping, Satyadev does get his moment in court to make it clear that “no means no”. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Watch this one for the performances, especially if you’re a fan of Pawan Kalyan, Nivetha Thomas and Anjali. Also watch it if you’re a fan of masala potboilers backed by a strong message. But if you’re a fan of Pink, keep your expectations in check.Read full review
Vakeel Saab is not the remake of Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink. It is the remake of Nerkonda Paarvai, which was the Tamil remake of Pink. It is a copy of a copy of a copy. Unlike the original film, the heroic lawyer is not an elderly man with a sick wife and a tormented soul. In the Telugu remake, he is a revolutionary leader with great aspirations to create an egalitarian society where the rights of other people, especially women, are not curtailed.Pawan Kalyan’s Satyadev has quit his practice as a lawyer. He felt betrayed by the very people he was fighting for as they failed to stand by him during a case at the right time. He is dejected and lost as he mulls over existential questions like what is the meaning of his life? What is the point of fighting for people who don’t stand by you? What is in it for me? Although he doesn’t think these questions out loud, this general sentiment is implied. Obviously, his absence from public life has led to a rise in injustice. But, Satyadev is away from limelight as he drowns himself in alcohol and barely keeps his temper in check.He is forced to come out of his hibernation after three independent women are wronged and systematically persecuted by men in power. He can no longer watch it as a spectator as his blood boils by the injustice. He picks his lawyer’s robes, and off he goes to protect the honour of the three innocent and helpless women. As far as this premise goes, it is standard 80s fare. Consent is not the main cause of concern for Satyadev, unlike his predecessors in Hindi and Tamil. We see him fight for the rights of people living in slums, forests and college students. He is fighting the injustice done to all sections of the society. The case involving three women is just another aspect of what he hopes to be a long and eventful journey. Pawan’s loss in 2019’s election is the main theme of the film.”Even if you don’t need people. People need you,” various versions of this dialogue is repeated throughout the run time. Nevertheless, director Venu Sriram and Pawan also honour the main subject and the message of the original film, which says ‘no means no’. When a huge star like Pawan Kalyan emotionally makes a strong case for consent and respecting boundaries, the message will reach far and wide. Also, the face-off between Prakash Raj and Pawan in the courtroom is highly entertaining.Read full review
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