Though the lead pair is likable together, they’re not really convincing as epic lovers like Radhe-Shyam, after whom the film is titled.

Prabhas and Pooja Hedge in a scene from Radhe Shyam
Flix Review Friday, March 11, 2022 - 14:05
Worth a watch

There is a childlike simplicity to director Radha Krishna Kumar’s Radhe Shyam. It unfolds like a fairytale, mixing magical visuals and grandeur with the familiar tropes of eternal love, a damsel in distress, a tryst with destiny and a braveheart prince. To make all this look convincing in a Telugu film, Radha Krisha Kumar transports his cast to 1970s Italy, rich with old world charm and natural beauty.

Vikramaditya (Prabhas) is a palmist who is known as the ‘Einstein of Palmistry’. To establish the validity of palmistry, we’re treated to the usual spiel on ancient Indians already being aware of astronomical discoveries that were made later with scientific equipment like the telescope. That this happens in the presence of little Brahmin boys and a saffron clad blind guru only makes the scene an unquestioning reiteration of what is considered to be ‘knowledge’ and who has ownership over it in a traditional caste society. ‘It’s all written in the vedas’ is a popular propagandist line that has gained strength in the country with the current political climate, and Radhe Shyam is happy to milk it. To the film’s credit though, veering away from fatalism is an important plot point.

Vikramaditya is an expert palm reader who’s never wrong; his fame is such that the rich and the powerful consult him, to know what the future holds for them. Aditya has dalliances with pretty women but he only believes in ‘flirtationships’ and does not get into commitments because he has no love line in his hand. Prabhas looks debonair as Aditya, working his way into the hearts of admiring women. He meets Prerana (Pooja Hedge), a doctor who is in the habit of asking men to tie a piece of cloth around her waist and let her hang out of a train to experience a rush. Yes, I rolled my eyes, too. It is overblown but it is meant to be because none of this is supposed to feel real.

Pooja Hegde is gorgeous, and Radha Krishna Kumar exploits the charm of his lead actors to create some magical moments on screen. There isn’t a single memorable conversation between them, but Radhe Shyam is all about the visual (cinematography – Manoj Paramahamsa); the ‘flirtationship’ progresses in opera style, the actors adopting a loose, jaunty body language that goes with the mood of the film. Everything is extravagant, from the homes to the hospital where Prerana works. Bhagyashree, who looks more like Prabhas’s sister than his mother, plays a single parent who is also an accomplished dancer. Jayaram appears as a hypochondriac captain of a ship who is a patient at the hospital where Prerana works. Other actors, including the talented Murali Sharma and Priyadarshi, barely have anything to do.

Watch: Trailer of Radhe Shyam 

The film feels luxurious but ultimately, plastic. The characters are under-written, including the lead pair. Though they are likable together, they’re not really convincing as epic lovers like Radhe-Shyam, after whom the film is titled. We don’t feel the passion between them; maybe because they don’t seem like real people made of flesh and blood. What should have been a love story that begins and ends in a coffee shop is stretched to mythic proportions, with music, rich sets and impressive visual effects.

Though it has a short runtime of just over two hours, the screenplay tests your patience in the second half when nothing much seems to be happening other than the same cutesy love scenes, and declarations. But the film picks up towards the end, with a climax that is conceived and executed well. The scene with the woman archer, too, is a nice touch, injecting a wee bit of rationalism into a film that’s otherwise swimming in superstition posturing as science.

Radhe Shyam could have been a much better film if the writing had been stronger and the characters more fleshed out. As it stands, it’s a pleasant enough film with beautiful people and beautiful locations, where the ugliness of life simply does not exist. And that is precisely why it does not move us the way it should have.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

 

 

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