In Shamshera, Ranbir Kapoor is stunning in every aspect possible, including his acting, sex appeal, dancing, litheness in the action sequences, and engaging charisma.
Shamshera Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Vaani Kapoor, Ronit Roy, Saurabh Shukla
Shamshera Director: Karan Malhotra
Ratings: 3/ 5 STARS
Shamshera begins with narration and illustrations depicting the defeat of a particular group of Rajputana residents by the Mughals. The survivors flee the invaders and travel to another region of India, where they discover themselves subject to rulers who, unlike the Mughals, would be regarded as their own by modern majoritarian forces. They are exploited, degraded, and marginalised in their new home. They are “neech jaat,” or “low castes,” to use the words of the main antagonist of the movie.
Shamshera, a representative of the downtrodden Khamerans community, is portrayed by Ranbir Kapoor. In Shamshera, two generations of his family in the 19th century battle the repressive upper castes of India and the British colonisers for their azaadi.
The Mughals are just briefly depicted in Shamshera, which is the first surprise. This dynasty and other Muslim communities have recently been frequently portrayed in mainstream Hindi cinema as the epitome of violence against helpless Indians, embodying bloodlust and betrayal to the point of distorting actual historical situations in which Muslims fought the British Raj while other Indians sided with the white colonisers. Look no farther than the nefarious Kesari, starring Akshay Kumar. Thankfully, Shamshera does not glorify the Mughals’ military campaigns, but rather emphasises the betrayal of people who would be seen as “us” in the prevailing current socio-political discourse. The delectably named Shudh Singh, played by Sanjay Dutt, stands for such treachery.
In Shamshera, Ranbir is stunning in every aspect possible, including his acting, sex appeal, dancing, litheness in the action sequences, and engaging charisma. But the real stars of this never-ending extravaganza of pomp and substance are its authors: Nilesh Mishra and Khila Bist wrote the story, together with the director (who previously directed Agneepath), Ekta Pathak Malhotra wrote the script, and Piyush Mishra wrote the language.
This doesn’t mean that Shamshera’s worldview can’t be criticised. In no way. For starters, Sona, played by Vaani Kapoor, has no purpose other than to be Balli’s girlfriend, the object of his desire, and—for a brief while in the second half—his companion in battle against Shudh Singh. The only important female characters are in connection to the male protagonist, one as his mother and the other as his romantic partner. She is ultimately simply a glamorous sidelight and unavoidably objectified in a masculine cosmos where all the action is in the hands of males.
These are regrettable weaknesses in a movie that deserves a standing ovation for a number of reasons. Shamshera is a scathing indictment of the caste system that is unique for a mainstream film and places the topic front and centre in a Bollywood that has for far too long primarily avoided discussing caste. An example would be Dhadak, the awful Hindi remake of the fantastic Marathi film Sairat.