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Shehzada vs Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo: Decoding Kartik Aaryan's epic fail to step into Allu Arjun's shoes

Like Allu Arjun's Bantu, Kartik Aaryan's performance never taps into the trauma of the years of abuse and discrimination that he faces at the hands of his foster father, Valmiki (played by Paresh Rawal).

Shehzada vs Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo: Decoding Kartik Aaryan's epic fail to step into Allu Arjun's shoes
Shehzada is the official remake of Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo.

Last Updated: 05.11 PM, Feb 22, 2023


Shehzada is the official remake of the Telugu hit Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, starring Allu Arjun in the lead role. The glaring judgemental error of the filmmakers to even think that Kartik Aaryan would be the right fit to play the character that was tailored to suit the specifications of Arjun's personality and stardom is astonishing. And it's so unfair and even cruel to Kartik as he doesn't even get a fighting chance to make something decent out of the opportunity. 

As a fan who enjoyed Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, my judgment is obviously biased. Any misstep in Shehzada that messes with my memory of Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo will not be seen kindly. But, nothing prepared me for the lousy filmmaking that made me hate the material that once I so enjoyed. After watching Shehzada , I rewatched Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo to see whether the Hindi remake has ruined my liking for the original movie for good. But, thankfully no. I enjoyed the Allu Arjun-starrer as much as I enjoyed it the first time. And then it dawned on me that the makers of Shehzada didn't know what they were doing. 

Many Hindi filmmakers seem to be under some impression as to why some 'mass, masala' movies in the south become a hit at the box. Not all south movies that show the hero walking in slow-motion and performing some gravity-defying stunts without breaking a sweat would click with the audience. There are many layers to a successful commercial movie made in the south. 

For example, assume that Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is considered to be remade in Tamil. A newcomer or an up-and-coming star would not be approached to reprise Arjun's character. A star with similar stardom and fan following would be an obvious choice. Clearly, the makers of Shehzada didn't factor this in while deciding on the lead actor. While the filmmakers only saw the box office potential of the Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo remake, they underestimated the importance of the star cast that made this material click with the masses in Telugu. 

It's Allu Arjun and his unique understanding of his character Bantu that made Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo a hit. What director Rohit Dhawan has failed to understand is, Arjun didn't just appear on the screen, smoked a few beedis, beat up a truck full of rivals and took home a blockbuster. There is more to all the unrealistic twists and over-the-top emotional beats than you may think. 

Kartik Aaryan's Bantu never taps into the trauma of the years of abuse and discrimination that he faces at the hands of his foster father, Valmiki (played by Paresh Rawal). But, Arjun's Bantu leans heavily into his life's tragedy. We never see him in a happy mood — at least until he learns how Valmiki rewrote his fate soon after his birth. He's always unhappy and confused pondering over the question: why does my father hate me so much? And that shame of not being able to win his father's approval manifests in every part of his body. His shoulders seem always heavy as if he's carrying a huge invisible burden. There is a sense of defeatism in his personality, thanks to the years of Valmiki's efforts to make him feel like a loser. Even when good things happen to him, Bantu can't detach from his trauma. 


And Murali Sharma has done such a terrific job with Valmiki. He gives a lived-in performance as a bitter, cunning and petty man with sadistic nature. He taps into his character's motivation with such sincerity that it's hard to imagine anyone else in his role. Especially, Paresh Rawal, who has done a half-hearted job in playing a wicked limp. 

Rohit Dhawan has handled the remake with such carelessness it's shocking. The original director-writer Trivikram Srinivas is fully aware of what he's doing and he does it with the kind of authority that speaks of his excellent understanding of the genre. As a storyteller, he's so relaxed in Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. And his calmness seeps into every frame. He's not too uptight or in some hurry to get to the finish line. He's having fun with the storytelling and the film's narrative structures. He often breaks the fourth wall, adds a few memorable meta-moments in the narrative, and yet never makes us lose the connection with the emotional core of the story. 

Rohit Dhawan is clueless. He has made such senseless alterations to Shehzada that has no regard for the continuation of the story. Take, for example, in Shehzada, Manisha Koirala's Yashoda gives a cold shoulder to Bantu after he saves her husband's life. It makes her look petty and heartless. But, in Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, Tabu's Yasoda has a reason behind her contempt for Bantu. Her dislike for Bantu stems from her need to defend her son Raj. In an earlier scene, when her husband Ramachandra (Jayaram) praises Bantu's courage and regrets Raj's cowardliness, she feels offended. And she shows her contempt for Bantu when she sees him. 

In the Telugu original, Bantu had the responsibility to protect the sanity and feelings of his foster mother. So he decides not to reveal his true identity. In the Hindi remake, however, Bantu's reason for keeping the lid on his origin story is weak. It makes no sense given that he has no foster mother to protect. Yes, it must have been too much work for Rohit to keep Bantu's foster mother in the narration. Hence he gives her an early death and eliminates the one reason that would have made sense why Bantu turned his back on his biological parents. 

Composer Pritam's work adds more to the audience's distress. The background score doesn't help the narrative any better than Rohit's careless handling of Trivikram's screenplay. Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is one of the best music albums in composer Thaman S's career. He really knew what he was doing. Thaman's beats were in so sync with Trivikram's narrative and Arjun's performance. But, we can't say the same about Pritam's music in Shehzada. 

And these complaints are barely scratching the surface. I can do another 1000 words on how Rohit has poorly handled the characters of Kriti Sanon, Ronit Roy and others. 

It takes a great depth of understanding of the 'masala genre', a strong heart, steady hands, Olympian-level endurance, great patience, care and passion to make a movie like Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. None of this quality can be found in Shehzada. 

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