Sai Dhanshika’s Telugu debut, on paper, had all the trappings of a laugh riot but loses its essence in translation
Last Updated: 03.09 PM, Jul 29, 2022
A group of four engineering students spend their final year at college with great enthusiasm. Bobby, the most ‘decent’ boy among the lot, is desperate to have a girlfriend but can’t gather the courage to propose to someone. He is smitten by a woman Devika at an exam centre and sparks fly between the two. Amidst a loveless marriage, Devika asks Bobby to come home when her husband is away. When Devika’s husband returns home earlier than expected, all hell breaks loose.
Shikaaru is an ideal comedy-of-errors premise that would have fascinated the likes of EVV Satyanarayana in the 90s. It just has the right element of mischief, wackiness and also squeezes in the desperate ‘social message’ that Telugu filmmakers are after. It’s a pity that director Hari Kolagani messes up a good opportunity due to inept casting, directionless screenplay and the inability to execute what he’s written.
Devika, played by Sai Dhanshika in her Telugu debut, is a well-written female role in a comedy setup, going by industry standards. She is trapped in an unhappy marriage, wants to further her academic growth, expects basic dignity from her partner and doesn’t have any outlet to vent out her trauma. When Devika earns the interest of a stranger, she is naturally attracted. The film looks set for a comic explosion when she needs to hide the boy from her husband in her home.
Apart from Devika, the director doesn’t get anything else right. The sequences where Bobby is smitten by Devika are flimsily written. The college portions don’t at all land well and the male gaze is very evident. It’s hard to take a film seriously when a protagonist utters lines like, ‘Isn’t a girl more beautiful when she becomes an aunty?’ Devika’s parents even tell their daughter, ‘We’re sorry about sending you to a hellhole (about her husband.’
When the entire film is about a girl seeking a change in her life owing to a loveless marriage, what’s the point of glorifying the marriage system? A stray subplot about another woman is used as an excuse to justify why Devika needs to sort things out to make her marriage work. A lengthy monologue in the climax is enough to transform a husband who didn’t even care about her wife’s existence a while ago.
The only segment when Shikaaru works marginally is when a television soap is used as a parallel to mirror Devika’s real-life situation. The camaraderie among Surekha Vani, Annapurnamma and Dhanshika pans out well. Interestingly, Devika’s colony in the film is named ‘kaamapuram’. The efforts of the friends to get Bobby out of Devika’s house hardly evince your interest - the situations are tiresome and unfunny.
The team also tries to score brownie points with Balakrishna’s fans. When a group of men are stuck in jail, they find a cop who’s a fan of the actor too and escape scot-free. How long will filmmakers find excuses to please star fan bases and forget to write a meaty script? The entire thread about an underground tunnel in the Kaamapuram area is a farce too. The director falls short of ideas to hold the narrative together and the cast is equally incapable.
Abhinav Medisetty, Tej Kurapati, Dheeraj Aathreya and Navakanth need more time to mature as actors in the comedy space. Kishore’s experience isn’t put to use well. Sai Dhanshika pitches in with an assured performance but the cluttered narration doesn’t let the viewer empathise with her plight at all. The music remains largely forgettable.
Shikaaru, as a plot, had potential but doesn’t fall into the hands of a competent team. Sai Dhanshika is the only saving grace in the film where the director struggles with comedy and is clueless about taking the narrative forward.