Shaandaar has many things going right for it. Right from the word go. It is touted to be India’s first destination wedding film, the sets and the canvas look splendid, the songs are quirky and peppy, and most importantly, the film has a refreshing pairing of Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.
But, sadly despite the aforementioned strengths and pluses, the film’s director, Vikas Bahl, flounders and fumbles several times before the extravagant destination wedding reaches its final destination. Vikas, an able director when it comes to simpler stories and smaller budgets, seems to be binging a bit too much on the producers’ generosity this time around. The covert messaging of the film remains fairly simple and straightforward, like how it was in Vikas’ last directorial venture – the much-appreciated Queen, but the means to the ‘final destination’ seems too convoluted and pointlessly blingy. The director seems to have developed an unexplainable fascination with comic books, fairy tales and animations, and he literally puts all of that in a single film. And the end result is not exactly what he hoped it to be when he chose the title of the film.
Shaandaar tells the story of a once-superrich-now-bankrupt, but forever dysfunctional Indian business family and the lavish wedding it plans for its slightly obese daughter Isha (debutante Sanah Kapoor) in London. Isha’s father (Played by Pankaj Kapur) hires a wedding planner with a curious name – Joginder Jagjinder (Shahid Kapoor) who falls for Isha’s sister Alia (Alia Bhatt). The two hit it off instantly and bond over late night escapades as both of them, we are told, suffer from insomnia. Also in the fray is the groom’s family which has a weird obsession with anything gold – this wolf pack is led by the groom’s elder brother (Sanjay Kapoor). What follows next is a muddled mix of rom-com between Alia and Shahid with Pankaj Kapur playing a protective father with perfection, and a Queen-style sermon via Sanah Kapoor on how it is not a girl’s fault if she is fat.
To be fair, Shaandaar’s first half is fairly enjoyable when you just begin to somewhat like the peculiar characters that the film has to offer. But the director’s grip over the film drops a fair bit in the second half as soon as the screenplay (Anvita Dutt Guptan) starts to meander in a dreamland. A dreamland where there are too many VFXs, cloudy flashbacks and Disney-style animated storytelling.
But, all is not unwell with Shaandaar. Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor share a sparkling chemistry and it will not be an exaggeration to call it the most refreshing pairing to have hit the Hindi films in the last few years. Shahid Kapoor looks dapper and seems to have gotten back his boyish, exuberant charm. Apart from being an eye candy (all females in the film, Alia’s grandmother (Sushma Seth) included, drool over our Kapoor boy), Shahid is also amply funny and suitably restrained throughout the film. Alia Bhatt is her usual sweetened self with a sprinkle of genuineness and beauty. Pankaj Kapur too is on fire, displaying his unique brand of dry, subtle humor. In fact, Kapur/Kapoor father and son share a terrific vibe on-screen and along with Alia, remain the brightest spots of Shaandaar. The trio gives us some genuinely heartwarming and funny moments and you wish they never ceded space to other actors in the film.
Every time a protective Pankaj Kapur and a charming Shahid Kapoor squabble over Alia, you will see a smiley curve emerging on your face. Special mention should be made of a small sequence featuring a little banter over the number ‘36’ – it is a fine display of the trio’s effortless sense of humor and the comfort they share with one another.
Sanah Kapoor also makes a confident debut and shows no nerves in her portrayal of a fatter sibling of the film’s leading lady. Her fine acting talent is letdown by a poorly developed character that struggles to remain relevant throughout the film. Other members of the support cast are almost all too loud and unreal with Sanjay Kapoor easily taking the top prize and ending up looking like Anil Kapoor’s poor comical caricature.
Shaandaar’s production values are quite rich but the intermittent animation seems more distracting and self-indulging than essential. There are also some poor attempts made at invoking dark humor but it simply doesn’t fit well in the lavish backdrop of the film. The film’s soundtrack is pretty solid, courtesy Amit Trivedi, and the songs have also been creatively picturized, especially ‘Gulabo’, which is a visual treat.
Overall, Shaandar is a film full of all the right ingredients but somehow the final serving is not tempting enough. The second half of the film is simply boring at places with the screenplay offering no big challenges to its principle characters. Even that Karan Johar guest appearance fails to register itself as a key moment in the film. It is another matter that after Karan’s cameo is long done and gone, you end up wondering if he would have done a better job in directing this film. After all, big budget and big cast is not everyone’s saddle to handle.
At best, Shaandaar is a lost opportunity. It finds itself suspended between the director’s dream world and the producers’ love for opulent, ‘big and fat’ Indian weddings. Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor almost carry the film through on the strength of their chemistry but they are regularly pulled down by a motley of directorial distractions.
Watch it if you can digest a soup of Karan Johar and Phantom (Anurag Kashyap) styles of filmmaking!
Rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 – Average)