February 22, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Rohit Dhawan
Hindi with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Delhi, India, the action film “Shehzada” (a remake of the 2020 Telugu-language film “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo”) features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: An aspiring lawyer, who was raised in a working-class family, finds out that he is a wealthy heir who was switched at birth by the man whom he thought was his biological father.
Culture Audience: “Shehzada” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners, “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo” and movies that are too long and overload on ridiculousness.
“Shehzada” is a pointless and insipid movie remake that did not need to be made. It’s filled with stupid dialogue and ludicrous scenarios that relentlessly insult viewers’ intelligence. Kartik Aaryan’s smiling charisma isn’t enough make this film any good. “Shehzada” (which means “prince” in Hindi) is a remake of the 2020 Telugu-language film “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo.” Perhaps the worst thing about “Shehzada” is how it changes the ending of the vastly superior “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo” in a way that is not just unbelievable but it also makes everything in “Shehzada” look like even more of a complete waste of time.
Written and directed by Rohit Dhawan, “Shehzada” (which takes place primarily in Delhi, India) begins by showing how the lives of two men, who used to be close friends, have taken very different paths. Valmiki Upadhyay (played by Paresh Rawal) and Randeep Nanda (played by Ronit Roy) were pals who started their careers as clerks, working for a company owned by the wealthy Aditya Jindal (played by Sachin Khedekar). Randeep married Aditya’s daughter Yashoda (played by Manisha Koirala), nicknamed Yashu, so Randeep was promoted to a high-ranking position in Aditya’s company. Meanwhile, Valmiki remained in the company’s lower ranks.
By a sheer coincidence, Valmiki and Randeep had sons who were born on the same day in the same hospital. However, it looked like Randeep’s son died from breathing problems, according to a maternity ward nurse named Sulochana (played by Sharvari Lokhare). A sympathetic Valmiki decided to secretly switch his son with Randeep’s son, with the help of Sulochana. Conveniently for Valmiki and Soluchana, they are the only two people in the maternity ward when they make the switch.
However, Randeep’s son suddenly becomes conscious. Randeep and his wife Yasu have already seen the “switched” baby whom they think is theirs. Valmiki frantically goes to Soluchana and tells her that they have to switch the babies again, but she refuses, probably because she doesn’t want to get in trouble for her role in this scheme.
When Valmiki goes over to the cribs to switch the babies anyway, Soluchana tries to stop him. Valmiki and Soluchana have a tussle that ends with Valmiki accidentally pushing Soluchana off of a balcony. Valmiki runs away from the hospital in a panic.
After giving it some thought, Valmiki decides his biological son will be better off raised in a wealthy family. Valmiki raises Randeep’s biological son as his own, but Valmiki shows a lot of indifference and disrespect for this child. Valmiki, who is very jealous of Randeep, also gets a twisted sense of satisfaction about knowing this secret.
“Shehzada” then fast-forwards 25 years after the babies were switched. The son who was raised by Valmiki is named Bantu (played by Aaryan, one of the film’s producers), who is really Randeep’s biological son. The son who was raised by Randeep is named Raj (played by Ankur Rathee), who is really Valmiki’s son.
Bantu is confident and extroverted, while Raj is insecure and introverted. A great deal of “Shehzada” is about aspiring lawyer Bantu defending Randeep from a ruthless businessman named Sarang (played by Sunny Hinduja), who wants Randeep to give 50% of the company’s shares to Sarang.
What happened to Soluchana, the hospital nurse who is the only other person besides Valmiki who knows the secret about the babies being switched at birth? She’s been in a coma, ever since she fell from the balcony. However, the trailer for “Shehzada” reveals a huge turning point in the plot: Soluchana wakes up from the coma and tells Bantu this family secret about who his biological parents are, and that it was all Valmiki’s idea to switch the babies at birth.
This secret is revealed about halfway through the movie. And it’s the fault of the film’s marketing team that this big reveal is in the movie’s trailer. In “Shehzada,” the reveal looks very fake and awkward. Bantu happened to be in the same hospital as Soluchana, because he was visiting a severely injured Randeep, who had been attacked by Sarang’s thugs. Bantu just happened to be passing by Soluchana’s hospital bed, when she overheard him talking about his father Randeep, and she gasped out this family secret to Bantu.
In between doing acrobatic fight scenes that rely heavily on unrealistic visual effects, Bantu works as a law clerk at a law firm, where his boss is the strong-willed Samara Singh (played by Kriti Sanon), who at first is not very impressed with Bantu. Samara initially thought that Bantu was too immature to work at this law firm. Eventually, Bantu begins courting Samara, he wins her over, and they fall in love with each other. (All of these plot developments are also in the “Shehzada” trailer.)
Meanwhile, Raj (who is very much a secondary character in the movie) is away from home a lot because he has been studying to get his MBA. When he does come back to the palatial home owned by his parents, the morally corrupt Valmiki goes out of his way to be friendly to Raj, because Valmiki knows that Raj is his biological son. When Bantu finds out who his biological parents are, he is emotionally torn. Bantu doesn’t tell Randeep’s family this secret, but Bantu starts showing even more loyalty to Randeep.
And the most cliché thing happens in a movie about two quasi-rival men who were switched at birth: They both compete over the same love interest. Randeep thinks Samara would make an ideal wife for Raj in an arranged marriage. However, Bantu had been planning to propose marriage to Samara. We all know which suitor she will choose in the end.
“Shehzada” has a mindless comedic tone that cheapens the story, compared to the more serious tone of “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo.” Unfortunately, “Shehzada” (whose total running time is an overly long 145 minutes) has the same pitfalls of many formulaic and forgettable Bollywood action movies: More time and effort were spent on musical sequences and over-the-top ridiculous fight scenes than on crafting a good story and interesting characters. The performances in “Shehzada” are as shallow as the film’s characters. And this movie remake’s atrocious new ending completely obliterates what little credibility that “Shehzada” hoped to have.
PVR Pictures released “Shehzada” in select U.S. cinemas on February 17, 2023.