Review: ‘Vijayanand,’ starring Nihal, Anant Nag and Bharat Bopanna

January 15, 2023

by Carla Hay

Nihal and Bharat Bopanna in “Vijayanand” (Photo courtesy of VRL Film Productions)


Directed by Rishika Sharma

Kannada, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India (mostly in the state of Karnataka), from 1969 to 2011, the dramatic film “Vijayanand” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Vijay Sankeshwar overcomes many obstacles, rivals and skeptics to become a successful entrepreneur and politician. 

Culture Audience: “Vijayanand” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in epic-styled biopics about business people and politicians, even if those biopics have exaggerated elements.

Nihal in “Vijayanand” (Photo courtesy of VRL Film Productions)

Based on a true story about how a family’s small business was turned into an empire, “Vijayanand” often looks like a glorified fairy tale and shameless promotion. However, this drama has enough realistic moments that can be entertaining and inspirational. It’s not just a story about success in business and politics. It’s also a story about fathers, sons, and the dreams they can pass on through generations.

Directed by Rishika Sharma, “Vijayanand” is a sweeping tale that takes place in India (mostly in the state of Karnataka), from 1969 to 2011. The movie (which is told in chronological order) clocks in at 159 minutes to make it look more like a saga than the average biopic. The story centers on real-life entrepreneur/politician Vijay Sankeshwar (played by Nihal) and his rise, fall and comeback in many areas of his life.

The movie protrays Vijay first defying expectations as businessman when his stern father B.G. Sankeshwar (played by Anant Nag) reacts with skepticism when Vijay has purchased a used, semi-automatic Victoria printing machine for the family’s printing press business. Vijay has inherited the business from B.G., but Vijay wants to radically revamp the business by pocket dictionaries and cookery books.

In order to buy the semi-automatic Victoria printing machine, Vijay had to take out loans totaling ₹80,000. B.G. thinks Vijay made a big mistake by going to this debt. Vijay disagrees and thinks it’s an investment. It should come to no surprise to viewers that Vijay made the right decision.

The movie depicts the courtship and marriage of Vijay and his wife, Lalitha Sankeshwar (played by Siri Prahlad), who got married in 1972. Also chronicled is the birth of their first child, a son named Anand Sankeshwar, who is portrayed as an adult by Bharat Bopanna. The adult Anand is also the movie’s narrator.

It should be noted that the real-life Anand is a producer for “Vijaynand,” which is distributed by Anand’s VRL Film Productions. Therefore, the movie is very biased, which explains why some parts look fabricated for the sake of making Vijay look like he’s got extraordinary physical strength. For example, in some parts of the film, Vijay turns into an amazing action hero in fight scenes with certain villains. These fight scene are overly staged and look very phony.

Shortly after Anand’s birth in 1976, Vijay took another big risk and announced that he was leaving the family printing business to his brothers because Vijay wanted to start a new business: truck transportation. The name of the new business would be Vijayanand, a combination of Vijay’s name and Anand’s name. And once again, Vijay takes on a huge amount of debt to launch this business.

Almost everyone in Vijay’s family—including his father B.G. and mother Chandramma (played by Vinaya Prasad), also known as Chandra—think he’s making another foolish mistake. And this time, B.G. tells Vijay that he won’t bail him out financially if Vijay can’t get out of debt and the business fails.

By 1983, Vijay expands into the grocery store business, by launching Hubli market. And he makes another big decision: He moves away from his parents and siblings to focus on this new business venture. But there are major setbacks, including public backlash against Vijaynand over labor issues, a devastating warehouse fire that injured about 45 people, and negative publicity from a newspaper owned by media mogul Rama Rao (played by Prakash Belawadi), who becomes a personal enemy of Vijay.

Vijay’s reinvention as a media mogul and a member of India’s parliament are also included in this biopic. Vijay also mentors Anand and grieves when his father B.G. passes away. “Vijayanand” chronicles the highs and lows of all these endeavors. The movie doesn’t really present Vijay as saintly (he can be stubborn and ruthless), but viewers will get the sense that the movie definitely left out a lot of unflattering details about how he conducted his business and personal life. Being this type of hugely ambitious workaholic can put a strain on family relationships, but those issues are barely acknolwedged in the movie.

Viewers who know in advance that “Vijayanand” is a movie financed by Anand Sankeshwar will have a better idea of what to expect from this biopic. The movie has a little something for everyone: drama, some comedy, action and musical numbers. At the very least, “Vijayanand” accomplishes its goal of presenting an engaging story with good acting in depicting persistence during tough challenges.

VRL Film Productions released “Vijayanand” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 9, 2022.

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