Vakeel Saab Film Review: A courtroom drama with a heavy dose of masala

Vakeel Saab’s Story:

 After escaping molestation, three girls are accused of attempting to murder. Their only hope is that an alcoholic lawyer will accept the case.

Vakeel Saab Evaluation:         

 Venu Sriram’s Vakeel Saab is an official remake of the Bollywood hit Pink, a film that broke down barriers and sparked debate, particularly around consent. While the film has been spiced up with a healthy dose of masala to suit not only Pawan Kalyan’s star image but also his burgeoning political career, Venu manages to strike a good balance for the most part.

Pallavi (Nivetha Thomas), Zareen (Anjali), and Divya (Ananya Nagalla) are roommates struggling to provide for their middle-class families. One night, an unlucky encounter turns their pleased, straightforward, and easy-going life upside down. A famous leader and his friends frame the girls, trying to accuse them of the invitation and attempted homicide.

Vakeel Saab (Pawan Kalyan) is indeed an alcoholic litigator who’s never come to court within a few years after his license has been suspended. He drinks to soothe the pain of a past he didn’t alter and to cover up guilt he can’t get rid of. However, he becomes unappealing when he would seem to be the only way for such girls to make their mark.

Satyadev beats up a few goons near the end of the film and says, “Court lo vadinchadam telusu, coat teesi kottadamu telusu.” (I know how to fight both on and off the court.) This dialogue demonstrates how different his character is from Deepak Sehgal, Amitabh Bachchan’s original character. Whereas Deepak believes that the less said the better and with a touch of sarcasm, Satyadev believes in going all out – whether with sarcasm or his fists. Venu Sriram does a good job of establishing his character, and while his back-story in the first half starring Shruti Haasan as his wife may appear insignificant at first and is a test of patience, the film eventually circles back.

Nivetha carries the film’s weight after him, and a few scenes involving her are not only heartbreaking but also painful to watch. However, the situation she is in is a harsh reality for many women in this country. Anjali comes in a close second with her character Zareen, who always appears to be calm on the outside but is boiling on the inside. Divya, Ananya’s character, doesn’t have many lines, but she manages to make her presence felt in what she’s given. So does Shruti Haasan, even if we don’t get enough time or space to sympathize with her character. Prakash Raj plays Nanda ji, Satyadev’s adversary in court, and he does so with ease.

Venu Sriram mostly sticks to Pink’s plot but changes the screenplay to reflect how differently Pawan Kalyan’s character has been fleshed out. Two fight scenes in particular, while stylish, appear to be inserted for the sake of it and do not fit in with the overall flow of the film. Thaman’s songs do their job, but it’s in the BGM that he truly shines and gives it his all. The question now is whether Vakeel Saab can make you feel as uneasy as Pink did because of the nature of the crime, particularly in the court scenes. It doesn’t because Satyadev’s dialogue in these scenes are designed to elicit whistles while also conveying the message, and this dilutes the effect.

Watch it for the performances, especially if you like Pawan Kalyan, Nivetha Thomas, or Anjali. You should also watch it if you enjoy masala potboilers with a strong message. However, if you’re a Pink fan, keep your expectations in check, given that the film isn’t even named after the women or the cause it advocates for.

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