Shaakuntalam(dubbed Hindi version)
After watching the Shakunatala-Dushyant drama done up in dishy shades for two-and-a-half hours I cursed myself for not watching the Telugu original. The songs, dialogues and the inner mood of the mythological journey would seem so much more enhanced in the native tongue.
Not that the Hindi dubbed version lacks in lyricism. Shakuntalam brings Kalidasa’s original in a multi-hued majesty. This is a Sanjay Bhansali costume epic at half his budget. Director Gunasekhar expertise at mythologicals and costume dramas assists the opulence and flamboyance to remain within the realm of restraint. This one doesn’t go overboard.
This is a costume drama where the costumes titivate and complement the intrinsic drama. There are no excesses of extravagance and the storytelling adheres largely to the original . The film is never short of excitement, though I feel some of the comic elements could and should have been eliminated on the editing table. But I guess director Gunasekar and his editor Prawin Pudi want the end-product to encompass the entire gamut of mass-oriented experience.
Luckily the digressions do not dilute the core plot of a righteous brave king Dushyant(Mohan Dev, striking in his royal avatar) who seems to spend half his time hunting dangerous animals, and who falls for the Nature-friendly Shakuntala.
Their giddy romance lovingly captured by Shekhar V Joseph’s compassionate camera , is supplemented with loads of progressive ideas. Even during those ancient times, the lovebirds are shown admitting to a craving a for pre-marital sex.
Later, much later when Dushyant humiliates and rejects her , Shakuntala gives him a powerful tonguelashing on why it is okay for men to change their minds in a relationship, and not women.
Throughout its runningtime the plot gambols from traditional images to modern contexts. The transitions from temporal to fantasy would have been smoother with more trimming of the spacefilling scenes.What holds you spellbound is the searing chemistry between ‘Shakuntala’ Samantha and ‘Dushyant’ Dev Mohan.
The couple seems blessed by divinity even as their love story shifts gears from ecstasy to tragedy. Samantha looks every bit the ecologically and emotionally evolved princess in exile. The special effects swathe her in a luminous light . Samantha captures the soul of Shakuntala and then sets it free.
Every element in the storytelling conspires to give the age-old story a sensuous elegant spin. It is time to reclaim our heritage. It is time to tell stories that every Indian child should know. Let’s stop the inflow of imported garbage to entertain our children. Show them that beyond Disney and Harry Potter there exists a wealth of indigenous stories waiting to be told. Rajamouli has opened the door. Gunasekhar’s Shakuntala walks through that door with confident steps.