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Vakeel Saab Is An Honourable Remake



Vakeel Saab(Amazon, Telugu)

Starring   Pawan Kalyan, Nivetha Thomas, Anjali, Ananya Nagalla, Prakash Raj, and Shruthi Haasan.

Directed  by Venu Sriram


Closer  in spirit to  the Tamil version Nerkonda Paarvai than  the original  Hindi  film PinkVakeel Saab has its  heart in the right place, even as  it takes  huge uncalled-for liberties  with  the  original  script, liberties that  add nothing to to the story  of three  city-girls and  their fight  for justice after being attacked one  night by a privileged  spoilt brat(Vamsi Krishna, well played)  and his  parasitical friends and protected  by the perverse politics of patriarchy  .

While  the  basic plot remains the same in Telugu what has  changed radically is  the positioning of the hero. With  Pawan  Kalyan on board as a  lawyer fighting to get justice for the trio  of  damnified girls, the washed-out  bipolar lawyer with a paralyzed  bedridden wife from the original transforms into a  students leader and a champion  of  the downtrodden with  Shruti Haasan literally stalking him until he relents.

A question for the   writer-director Venu  Sriram: is it  okay to  celebrate stalking(albeit gender-reversed)  in a film that is so deeply concerned with women’s safety? That whole  flashback with Haasan should be immediately removed surgically  from what  is otherwise a reasonably  well-intended courtroom drama  with  Nivetha Thomas , Anjali and Ananya Nagalla doing their own thing with roles that Taapsee Pannu, Kirti  Kulhari and  Andrea Tariang owned  in  the  original. Nivetha  as  Pallavi, the prime accused is specially effective in conveying her  anguish through silences.

As  for  Pawan Kalyan’s  legal eagle  act,  I  have to confess I like the way he argues  in  court,  not through an exaggerated  show of anguish and concern, but  in a tone that  is remarkably cynical  of  the legal procedure.And after  every argument questioning patriarchal rules of feminine behavior, Pawan’s  hands are stretched out quizzically  in front of the judge in a grandiloquent  WTF  gesture. I loved that  gesture.

 Pawan Kalyan  knows he has a formidable adversary  in the courtroom in Prakash Raj. They work well together , far  more so  than  Mr Bachchan and  Mr Piyush Mishra   in the  original.

Which  is  not to say that this Telugu version of Pink is  a better  film than the original.  It is  not. Vakeel Saab doesn’t aspire to be better,just good enough. It wants to  put forward the  No-means-No argument  in a more commercial  language. In that  endeavour,  it succeeds swimmingly sliding  in  and  out  of  chauvinistic arguments will well-oiled drama that  never goes  overboard.

Also, I’d like to point  out that the  moral bandwidth  for the three girl’s moral  evaluation has been  considerably  changed.  Here  their supposed transgressions as  seen through the  unforgiving male gaze, looks far less glaring. These are girls who just want to stay on the right side  of the moral boundaries  because  one  has a family to support,  another has loans to  pay, etc etc. 

At  the end  of it all, I came away from  Vakeel  Saab unoffended. No harm done to the  supposedly sacrosanct original. Even the two fights that have been added at the  beginning and towards the end  to amplify Pawan  Kalayan’s star power, make sense.If we are going to change the way women are judged by their clothes and drinking  habits then we need super-heroes  ,preferably those  who  can  stretch their arms  out in court to  show our incredulity and distrust at  a system that  allows  a potential   rapist to say  in  court under oath(I swear!)  that  girls from decent families don’t wear short dresses and drink at parties.

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