Review: Venu Sriram’s Vakeel Saab is an official remake of the Bollywood hit Pink, a film that managed to break barriers and generate conversations, especially around consent. While the film has been tweaked with a generous dose of masala to not just suit Pawan Kalyan’s star image but also his budding political career, Venu manages to get the balance right for the most part.
Pallavi (Nivetha Thomas), Zareen (Anjali) and Divya (Ananya Nagalla) are roommates who work hard to make a living for their middle class families. Their happy, simple and carefree life soon turns upside down due to an unfortunate encounter one night. Facing charges of solicitation and attempt to murder, the girls find themselves painted into a corner by an influential man and his friends.
Vakeel Saab aka Konidela Satyadev (Pawan Kalyan) is an alcoholic lawyer who hasn’t returned to court since the day he was suspended a few years ago. He drinks to mask the pain of a past he cannot correct and cover up guilt he cannot let go of. But when he seems to be the only hope for these girls to prove their innocence, he gets his act together and fights for them.
Towards the fag end of the film, Satyadev beats up a few goons and says, “Court lo vadinchadam telusu, coat teesi kottadamu telusu.” (I know how to fight both in court and off it.) This dialogue shows just how different his character is from that of Deepak Sehgal, Amitabh Bachchan’s character from the original. Where Deepak takes the route of lesser said the better and subtlety, with a touch of sarcasm, Satyadev believes in going all out – be it with his sarcasm or his fists. Venu Sriram does a good job of setting up his character and while his back-story in first half ft. Shruti Haasan as his wife might seem inconsequential at first and is a test to the patience, the film circles back to how Satyadev can’t change who he is at the end of the day, be it at a protest or in court. Pawan Kalyan too seems comfortable in the skin of his character.
Nivetha carries the weight of the film after him and few scenes featuring her are not just heart-wrenching, but also painful to watch. But then again, the predicament she finds herself in is a hard reality for many women in this country. Anjali comes a close second with her character Zareen, who always seems to give off a calm exterior but simmers right beneath the surface. Ananya’s character Divya does not have too many lines, but she manages to make her presence felt in what she’s given. So does Shruti Haasan, even if her character doesn’t get enough time or space for us to sympathise with her. Prakash Raj plays Nanda ji whom Satyadev faces in court, he pulls it off with ease.
Venu Sriram sticks to the plot of Pink for the most part but tweaks the screenplay given how differently Pawan Kalyan’s character has been fleshed out. Two fight scenes in particular, while stylish, seem placed for the heck of it and do not gel well with the flow of the film. Thaman’s songs too manage to get the job done, but it’s the BGM where he truly shines and gives it his all. Now the question remains if Vakeel Saab manages to make you as uncomfortable as Pink did due to the nature of the crime, especially in the court scenes. It does not, because Satyadev’s dialogues in these scenes are placed to elicit whistles while also getting the point across and that dilutes the issue at hand. And despite all that neck rubbing and table flipping, Satyadev does get his moment in court to make it clear that “no means no”. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
Watch this one for the performances, especially if you’re a fan of Pawan Kalyan, Nivetha Thomas and Anjali. Also watch it if you’re a fan of masala potboilers backed by a strong message. But if you’re a fan of Pink, keep your expectations in check, seeing as how the film is not even named after the women or the cause it fights for.