iSmart Shankar Movie Review: A wildly inconsistent potboiler
The director can’t seem to strike a consistent tone for his storytelling, see-sawing unevenly between regressive and plain pedestrian
Puri Jagannadh, who redefined the potential of Tollywood box-office with several masala classics like Idiot, Desamuduru, Pokiri, Businessman and Temper, has come up with iSmart Shankar, a concoction of science and masala entertainment starring Ram. A lot of stakes are riding on the film and he pinches it with lengthy flashback, melodrama, crime and action that is reminiscent of the spirit of the 80s potboilers.
Cast: Ram, Nabha Natesh, Nidhhi Agerwal
Direction: Puri Jagannadh
The film is a loud and exaggerated sci-fi actioner whose opening scene sets the tone for the 140 minutes that follow. As the story takes off, a neuroscientist, Sarah (Nidhhi Agerwal) demonstrates the process of transplanting memories by transferring a form of genetic information (RNA) from one brain to another. She holds a metal cage with a rat and suddenly, the rat escapes and panicked by this development, she urges the audience to find it. The next scene leads to something of a riot in the life of her boyfriend and a CBI sleuth, Arun (Satyadev), who informs the escape of a small-time criminal prisoner, Shankar (Ram).
Ram has a terrific screen presence and he comes up with a pitch-perfect performance that rises above the film's flaws. He never lets the energy dip in action sequences and songs and shifts effortlessly from feisty Shankar to self-restraint Arun. He speaks his lines comfortably in Hyderabadi (Telangana) dialect.
The premise appears to hold promise on paper. A local thug kills a political stalwart and is apprehended by the cops. He realises that he was used as a pawn in this episode and is on the lookout for the mastermind. He is chased by a cop who is soon to jump into the thick of things before dying in a gun battle. How that cop's death is used as a catalyst to trace the actual perpetrators forms the crux of iSmart Shankar.
Much like Puri Jagannadh's previous films including Ism, Rogue and Paisa Vasool, iSmart Shankar too evokes a bygone flavor. It's the same old story replete with double-meaning dialogues, crass comedy, excessive violence, and rude romance, so much so that you turn away your face unpleasantly when the protagonist uses a turkey (bird) as a reference to describe his girl friend's body and looks!
Puri Jagannadh can’t seem to strike a consistent tone for his storytelling, see-sawing unevenly between regressive and plain pedestrian. The narrative gets tiresome after a point as the director has gone for overkill in the name of comedy. The script has numerous logical loopholes and the lack of believability makes things eminently boring. The film also fails to arouse any curiosity as the director doesn't manage to hold the suspense. By the time it is ultimately revealed, you must have guessed it already.
Nabha Natesh as Shankar's love interest is cheeky and unyielding in equal measure. Nidhhi Agerwal internalises her character as a neuroscientist and delivers a heartfelt performance. Satyadev holds his forte as a resilient cop in a brief appearance.
iSmart Shankar is definitely not a film Telugu cinema would be proud of, especially at a time when it's building a global identity with refreshing storylines. But if you are still yearning to watch a potpourri of crude jokes, violence and stalking-as-romance theme, chances are you might lap it up in parts.