Shakti – The Power (2002)
Cast: Karisma Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Shahrukh Khan
Director: Krishna Vamsi
Music Director: Ismail Darbar
Nutshell: Sridevi’s debut as producer is “inspired” by Not Without My Daughter
Shakti-the Power is Sridevi’s first venture into production for a film that was meant to be her comeback vehicle. But having fallen pregnant again, the Devi offered the role to Kajol who turned it down and it finally fell into Karisma’s lap. Certainly a role, on paper that any actress would love to do, the film is an adaptation of the pretty risible Sally Field flick “Not without my daughter”. However, we all know that it has great potential to be adapted for the Bollywood screen.
Nandini (Karisma) is an expatriate living in Canada with two lackeys as uncles and no parents on the horizon. Unmarried, she decides to tie the knot with Shekhar (Sanjay Kapoor). In the space of a song, time passes and the happily married couple end up with a little baby boy who grows up in the last stanzas of the song.
One fine day, Shekhar seems to throw a fit and decides to go to India without explaining to his wife what the problem is. It transpires that he has a family back in the some remote part of Rajasthan and he left them because his family is caught up in a bloody family feud and where violence begets violence. He takes Nandini and their son to Rajasthan and finds that nothing has changed.
This is a new world to Nandini, not used to the dirt and filth, the rustic and harsh ways of the people and the undercurrent of fear that is prevalent there. Shekhar´s father, Narsimha (Nana Patekar) is a chauvinistic, regressive and uneducated. There is not an iota of liberal thought or feeling in him and the brutality of his ways ensures that that the eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth savagery continues unabated. Wanting to escape this hell, Shekhar is kept back by his mother. This proves to be a fatal error as on one of his short trips, Shekhar is ambushed and murdered. Nandini now wants to leave but the imposing and tyrannical Narsimha refuses to allow her to leave with her son. The film then follows Nandini’s battle to leave India with her son.
The Director knits a neat web but infuses the film with dreadful violence, concentrating more on the violence than the plight of the mother who remains, until the end, incapable of fighting for her son by herself. Instead of this being a tale of a woman who fights to escape her barbaric environment with her son, this poor woman spends much of her time either being battered black and blue and then under lock and key. This is no feminist victory except that she stands up for herself but ultimately has to take the assistance of the pathetic Shahrukh Khan who almost single-handedly destroys the fabric of the film. That is not his fault but that of his character who is introduced in a scene which smacks of sheer grotesqueness. Here you have his comic character cavorting around in a police station with the diabolical Narsimha thrashing the daylights out of Nandini. It simply does not work..it could not have worked. There is a sense of absolutel abhorrence at the manner in which these villages are run by men and their treatment of women and the complete and utter importance of the all powerful male. Had Nandini’s child been a girl, there would have been no tale which in itself speaks volumes of what our society is all about. However, this film does not concentrate on this and dangles dangerously between serious cinema and overblown bollywood melodrama. Ultimately, it gives itself entirely to the latter but not without giving some food for thought.
Karisma Kapoor gives a good performance but is restricted because even though it is her show, (she is the solo heroine) it is Nana Patekar who walks away with his rendition of the diabolical Narsimha. It has been aeons since Nana had a decent role and this one is perfect casting for him. Deepti Naval plays the meek wife to perfection but her final speech is overtly dramatic and somewhat out of character. At this point, Narsimha should really have let turn to ash! Shahrukh’s role has been added simply to add a commercial touch to the film, to lighten the proceedings and to give it a commercial push. But its simply a manipulative gesture and really, he slows the film down and provided little light relief. His song with Aishwarya, another commercial gimmick may have brought in the punters for a dekho but it just dilutes the impact further. Sanjay Kapoor is an actor who tries hard and makes sure that you feel that way. Ismail Darbar’s music is not bad although somewhat forced in the film.
By and large, Shakti fails to convey any power but does convey the male dominated and very backward society that one is not exposed to in the rural areas. I do not think that that was intention of the film and therefore, the film fails to make quite the impact that it obviously set out to make. On the whole, not bad, not good either.