Vikas Bahl's "Shaandaar" (2015): A nonsensical entertainer or Alia in Wonderland?

An over-the-top laughter riot

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Shaandaar, Movie Poster, Directed by Vikas Bahl, starring Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor
Shaandaar (2015) - By Vikas Bahl
Our Rating: 6.0
IMDb Ratings: 8.1
Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapur
Country: India
Language: Hindi
Runtime: 144 min
Color: Color

Summary: Romance blossoms as the families of two Indian business dynasties prepare for a merger.
Shaandaar is Indian filmmaker Vikas Bahl’s follow-up to the 2014 blockbuster film Queen, starring Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao, with wedding once again as its central theme. A joint venture of Dharma Productions and Phantom Films, Shaandaar stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapur, Sanjay Kapoor, and Shushma Seth in the pivotal roles. The movie revolves around an orphan girl named Alia, an insomniac, and her adoptive family. Alia’s condition worries his adoptive father and he keeps feeding her with fairytales hoping they will eventually cure her by inducing some dreams. But, it’s all in vain until one day she is swept off her feet by someone special.

Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt in Vikas Bahl's Shaandaar, Directed by Vikas Bahl
Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt in Vikas Bahl's Shaandaar
While the theme of wedding is quite common to Hindi films, Shaandaar toys with the idea of destination wedding—it’s a trend that’s fast picking up in India and Bollywood these days has pockets that go deep enough to pounce on any such promising opportunity. In Shaandaar, Vikas Bahl takes some creative liberties such as opting for the use of animated cartoons to narrate certain sections of the film including the opening and closing sequences with Naseeruddin Shah’s voiceover narration. Although, this technique is new to Hindi cinema, filmmakers around the world have been employing this creative technique to spice up the conventional narratives. One is reminded of Quentin Tarantino’s use of Japanese Anime in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).

Pankaj and Shahid Kapoor in Shaandaar, Directed by Vikas Bahl
Pankaj Kapur (right) in Shaandaar
While watching Shaandaar, one is repeatedly reminded of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It appears to be a conscious choice on the part of Bahl and team to create a wonderland of sorts for their comic-book characters to inhabit. Alia is bored by her monotonous life and finds solace in the fairytales fed by her adoptive father. Like Alice, she is driven by curiosity as well as the desire to live an adventurous life. And, just like Alice, she has the gift of imagination. Carroll’s wonderland is a home to a panoply of colorful characters. While the characters in Shaandaar are nowhere near as vibrant, they nonetheless are fun to watch with their endless idiosyncrasies. Let us not forget that at the end of the day Shaandaar is a commercial Bollywood film!

A Still from Vikas Bahl's Shaandaar, Shahid and Alia, romantic first look, cozy, sleeping, Directed by Vikas Bahl
A Still from Vikas Bahl's Shaandaar
As far as Hindi cinema is concerned, films that revolve around wedding are the safest bet at the box-office. It’s the kind of cinema that the Indian masses crave for—a formula that just cannot fail in a diverse and colorful country like India. For, we Indians love to celebrate. The dozen or two religious festivals are just not enough. Festivities are an innate part of our lives. And marriage functions are the grandest of them all. We don’t see marriage as merely a union of two individuals; it’s essentially an alliance of two families. It’s an occasion that gets everyone excited—be it the children, the young, or the old—for it is perceived as the greatest celebration of life. In short, the marriages are a singularly viable business. For Bollywood, it’s a bankable subject like no other. Evidently, some of the biggest commercial hits in the history of Bollywood have been the films revolving around the theme of wedding. Given its rather innovative theme of destination wedding, it would be quite interesting to see how Shaandaar fares at the box-office.

Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt performing a dance number in Shaandaar, Directed by Vikas Bahl
Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt performing a dance number in Shaandaar  
Overall, Shaandaar can best be described as a nonsensical entertainer that epitomizes commercial escapism in modern-day cinema. While the movie lacks any real substance, the creative thought that went into it needs to be commended. Probably, the movie’s greatest strength is that it makes us laugh, nonstop. It’s over the top but it is fun nonetheless. Barring Pankaj Kapur, who delivers a solid performance, the acting on display is pretty average. The film features a flashy, tasteless cameo from Karan Johar who’s the movie’s co-producer. The trend of vanity cameos is fast picking up in Bollywood. Shaandaar, while, for the most part, makes little sense, it is a perfect way to spend time with one's family during the festival season. So, go for it, if you are looking for a popcorn flick, else stay put!

Readers, please feel free to share your views/opinions in the comment box below. As always your insightful comments are highly appreciated!

Note: A version of this review was re-published in the Huffington Post.


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