January 23rd, 2021
After a gap of 2 years and multiple OTT releases, Natural Star Nani is finally back with his latest film Shyam Singha Roy, a period drama about reincarnation set in the early 1960's and 70's in Kolkata. Starring Sai Pallavi, Krithi Shetty, and Madonna Sebastian as the female leads, the movie is directed by Taxiwaala fame Rahul Sankrityan and has music by Mickey J Meyer. Much has been made of the film pre release as the teasers and trailers generated a lot of curiosity. Is the film good enough to bring Nani back to form and give him another hit after Jersey? Let's find out in this review.
When a short film director Vasudev (Nani) is acccused of plagiarism by the famous Roy family of Kolkata, he discovers a link between him and Shyam Singha Roy (Nani). Who is Shyam Singha Roy? Watch the movie to find out.
In the lead role, Nani is outstanding. While Vasudev is a routine normal character that is basicaly his real life personality, it's the character of Shyam Singha Roy where he knocks it out of the park and delivers one of his career best performances. There's a certain rightousness and intrigue about this guy and his views and Nani plays it to perfection. The transformation, hairstyle, and most of all the ability to write with his left hand shows the amount of dedication and effort Nani put into the role. His screen presence and charm adds a lot of value and you're hooked the entire flashback just due to the character of Shyam Singha Roy. The mustache twirl also gives senseless goosebumps at times. All in all, Nani is amazing in the movie as Shyam Singha Roy.
Sai Pallavi is the main heroine of the movie and she is superb as usual. The innocence of the character of Maitreyi and her love story with Shyam is beautiful to watch. As always, the superstar actresses' screen presence dominates and her dances in the Devadasi character are amazing once again. She brings the required emotions to each and every scene and delivers another excellent performance. It will remain a memorable choice in her filmography.
Krithi Shetty has an annoying character and does well. She is sidelined after the first 40 mins. Madonna Sebastian as the lawyer gets a comedic introduction and basically carries that same level of foolery throughout the movie even in the court scenes. It's more an extended cameo than anything.
Abhinav Gomatam has one of the best comic timings in Telugu cinema and he manages to bring out a few laughs with his dialogues. Rahul Ravindran makes an appearance in a mainstream Telugu film after a long gap and he is good. Jisshu Sengupta is wasted and brief in a 2 scene role.
Manish Wadhwa as the evil preist Mahant is adequate. His villainy is only present for one scene and he goes fasak in the next scene.
All of the Bengali actors casted are excellent and add a lot of authenticity to the Kolkata portions.
Direction by Rahul Sankrityan is mediocre and probably the weakest part of the movie. Like his first film Taxiwaala, Shyam Singha Roy also deals with the concept of the otherworldy and supernatural you could say. He gets a lot of things right in terms of the characterizations and detailing in the screenplay but the end result doesn't add up. I sincerely feel that if he had just made an entire feature film focusing on the flashback and the characters of Shyam Singha Roy and Rosie, it would have made more much more intruiging and engaging film. You want to know more about these characters and if he had focused on the Devadasi systems atrocities a little more and how terrifying these people actually were, it would have added a lot more emotion and connect for the audience to see. I know they say show, don't tell but if this angle was explored more, Mahant would have more for a superb villain. In addition he explores the themes of reincarnation, forbidden love, the caste system and honor killings. All of these are amazing themes but they're all slightly touched upon instead of exlplored in depth. Had these factors been explored more, Shyam Singha Roy would have easily been a classic. The rise of Shyam Singha Roy would have also been an incredible experience but instead we see it in a montage in the form of a title song. With a film that should have been a classic, instead it just ends up being an average experience. The present day portions are a waste of time and you eagerly wait for the flashback knowing that will be the best of the movie. And it is. But then it ends and you're brought back to the present and just wait for the film to end. All in all, Rahul Sankrityan gets a lot of things right with the film but in the end you're left wondering what could have been and it results in a decent period drama.
Music and BGM by Mickey J Meyer is incredible. 3 out of the 5 songs are very good with the other 2 just being filler but I feel that his BGM output was his career best and it provides a lot of goosebump inducing moments. He is supported well by the lyrics of the legend Sirivennela Seethrama Sastry (may his soul rest in peace) for Sirivennela and Pranavalaya and Krishnakanth for the other 3 songs in the album. Pranavalaya is a visual delight on screen while Sirivennela is bound to be a classic both visually and audio wise. It's such a delightful song and Seetharama Sastry describes love in such a peotic way that only he could write and describe. All of the songs are well shot but the placement is not exactly the best as there's a song about once every 20 minutes.
Cinematography by Sanu John Varughese is WORLD CLASS. The Jersey fame cinematographer has dipped the movie in gorgeous colors and Shyam Singha Roy is a visual feast from start to finish. There are many contrasting colors throughout the film the most notable being brown for the flashback scenes and blue for the night scenes and present day scenes. He's left his visual prowess in every frame of the movie. The aerial shots during the flashback and the filming of Pranavalaya are simply breathtaking.
Special Mention needs to be made and for the first time a 3 Picture honor for the Production Design by Avinash Kolla. IT IS WORLD CLASS. The temple set costed Rs 6.5 crores (qeuivalent to $1 Million USD). A 100-year-old Kali temple set was constructed using bricks and clay to bring the authentic feel of an old Bengali temple. Over 1200 workers took two months to construct the special set that is spread across 10 acres in the outskirts of Hyderabad and the result is an absolutely stunning set that was a piece of art. Full credit to Avinash garu for making something so incredible. It was a visual feast on screen and will probably remain the biggest highlight of the movie. Pictures of the set are below.
Continuing, Editing by Naveen Nooli is decent. The film could have been smoother. Dialogues are Excellent throughout and credit to the person who wrote the Bengali dialogues as well. Costume Design was also outstanding. The fights in the movie are well choreographed especially the temple fight in 2nd half is Nani mass all the way. Lastly, Production Values are Niharika Entertainments are extravagant and grand. A lot of money has been spent on the film and it reflects in the overall production of the film. Debut producer Venkat Boyanapalli should be commended for backing a project and giving it such a huge scale and not compromising on any aspects. The reported budget was 50 crores ($7.5 million) making it the most expensive movie in Nani's career.
+ Sai Pallavi
+ Flashback Portion
+ Songs and BGM
+ Cinematography and Production Design
- 1st half
- Illogical Court Proceedings
- Present Day Portions as a whole
- Mediocre Direction
- Unconvicing Reincarnation Reasoning
When Shyam Singha Roy was first announced, it was actually supposed to be produced by Sithara Entertainments. But due to budget constraint disagrements between Naga Vamsi and Nani, the film changed producers and debut producer Venkat Boyanapalli decided to fund the project thus making his debut in Telugu cinema.
Then a poster featuring Nani's face and the Howrah Bridge in Kolkata was released. Slowly but surely more and more things were revealed about the film as Sai Pallavi, Krithi Shetty, and Madonna Sebastian were cast as the female leads and Sanu John Varughese and Avinash Kolla were hired to do the cinematography and production design respectively.
The teasers and trailers created a lot of curiosity and finally the film saw the lgiht of day on Christmas Eve, finally marking Nani's return to theaters. After a lot of hype and expectations, the movie isn't some blockbuster or classic that you'd expect. It's a decent movie.
The opening shot begins on a river with a boat burning with dancing bells inside of it. Shortly after Vasudev's intro begins and we know he wants to be a short filmmaker. We as an audience know the connection between the two characters and all of the proceedings leading upto the interval are quite frankly a waste of time.
However, the buildup in the pre interval scenes and the interval bang are superbly conceived. You eagerly wait for the flashback and it's worth it for the most part. The majority of the 2nd half deals with Shyam and Rosie's love story and you are hooked with whatever is going on. Special mention needs to be made to the temple fight scene in the 2nd half as it's the best scene in the movie. It carries the neecessary emotions and has lot of elevation shots and the BGM allows for a lot of goosebumps moments. It manages to stand out from the rest of the film due to the high it gives you.
After a predictable turn of events you're brought back to the present and suddenly you remember that you have to confront the court scenes one again. The climax provides the necessary closure and is bound to make you moist eyed.
That being said the movie does have it's issues such as the illogical court proceedings which are laughable and a waste of time with quite frankly the entire present day portions. If the director had made an entire feature film just based on the flashback it would have made for a much more riveting and amazing film.
Overall, Shyam Singha Roy is a decent period drama. Nani and Sai Pallavi's performances and chemistry, the stunning cinematography and world class production design and well composed album and BGM are outdone by an unwanted present day narrative and mediocre direction. In the end how much you connect with these types of love stories will depend on how much you like it, but you're left wanting so much more and feeling like it could have been so much better. Watch it for Nani, Sai Pallavi, and the technical brilliance throughout.
Signing off -
Teja Rao - Die hard Telugu Cinema fan.