Radhe Shyam Movie Review: Uneven narration affects Prabhas and Pooja Hegde’s visually pleasing love story

Can love trump destiny? Can you be that cream de la creme of humanity who orchestrates your own fate? If you are destined to die single, can your willpower forestall the inevitable? ‘Radhe Shyam’, the latest box-office release, toys with mystifying questions without taking the pains to permeate the screenplay with irresistible ideas and profoundness. 

Vikramaditya (Prabhas) is a palmist who is known for infallible predictions. He believes even what we think is not in our control (which oddly justifies his occasionally perplexing ‘flirtationship’ antics, perhaps). He knows love and marriage are not happening, as per his horoscope. When he gets attracted to a doctor named Prerana (Pooja Hegde), he wonders if his fate can be altered at all. Prerana falls in love with him all the more deeply after a crisis hits her (and steps aside in a hurry). In a tumultuous turn of events, the male lead learns that there is more to life than plainly parroting what has  been scripted by the unseen power up above. 

Vikramaditya is a reluctant brand ambassador for fatalism. His character goes through inner churning that is seen but not felt. The existential threat feels like half a problem instead of a calamity. The serious scenes are intercut with a dash of distracting, sometimes parodic scenes involving the likes of Jayaram, Priyadarshi and even the lead pair.

The casting of supporting artists is unsatisfying. The conversations are unpardonably ordinary. The conflict plot point feels impersonal because we struggle to connect with the lead pair despite Justin Prabhakaran’s two sublime songs in the first half.

The film is bereft of stirring moments despite the unconventional, slightly impassioned premise; and that’s because of the occasionally inelegant staging of scenes. In a funnily bad episode, Vikramaditya invents the concept of practising death on the go! Prerana’s mimetic reactions only aggravate our frustration. The whole idea was supposed to be comical as well as poignant (?) in the pedestrian universe of the film.  

The film assiduously lacks tense moments that can keep us perched at the edge of our seats. The performances are unsettling because of the uneven casting. The Telugu version doesn’t even feel like a straight film for the most part. When Jayaram is around, it is like a Mollywood dub. When Kunal Roy Kapur is around, it is like a Bollywood dub. Such versatility was never expected, was it? 

The dialogues sound like they have been written for a feel-good, low-stakes romance. They (not all but too many) belong to the world of an amateur independent filmmaker’s cinematic universe, not a big-scale pan-India movie that is supposed to set the BO on fire.

The train does not look like a train from the outside. The hospital doesn’t look like one from the inside. Raveendar’s production design is substantial in some portions but not consistently outstanding. Manoj Paramahamsa’s cinematography doesn’t create haunting moments despite the galvanizing of high-end technology. The film nonchalantly mirrors the thinking of believers of fatalism. 

When the second trailer of the movie was released recently, this reviewer felt that Prabhas’ characterization will be more intense than what the songs (which are far better in Telugu than Hindi) suggest. It wouldn’t have been wholly unwelcome had Vikramaditya been a bit unpredictable and eccentric. Instead, he comes across as a typical lover boy trying to be over-cute. More than an easily irascible genius who doesn’t calibrate his responses, he is a routine dude who doubles up as a wanderlust. 

The scenes in second half where a key character makes a vain attempt at exposing Vikramaditya is redundant. When the first half has already established the hero’s unreal efficiency in palmistry for the audience, why waste screen time to do it for a mere supporting character? The love track is barely inventive when it comes to lighter scenes. They feel generic and are hardly the kind of situations that should happen in the dramatic life of a clairvoyant man. 

Prabhas is sincere in some scenes but looks demotivated when the writing fails him. Thaman’s background music lacks novelty.