sooraj pancholi

Sooraj Pancholi stars in “Satellite Shankar.” (photo provided)

MUMBAI — Super Cassettes Industries Private Limited is the original version of the business concern that is called T-Series today. This term has now become the alternative banner under which the front-line production company and music label produce smaller films, much like Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji ALT or Subhash Ghai’s Mukta Searchlight, who also go off-mainstream under this name.

“Satellite Shankar” is the new film made under this banner as co-producers, along with the team that made the recent “Kabir Singh” and also “Mubarakan” (2017).

However, every film is worth only its merits. Either this movie should not have been green-lit in the first place, or a lot of attention was needed to flesh it out. At least, leading man Sooraj Pancholi’s second outing after his debut film “Hero” (2015) needed to make a success because of his clear earnestness, never mind that his expressions are still limited.

Again, like “Saand Ki Aankh” (only in terms of intention), the heart is in the right place, but that’s about it. In a bid to show how a soldier serves India and its people selflessly even when on leave (that too because of an injury at the border), the film goes overboard in many ways, and the whole story behind his being called “Satellite Shankar” is absurd in concept. Audiences are likely to not understand a battery-operated idol of Lord Shankar and its use as shown in the film!

Shankar, a rifleman with a contingent at our border, gets injured in an exchange of Indo-Pak firing and is recommended a week’s rest. He requests his superior to let him spend those days in visiting his home in Pollachi, Kerala, instead of a hospital bed, as his widowed mother (a Punjabi married to a Malayalam) needs a cataract surgery.

It takes three days for him to travel there, and on the way, several things go wrong due to seemingly natural reasons. He then gets just a few hours at home (he has not been there for over a year) but even manages to get his mother’s surgery done!

Having taken a “sainik shapath (soldier’s vow) to return by a particular time on a specific day, however, it is how he reaches back on time despite seemingly-insurmountable obstacles form the crux of this melodramatic film. And the solution is as incredible and illogical as possible: he has encountered a vlogger, Meera (Palomi Ghosh), with whom he shared a cab from Kathua (where he has to help an old Bengali couple with their baggage and miss his train) to Pathankot, where he can next get into his South-bound train.

In “Bawarchi” (1972) and other idealist-based films’ fashion, Shankar sets right so many things and people on the way, and Meera, who somehow becomes aware of his benevolent activities in every event from a bus accident to tackling goons, vlogs about him and makes him a national hero. How Shankar is filmed no matter where he is and what he does is, frankly, super-unbelievable.

In the process, he also meets and falls in love with Pramila (Megha Akash), his mother’s choice as a bride for him. And the climax, where he encounters trouble with hostile and pro-Pakistani stone-pelters in Kashmir, stretches the limit of both logic and the film’s length.

Pancholi is sincere, but his face, as said before, needs a lot more mobility. Megha Akash is pleasing but has little by way of role and footage. Palomi Ghosh goes over-the-top, in sharp contrast to the sincere performer she can be. No one else has any role to speak of, but Upendra Limaye as the senior cop who reforms impresses.

Though the film takes you on a virtual tour of India from Kashmir to Kerala, it spends considerable and needless time and footage in Punjab, just so the normal overdrive of Punjabi culture and songs be followed. After all, who has the will, time and talent to depict the excellent cultures of the rest of India?

The music, as usual nowadays, has nothing to recommend, other than the negative virtue of there being no re-created number in a T-Series production!  

On the technical side, Jitan Harmeet Singh, son of the veteran DOP Harmeet Singh, does a fantastic job of the camerawork, shining especially in Kashmir and Kerala. The background score (Sandeep Shirodkar) is alright. Irfan Kamal’s direction is fair, but his script (with Vishal Vijay Kumar) pulls down the movie completely, with everything becoming too repetitious or melodramatic.  The very few highs are the taxi sequence with corrupt cabbie (Asif Basra) and to an extent, the station sequence in Kerala and the use of a Tamil letter to bring back harmony in Shankar’s friend Anwar’s household.

But who watches a film only for three or four sequences and fab camerawork? On the whole, the film does not make the grade, neither in intent nor execution. In that sense it emerges as a disservice to our brave servicemen.

Rating: *1/2

Produced by: Murad Khetani, Ashwin Varde, Bhsuhan Kumar & Krishan Kumar

Directed by: Irfan Kamal

Written by: Irfan Kamal & Vishal Vijay Kumar

Music: Mithoon, Rochak Kohli, Tanishk Bagchi & Sandeep Shirodkar

Starring: Sooraj Pancholi, Megha Akash, Palomi Ghosh, Anil Reji, Sameer Deshpande, Upendra Limaye, Sanjay Gurbaxani, Pradeep Singh, Anurag Mishra,

Asif Basra, Subrat Dutta & others

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