'Shyam Singha Roy' movie review: Nani-starrer is so near and yet so far

Shyam Singha Roy misses the mark with its predictability and equal portions of romance, action and melodrama.
A still from Nani-starrer 'Shyam Singha Roy'.
A still from Nani-starrer 'Shyam Singha Roy'.

It's a moment of celebration for Nani and his fans as his new film, Shyam Singha Roy, has ended his OTT release streak and hit the screens on the eve of Christmas. Directed by Rahul Sankrityan, the film is a reincarnation saga revolving around love. 

Vasudev Ghanta (Nani) gives up his IT job to pursue his passion for filmmaking. He is determined to direct a low-budget short film, which later becomes a ticket for his debut film. He chances upon Keerthi (Krithi Shetty) at his friend's cafe and ropes her in as the lead of his short film.

Vasudev's dream gets fulfilled and he becomes a national sensation. In an unexpected turn of events, he finds himself accused of plagiarism and is on a legal trial. Keerthi's cousin and advocate Padmavathi (Madonna Sebastian) comes to his rescue and fights his case. Vasudev also battles occasional blackouts, which take him into the mysterious world of Shyam Singha Roy. 

Shyam Singha Roy is a fearless writer, who hails from a conservative upper-class Bengali family. He fights against caste inequalities and the exploitative Devadasi system. Even though he is an atheist, he attends the Navratri rituals at a local Kali temple to woo a Devadasi named Maitri (Sai Pallavi). 

Somewhere along the way, love blossoms and they spend the Navaratri nights at the banks of a river. The film's first half coasts along nicely, drawing its strength from the charm of its actors. This hour particularly strums up coolness and doesn't let you distract from the proceedings. It culminates with a delicious, unpredictable twist. But as the second half kicks in, you get a labored feel as the director resorts to using tired cliches as key conflicts. 

Much time and footage is wasted on the love track of Shyam and Maitri. Also, the director barely justified the ordeals faced by Shyam's family members and the reunion of brothers feels convenient and entirely contrived. Much of the film's strength comes from the endearing chemistry of Nani and Sai Pallavi. 

A few scenes like Shyam cooking a meal for his friends and setting up a home for other Devadasi women are well-crafted. Also a few sensitive and emotional moments like the societal differences that stand in the way of love, and the printing press owner with a heart of gold align well with the narrative. It seems that director Rahul Sankrityan is more capable of handling these conventional scenes. 

Moments like these are few and far between in this sluggish film that doesn't even create the required notions for a supernatural thriller. The mystery surrounding Shyam Singha Roy is predictable to the core that even the apparent climax twist doesn't come as a surprise. The logic behind it and the back-story to the supernatural premise is hardly clever.

To be honest, Shyam Singha Roy redeems itself in its authentic performances from the lead cast, which makes you overlook so many of its problems. The supporting cast is also bang-on, like Abhinav Gomatam, who is always by the side of Vasudev, Rahul Ravindran - a caring brother living his life with guilt and repentance and Madonna Sebastian as Vasudev's lawyer, who goes all guns blazing against her inspiration. 

Shyam Singha Roy is the most honest portrayal of Nani and he has put up an audacious and moving performance. You give her any kind of role and Sai Pallavi certainly knows how to take charge. She breathes life into the part, emerging as the biggest strength of the film. 

Krithi Shetty plays a character that is completely lovable and she has her moments in the tale. Madonna Sebastian infuses the real feeling on her part, particularly in the police station scene.  Sanu John Varghese's photography lends visual brilliance and he does it without resorting to the excess use of darkness. 

There's also some amazing production design from Avinash Kolla, who wonderfully recreated the 1950s Bengali era. Late Sirivennela Seetharama Sastry's Sirivennela song stands out among all the compositions of Mickey J Meyer. Overall, Shyam Singha Roy feels like a light story stretched into an over-long, predictable film with equal portions of romance, action and melodrama. There's just that one thin line that stops this film from being a masterpiece.

Cast: Nani, Sai Pallavi, Krithi Shetty, Madonna Sebastian

Director: Rahul Sankrityan

Rating: 2.5/5

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