Lal Salaam Review – A film that has heart in the right place – a sports film on national integration with a promising star cast is an opportunity lost for lack of brevity – writes Rajeshwari Kalyanam
Lal Salaam has an interesting cast and if one may say so – crowd pulling kind of star cast.
But that doesnt help this film much. Rajinikanth plays the role of Moideen who was originally to be a cameo in what was going to be a sports film but is extended into an fully extended cameo, and later the film makers promoted it in his name, but you only get that much of Rajini. It neither takes advantage of the magnetic presence of Thalaiva nor manages to leverage on the young heroes Vishnu Vishal (Guru) & Vikrant (Shamshuur, Moideen’s son). Yesteryear actress Nirosha is wasted in the role of Moideen’s wife. Jeevitha Rajasekhar who pours in an extra dose of emotion perhaps making up for the years she was away from silver screen is seen as Guru’s sorrowful mother. A little back story here – her deceased husband and Moideen have had a friendship which symbolised the peaceful vibe of their place Khasmur where Hindus and Muslims lived together happily and participated in each others festivities with love and respect for each other – which is what we learn in bits and pieces as the film progresses.
A friendship between a Muslim and Hindu will henceforth be referred to as this section and that section for convenience, and for the sake of the society that is easily offended on matters of religion and also because director Aishwarya Rajinikanth & writer often do so in this film (it is sad and a tad bit exhausting to repeatedly hear this reference to the two religions without mentioning them). One wonders if the mere mention of religion in a film which is otherwise on national integration would be so wrong. After all its obvious. Moideen who belongs to one section and does Namaaz five times a day and those who wear their prayer caps and the other section wearing their kumkum and planning their temple utsavam cannot be anyone else.
Coming back to the story Khasmur’s peace and united front and love between Moideen and his friend from other section is limited to their generation as the younger generation Shamshur, Moideen’s son and Guru are at constant loggerheads – which is only fired by cricket. This only gets worse as vested interests use the sport to divide and politics further fans the fire between the ‘two sections’ for ulterior motives.
And that more or less defines the film Lal Salaam – which loses it’s plot even before it begins. The film for majority of the first half is all about scenes and scenarios that establish the premise & characters – definitely one of the longest stretched character building one has witnessed for a film. Like a cricket team that bats well in the final overs which lifts the spirits, but fails to win – Lal Salaam starts happening in the final hour but then its too late by then. Some slick editing could have been a gamechanger.
The film could have used better screenplay too – the back and forth narration is choppy, and surely better writing, especially the dialogues. They lack the punch.
For the Telugu version Saikumar dubbed for Rajinikanth, which is a big change for Rajini fans – after all, one has heard Manu all these years & it is difficult to separate the superstar from the voice.
Music by Maestro AR Rahman raised expectations but fails to impress.
At times when one sided narratives and divisive politics are making inroads into society and cinema , and are enjoying patronage – a film that promotes national integration & using a popular sport like cricket to drive home the point is having the heart in the right place. It is also a brave and honest attempt to showcase the secular fabric of our country which is more visible in rural India. All the more reason , the makers of the film should have invested more energy into making this an impactful film. However this Lyca production remains an opportunity lost.
By the way there is Kapil Dev doing what he does best – playing cricket or rather acting as a coach – which is indeed the real cameo.