At least for most Hyderabadis, watching Shankar Dada Zindabad will make it seem like they are watching it again. They know everything that's going to happen, and they are going just because there's Chiranjeevi in it.
Indeed, Shankar Dada Zindabad is a frame-to-frame remake of Lage Raho Munnabhai
, which was a cult hit, running about 115 days in Hyderabad - a huge feat for a Hindi movie - which means a large number of locals would have seen it, given that almost every Hyderabadi speaks Hindi.
So there is simply nothing to look forward to for the average Hyderabadi in the film, except Chiranjeevi and the aura surrounding him. Even the audiences don't seem as excited as they normally are in a Chiranjeevi film - there is simply no sense of anticipation.
Everyone knows the story. Shankar Dada is in love with Jahnavi (Karishma Kotak - and yes, even the heroine's name hasn't been changed), a radio jockey, and, to get close to her, presents himself as a Professor of Gandhism to her. When she asks him to deliver a lecture on Gandhism, he needs to sit day-and-night in a library reading about Gandhi, until he starts hallucinating under the stress and starts seeing Gandhi.
Gandhi (Dilip Prabhawalkar) advises Shankar Dada to follow the path of truth if he wants to win over Jahnavi, but Shankar Dada doesn't do it until things reach a head when his enemy Rajalingam (Sayaji Shinde), a land shark, threatens to expose him to her. He then confesses to her himself, leading to her dumping him.
With Gandhi's help, however, Shankar Dada becomes a hit agony-uncle RJ, as his solutions on air to people's problems, based on being upright and tolerant and forgiving, start working like a charm. He soon fascinates and wins the love of an entire city, who all take to showing love to Rajalingam to persuade him to change and return a house he's grabbed from some old people.
Make no mistake - it's a good movie, and if it were an original film, it would have been one of Telugu's best, just like the original is one of Bollywood's best. It's just that once you know something is not original, you kind of don't respect
it, even if you get entertained by it. Just like several people lost respect for it after discovering the huge hit song Manasa from Munna was a copy
, but still listen to the song. (Well, at least Shankar Dada Zindabad has never claimed to be original.)
The movie will however take an extremely good message into the nooks and corners of AP, given Chiranjeevi's reach. Some fraction of people, whose decisiveness about what they consider practical has still not overtaken their malleability, still change by watching movies, and perhaps "Gandhigiri" will find following in interior Andhra.
Chiranjeevi is of course good, but doesn't appear like the Chiranjeevi in a Chiranjeevi movie. Most of it has to do with the plot and the character - this is a concept movie, not a "Chiranjeevi movie" - but somehow some of the usual energy and spark appears missing. Yes, it closely matches what Sanjay Dutt did in the original, but if that was the idea, there was no need for it to - Dutt won no popular awards
for his portrayal despite the movie being such a hit.
Karishma Kotak is good in her performance, even if not conventionally good-looking. Srikanth as ATM is good, too, though there are not too many scenes here that make you guffaw confidently. Dilip Prabhawalkar reprises his role in the original as Gandhi, and it's expectedly cakewalk for him. Sayaji Shinde is his usual energetic self.
The music is good - Devisri Prasad may just about be able to deliver more than his best-case-scenario of one hit per movie. Good Morning Hyderabad is particularly impressive. After listening to the song before the release, you'd have expected a more artistic picturization on it - something like the songs in Jaan-e-Mann. This is just a normal Chiranjeevi dance routine.
There's not much to talk about anything else like direction or dialogues, since this is basically a translation of the original. Let's hope the next Shankar Dada film will be a completely original script.
Shankar Dada Zindabad is worth a watch for those who haven't seen the original, and still worth it for Chiranjeevi's fans.