Shamshera (Ranbir Kapoor), a tribal leader, uprooted from his soil, is forced to plunder the wealth of the rich, who consider themselves a higher caste. Shudh Singh (Sanjay Dutt), an Indian officer of the British forces, betrays Shamshera’s trust, and enslaves his tribe along with him. While Shamshera loses his life trying to free his tribe from the dual clutches of the British and the high-caste people, his son Balli (Ranbir, again) dedicates his life to this rebellion 25 years later.
Shamshera takes off with a voice-over and illustrations about the Mughals defeating a particular people in Rajputana, who flee the invaders and head off to another part of India where they find themselves subjugated by those who, unlike the Mughals, would be considered their own by today’s majoritarian forces. In their new home they are exploited, demeaned and marginalised. They are neech jaat (low castes), to quote the language of the film’s villain.
Shamshera has a very entertaining first half, ending on a good interval block, but things dip in the second half only for proceedings to pick up again in the climax, which is a major high point. Also, you can’t help but notice the attempts to bring in a bit of the KGF and Baahubali feel to the scenes. The scenes with the tribals chained and whipped are too similar to the KGF visuals, while Baali’s mother’s outcry for revenge will ring a bell with moments from the masterpiece Baahubali.
After lending a quick, comic-book style context to the tribe’s roots and their cause, the film plunges into Shamshera’s story. That’s the point from where the film begins to slow down. And consistently so, it remains a slow-paced action-drama, involving a caste-led battle, a revenge plot with a romantic angle and collision with the British Raj. Too many themes colliding with each other, leaves us with confusion.
The film feels far too stretched for its thin storyline. Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt remain the lifeblood of this drama. Despite a weak storyline and a weaker screenplay and dialogues, the actors deliver honest performances. As always, it is great to watch Ranbir on screen as he makes great effort, trying to elevate an underwhelming story. In fact, each time the actors are together on screen, their exchanges are quite powerful.
For some reason, Balli always declines to be a part of the Khameeran tribe, but somehow he keeps coming back to ‘his people’. He keeps stalking a dancer Sona (Vaani Kapoor), asking her to marry him because he’ll be a king one day. His dream of serving the British army doesn’t serve him well after he faces Shuddh Singh, who’s also the killer of his father.
The supporting characters have very little to contribute to this drama. It would have helped a great deal if their characters had been curated with more attention and care.