Home INDIA Patna Shuklla Review: Raveena Tandon Tries Her Best To Propel The Film But It Is A Losing Battle

Patna Shuklla Review: Raveena Tandon Tries Her Best To Propel The Film But It Is A Losing Battle

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Patna Shuklla Review: Raveena Tandon tries her best to propel the film forward, but it's a losing battle


Raveena Tandon in a still from Patna Shuklla. (politeness: disneyplushotstar)

New Delhi:

A boxing analogy might not be out of place in a courtroom drama – it comes from the mouth of one of the advocates involved in the legal battle that the film revolves around – but Patna Shukllastarring Raveena Tandon and streaming on Disney+Hotstar, doesn’t generate nearly the energy and intensity you expect when two boxers jump into a ring and start throwing punches at each other.

Patna Shuklla, directed by Vivek Budakoti and produced by Arbaaz Khan, is a well-intentioned exercise that could have done with more enthusiasm. The film makes all the right noises about the abuse of political power and the anomalies plaguing the higher education system, but it does so in a way that is so bland that all its good intentions come to nothing.

The difficult drama has one random twist too many. The revelations, most of which come together in the last quarter of the film, serve solely to place an obstacle in the protagonist’s path or to facilitate her chosen course of action.

The film’s titular character, Tanvi Shukla (Tandon), has Patna attached to her surname by the city’s mass media where she becomes a minor celebrity when a case falls on her lap and the public supports her and her underdog client.

Tanvi, who is popular in the Patna court for her culinary skills, has been fighting frivolous cases for years while balancing her career with her family responsibilities. Her husband, Siddharth Shukla (Manav Vij), is an engineer with the municipal water board. Her only son suffers from asthma.

To be fair to her life partner, the man is honest about what he thinks of Tanvi’s work as a lawyer. But to please her, he says that the line under his signature is ‘you’. Even my signature is not complete without you, he claims. These are just words, of course. The movie is no different. It tries to say a lot, but the lyrics aren’t quite right.

The housewife-lawyer’s public fame stems from her advocacy for Rinki Kumari (Anushka Kaushik), the daughter of a rickshaw puller who falls prey to a marksheets scam and flunks her B.Sc. third year exam. Turns out the man responsible for the girl’s fate is Raghubir Singh (Jatin Goswami), son of a powerful politician who uses his power to replace his marksheet with Rinki’s.

The battle Tanvi is waging, whether in the courtroom or in society at large, is not one of equals. The institution Rinki is suing – it’s called Vihar (not Bihar) University and Patna Shuklla was filmed in Bhopal, not Patna – is represented by top lawyer Neelkanth Mishra (Chandan Roy Sanyal).

Neelkanth is the smooth-talking guy who equates a legal jousting with a boxing match. He is a heavyweight in every sense. After choosing someone who is not quite his size, stubborn Neelkanth is convinced that Tanvi has no chance of winning the case.

The politician – he is accused of resorting to unfair means to acquire the degree he needs to file his nomination papers for an upcoming election – is missing no opportunity to weaken Tanvi’s resolve. He twists her with his arms in every possible way, but the lady stands firm because she is determined to ensure justice for Rinki.

Judge Arun Kumar Jha (Satish Kaushik in one of his last roles) is obsessed with balance, and that’s how it should be. He respects Neelkanth given his reputation as a lawyer, but stands firm against him when the overbearing defender crosses the line.

Patna Shuklla, written by Budakoti, Sammeer Arora and Farid Khan, marks an issue of importation and depicts a struggle to ensure that the weakest of the weak get a fair chance at justice. But the narrative style the film adopts succumbs to crushing gloom in its quest for solemnity.

The title isn’t the only thing that’s baffling about this film. The choice of Bhopal as a filming location for a story set in Patna is strange, to say the least. Not that Patna Shuklla is the first ever Hindi film to portray Bhopal as a city in Bihar. But those who have done it before – most notably a pair of political thrillers by Prakash Jha – had the dramatic ability to make up for the locational freedom.

With the focus completely on Tandon’s lawyer, the wronged girl is reduced to a side player. That significantly reduces the impact of the film’s central theme. Anushka Kaushik, the actress who plays the troubled Rinki Kumari, is a skilled film performer (viewers may remember her from her roles in Disney+Hotstar’s Ghar Waapsi and Prime Video’s Crash Course). She deserved a lot more play for the sake of the story.

Rinki’s pitiful financial status is repeatedly emphasized, as is her complete lack of social power. But the film fails to muster the courage to mention her caste. That, like so many other choices Patna Shuklla undermines its purpose. The film would have made its point much clearer had it included the angle of caste discrimination in the legal drama.

The simplistic methods, which revolve around sudden and laborious revelations of unspoken truths, are sometimes excruciatingly unpleasant. They undermine a whole series of serious performances.

Raveena Tandon does her best to bring the film out of its stupor, but it’s a losing battle. This is despite the fact that she gets tremendous support from the cast of actors led by the late Satish Kaushik, whose wonderfully well-modulated performance shows why his untimely demise is such a loss for Hindi cinema.

Chandan Roy Sanyal, Manav Vij and Jatin Goswami do everything they can to liven up the proceedings within the constraints imposed by the script.

To finish, here’s another boxing analogy. It is much more appropriate than what was mentioned earlier in this review. Neelkanth Mishra tells his client, Vice Chancellor Harsh Sinha (late Rio Kapadia) of Vihar University about the existence of something called a ‘strike fight’. It refers, he says, to a match between inexperienced boxers scheduled after the main event. It causes a strike from the arena.

Patna Shuklla, no matter how hard it tries to engage us with the important questions it raises with all the seriousness they deserve, is the cinematic equivalent of a strike fight. It’s far too stiff and stiff to be a meaningful call to action.


Raveena Tandon, Satish Kaushik, Anushka Kaushik, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Manav Vij and Jatin Goswami


Vivek Budakoti and Rajendra Tiwari

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