Vakeel Saab is the remake of the Hindi film Pink. Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and writers Shoojit Sircar, Ritesh Shah would have never imagined that even a sober subject such as Pink could be turned into an exercise in hero adulation.

Telugu star Pawan Kalyan’s latest film Vakeel Saab started streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Friday. The digital premiere of the movie was moved forward by the filmmakers after it sort of became pointless to keep the film in theatres any longer considering the raging pandemic.

The film’s theatrical run was more or less about allowing the die-hard fans to show their unconditional love for Pawan Kalyan, who was missing in action on the big screen for about three years. And that was accomplished. The film released on April 9 to packed houses across the Telugu states, despite the growing intensity of the second wave of coronavirus. And this movie was solely designed for a theatre atmosphere. It is hard to get hysterical for every line uttered by Pawan while watching at home alone or with older family members.

Vakeel Saab is the remake of the Hindi film Pink. Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and writers Shoojit Sircar, Ritesh Shah would have never imagined that even a sober subject such as Pink could be turned into an exercise in hero adulation. It was supposed to be a thought-provoking film about encouraging people to stop seeing the world in black and white. And it was supposed to educate people about respecting a girl’s right to reject intimacy, irrespective of the time and place she is in.

Pink centred on the struggles of three independent girls, played by Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang. And the filmmakers had made the male protagonist played by Amitabh Bachchan as dull and sad as they could. At the end of the film, we finally see Bachchan’s character get angry and move his muscles as he makes his closing arguments in the court.

And out of good intentions, and being aware of the importance of the subject Pink tackles, Ajith decided to remake this film in Tamil. For he wanted to use his stardom to amplify a good message. However, it is also sort of blasphemy not to consider the feelings and expectations of the star’s fan base.

So director H. Vinoth made a few alterations to Amitabh Bachchan’s character. Now the character can be tormented. But, it cannot be physically weak, given that Ajith was now essaying the role. Vinoth gave a backstory to Ajith’s Bharath Subramaniam, which was denied to Bachchan’s Deepak Sehgal in Pink. The story tells us why Bharath turned into a tormented soul and explains his current condition. And of course, the director had placed an action scene in the narration to demonstrate the physical prowess of Bharath.

Once Vinoth fulfils the textbook parameters of a big star film, in the second half of Nerkonda Paarvai, he reverts to being loyal to the original film. The focus comes back on the three girls Shraddha Srinath, Abhirami Venkatachalam and Andrea Tariang, and their right to say no. It is important to note that Vinoth did not change the social and cultural background of the three girls in the movie. And Ajith goes back to being a dull and sad lawyer for some time before he delivers a fiery speech underlining the phrase: no means no.

Vakeel Saab, however, is set in a different genre, tone and universe compared to Pink and Nerkonda Paarvai. Director Venu Sriram places Pawan’s Satyadev, the lawyer, at the centre of the movie, while the three female characters, who were the beating heart of Pink and Nerkonda Paarvai, are reduced to just damsels in distress. He also alters the social and cultural background of the women characters to make them look more agreeable. In other words, the director seems to have thought that the audience may not completely root for the women if you make them very independent and strong. They could be independent and fully enjoy our moral support as long as they fall within the conventional definition of “women of a respectable household.”

Venu Sriram borrows heavily from the characterization of Bharath Subramaniam and unapologetically amps up the heroism. He completely strays from Pink, turning its Telugu remake into a movie about the conventional hero defending the honour of helpless women. He also blurs the lines between Pawan Kalyan’s real-life persona and his character. Instead of making a film on women’s rights, it sort of becomes a propaganda film, where Pawan promises he’s all for women’s rights.

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