Tollywood director Gunasekhar has a penchant for grand sets and visual effects. His previous films, Rudramadevi, Varudu and Mrugaraju, are testimonies to his obsession. So, when he set out to make a visual adaptation of the mythological tale, Abhignanasakunthalam, authored by ancient Indian poet Kalidasa, he had immense scope to display his passion and skill. It is not every day that a movie based on an epic hits the Telugu screens, and in that aspect, Shaakuntalam was a unique project.
Shaakuntalam, starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu in the lead, is a colourful rendition of the epic, but lacks a soul. At times, the experience can be equated to watching a play in an auditorium than a feature film. Gunasekhar’s biggest strength is also sometimes his weakness. His efforts are so entirely focused on crafting a visual wonder that a tighter script or a captivating narration takes a backseat.
Shaakuntalam is a story that has been widely read and narrated for centuries. Shakuntala (Samantha) is introduced as a beautiful woman who lives in a hermitage in a stunning landscape of snow-capped peaks and mesmerising greenery. She is bought up by sage Kanva Maharishi (Sachin Khedekar) and his disciples after being handed over to them by Menaka (Madhu), her mother. Shakuntala is shown as a pure soul who even befriends animals. King Dushyant (Dev Mohan) meets her while on a hunting expedition. There starts the love story of Dushyant and Shakuntala who get married as per Gandgarva tradition.
The second half of the story is about how a pregnant Gandharva attempts to reunite with him and the unpleasant consequences that lead to Shakuntala participating in a war against the Asuras.
Mohan Babu in a cameo as an angry Rishi Durvasa is imposing. The talented Prakash Raj has little screen time as he plays a boatman during a song. Allu Arha as Bharath, son of Shakuntala steals the show towards the climax.
Samantha as Shakuntala does justice to her role as a beautiful and innocent woman who lives through her ordeals. Her costumes and ornaments only enhance her on-screen grace. Dev Mohan as Dushyant fits well in his role as a warrior king who has a romantic side to him.
The sets are aesthetically designed and visual graphics involving animals, and palaces are interesting but lack innovation. For children, the movie can be repackaged as a fairy tale. Songs by Mani Sharma are bland and monotonous and nothing much to rave about.
Leaving the theatre, one cant help but have a lingering thought that it could have been better.
Cast: Samantha, Dev Mohan, Gautami, Mohan Babu, Prakash Raj, Allu
ArhaMusic: Mani Sharma
Producer: Neelima Guna