Shakti: The Power
2002, NR, 170 min. Directed by Krishna Vamsi. Starring Aishwarya Rai, Ritu Shivpuri, Deepti Naval, Shah Rukh, Nana Patekar, Sanjay Kapoor, Karisma Kapoor.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 4, 2002
Shakti: The Power is an interesting new Bollywood release that is receiving a relatively large stateside release. The Hindi-language film (with English subtitles) is a peculiar mix of the usual Bollywood song-and-dance spectacle and an earthy dramatic realism (and I'm told that some of the dialogue resorts to particularly “earthy” indigenous dialect). Inspired by the American film Not Without My Daughter, Shakti: The Power tells the story of a Canadian-bred Indian woman Nandini (Karisma Kapoor), who marries and has a child with Shekhar (Sanjay Kapoor), a Canadian-based native of India who neglects to tell Nandini about his anguished past. Typical of the structure of this film, the pair's entire courtship, marriage, and birth of their son Raja is told during the course of a montage that accompanies a long song. When Shekhar suddenly learns (through quite unbelievable methods) of an outbreak of violence in his home region of India, he becomes hysterical and immediately packs up the family and heads for home. What he hasn't told Nandini is that his village has been engaged in a family blood feud in which revenge murders happen in a constant tit-for-tat fashion. The notorious Sicilians have nothing on this gang of infighters. Shekhar's father Narsimha (Patekar) is the lunatic patriarch of one side of the feuding family and dominates the fortress-like dwelling where his family and his minions live. In order to find respite from these deadly battles, Shekhar moved to North America, much to his father's shame since he now regards him as a coward. Through the course of events (this movie is nearly three hours long), Shekhar is murdered and Narsimha, who has nothing but scorn for his daughter-in-law, refuses to let his grandson leave and return to Canada with his mother. The second half of the movie becomes a harrowing battle between mother and grandfather, as Nandini attempts several escapes, only to be treated even more wretchedly upon each return. Ultimately, the woman triumphs (otherwise it would not be titled Shakti: The Power), but her struggle is arduous and bloody (and only reconciled at the very end by a rather unbelievable character turnabout). Occasionally, the breaks for the song-and-dance numbers come at awkward and disruptive narrative junctures, but on the whole Shakti: The Power is a moving and absorbing exercise. I suspect the film suffers a bit from trying to be all things to all people. But from my American perspective, the film is a gripping drama that is full of memorable faces, emotions, and conflicts between the old ways and the new.