First off, if the makers of the 2022 film ‘Radhe Shyam’ hadn’t shown Indira Gandhi in the film, viewers would have no way of knowing this film was set in the1970s, because the protagonist is an astrologer and he predicts that the Indian Prime Minister would impose a state of emergency in the country. The costumes and sets are so random, one minute you’d think it is the 1920s, the next could feel like 2020. Made on a staggering 300+ crore budget and shot over some stunning foreign locations, one can only guess they couldn’t spare any money on some basic research and better writers.

Directed by Radha Krishna Kumar, the film follows renowned Palmist Vikram Aditya (Prabhas), who never gets his predictions wrong. Vikram claims to have “no love line” in his hand and thus doesn’t pursue serious relationships. “I don’t do relationships, I only do flirtationships” he declares to a Caucasian chick who wants to marry him. But things change when he meets the beautiful Prerana (Pooja Hegde) who has a ridiculous entry scene – she is on a train, hair flying in a way one can barely see her face, yet three foreign men gape at her awestruck… Dikh kya raha hai tum logo ko bhai log? Chudail jaise toh baal udd rahe hai madam ke face pe… Anyway, we finally have a full face reveal and Prerana asks the men if they can handle her, she then throws her waist-belt at them and flings herself outside the train door, with her body hanging in the air, and the confused men hold on to the belt so she doesn’t fall to her death. Had she been an ‘influencer’ or Tiktoker, the scene would have probably made some sense, but it’s the 70s and apparently Prerana is a doctor. L-O-L. One can bet more doctors would like to have spare time like Prerana, to jump around in trains, doodle/deface public walls, travel around with strangers they’ve barely met and not take their careers seriously enough to give it all up for a boy.

The cinematography is gorgeous, everything is colorful, bright and many scenes look like they are out of a fairy-tale romance. However, the plot is so thin and silly, the lovely locations just cannot distract the viewer from the script’s failing. For most parts, the movie strongly tries to peddle astrology/palmistry as ‘99% science’, strengthening the belief that everything in a person’s life is already pre-destined. There’s obviously that little 1% rider, where they leave some scope for exceptions. “Only 1% people can fight their destiny and change their fate” we are explained.

70s was an interesting era, with distinct fashion styles and sub-cultures thriving around the world, and we see very little of that in ‘Radhe Shyam’. The music is mediocre and barely foot-tapping, even though some of the tunes do have a nostalgic touch to them, reminiscent of Bollywood numbers from the 1980s/90s. Prabhas and Pooja have such flat characters, there’s really not much to say about their performances. Some of their romantic scenes are a total snooze-fest. Prabhas needs to be lauded for doing his own dialogues for the Hindi version, but he has a slight drawl and isn’t as suave as his character requires him to be.

‘Radhe Shyam’ is basically a train-wreck, and had Pooja’s Prerana fallen off the train and died, it would’ve seemed like a deserved ending. There’s a weird Titanic like dramatic climax, where Vikram Aditya is battling for his life, because well… how can you have a Prabhas movie without him fighting against something, so what if it’s not goons or Katappa?

It’s a 4/10 from me.

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