The power of Shakti is evidenced in its portrayal of the power of a mother's love, the exceptional performances, the steady execution and the rather innovative script. The film tells the story of an Indian woman, Nandini, who lives in Canada with her husband Shekhar and little kid Raja. All of a sudden her husband informs her that his family in India (of whom she had never been aware) is in troubles and the couple rush to India. When they get into the village, Nanadini is shocked and terrified to witness a very wild rural culture; Shekhar's family, ruled by his cruel, highly cynical and merciless father Narasimha, lives a poor and highly violent lifestyle which is full of murder and terror and where women are subservient and helpless. Nandini starts nagging Shekhar to return home, but he is soon killed by his father's enemies. When she wants to leave, Narasimha refuses to let her take Raja back to India. Here starts the intense struggle which can be called "Nandini vs. Narasimha".
India is not presented in a particularly positive light in this film, but it only shows a very tiny minority of its rural areas, so it may be even correct. The portrayal is in my view fair and not one-sided because the positive side is also presented to an extent. Such a horrifying sight could be shown in a film about any country in the world. The locations are amazing, the music is wonderful, and Krishna Vamshi's direction is aided by very effective cinematography and good editing. One thing that must be noted is the very ear-pleasing background score by Ismail Darbar, which is fantastic. The characters are very well defined though we do get to see both their bright and dark sides in different portions of the film. Portrayed realistically throughout, the film is totally chilling and gripping, and it flows well to create an interesting and fairly entertaining watch. The dialogues are superb, and although the shocking proceedings are disturbing at some points, a great deal of positive moments manage to relieve the tension.
The film's biggest strength is the performances. Karisma Kapoor is breathtaking and very believable as Nandini. Her ability to strike a balance between vulnerability and unrestrained emotion is simply incredible. She displays so much intensity, anguish and determination as the mother who wants to get her son back that this little kid seems to be her own son. Her outbreaks while facing off Nana Patekar which are like volcanic eruptions show us how the simplest of women can become a tigress when it comes to her child. After Fiza, this is her most powerful performance. One of the greatest actors Indian cinema has seen, Nana Patekar is indescribable as Narasimha. He manages to be hateful as Narasimha yet admirable as the actor who plays him. Patekar displays cruelty, wittiness and even humanity with total conviction, and his dialect and mannerisms are outstanding. Another great performance comes unsurprisingly from India's most underrated actress, Deepti Naval, who sensitises her character to perfection. Sanjay Kapoor is just adequate and Shahrukh Khan provides great comic relief. Anyway, do watch Shakti - it could have been better, but it is definitely a must-watch.
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