It showcases Sujata, an ideal mother, who goes through the most difficult situations one can ever confront with a smile. Kolavennu Venkatesh, a young boy who suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare form of dystrophy that will lead to his death. He died in 2004, creating a national debate about euthanasia in India.
The film tells the story of a 24-year-old Venkatesh aka Venky, who has DMD (Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy), a rare but severe form of muscular dystrophy with no cure.
He has been fighting DMD with a resilience that has resulted in him defying medical expectations and his mother Sujata (played by Kajol) has been by his side throughout. By the time the audience meets Venky, even his doctor (Rajeev Khandelwal) has declared that his chances of survival are slim; now all that remains is Venky’s final wish and Sujata’s reluctance to fulfill it.
The conversation surrounding death in cinema is often diluted – deaths in film become either catalysts for a main character or “spoilers”. But Salaam Venky feels like a film about the reality of death and the grief associated with it, through the gut wrenching lens of a mother fighting an impossible battle while slowly watching her child die.
The adapted screenplay and story is credited to Sameer Arora with Kausar Munir credited for additional screenplay and dialogues. Salaam Venky is based on the book ‘The Last Hurrah’ by Shrikant Murthy.
A topic like this and the cast we’re presented with would’ve benefited from a more restrained and mature screenplay. Venky is someone who loves films to the extent of frequently quoting iconic dialogues and this should’ve been just an endearing aspect to his character instead of the becoming the only few times dialogues perfectly land.
Some of the dialogues come off corny instead of being heartfelt and that undercuts the already heavily saturated tone a lot. Having to portray a character who is both full of life and yet having to grapple with the fast-approaching reality of death sounds like a Herculean task and Vishal Jethwa as Venky delivers.
The film is dealing with the complicated debate of euthanasia – a subject that has been debated extensively in several forums, from the court of law to classrooms. Sanjay Leela Bhansali had previously touched upon the same in the Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai-starrer Guzaarish but the emotional tonality of the film was lost to its aesthetic.
The music by Mithoon doesn’t do it any favours. While the songs, albeit way too cheerful at times, are great, the music throughout the film only makes it harder to immerse oneself into the narrative.
While the film’s first half drags, the second half feels more promising. The mother-son duo’s appeal for euthanasia has reached the court of law and has sparked a national conversation.
An empathetic lawyer (Rahul Bose) and a reporter (Ahana Kumra) join the ‘fighter team’ and both actors play their parts well. One qualm, of course, is that the secondary characters aren’t given much beyond the lines on the script.
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