The major Indian movie release of this week is mega-budget Telugu language historical Shaakuntalam.
The eye-catching drama headlined by popular actress Samantha Ruth Prabhu is the latest film adaptation of a story rooted in ancient Indian tradition.
To mark the marvellous looking movie, which will also be released in multiple
dubbed languages including Hindi, Eastern Eye decided to present 10 reasons that make it special.
Origin: Classical Sanskrit author Kalidasa is widely regarded as ancient India’s greatest poet and playwright. He left behind an amazing body of work that keeps inspiring creative minds over 1600 years after he wrote them. Abhijnanashakuntalam is considered as his finest work and has been rightly revered across the centuries. New film Shaakuntalam is the latest adaptation of that legendary play, written by the revered genius sometime before the fifth century.
Story: This story of a sage’s beautiful daughter, who marries a king pretending to
be a commoner, and him later not recognising her while she is pregnant, after being cursed has lost none of its immense power. A sign of just how special this story is can be seen by the influence it has had on popular culture across the centuries. There have been theatre plays, books, and high profile movie adaptations across diverse languages in India based on the play. It has also crossed over internationally, including operas in the west.
Headliner: Popular movie star Samantha Ruth Prabhu plays the title role. She is regarded as one of this generation’s finest actresses and guarantees a great performance every time. Not surprisingly, her huge fan base is eagerly waiting to see her on the big screen. She said that although the mythological drama is rooted in ancient history, her character is like an empowered modern-day woman, with relatable human emotions contemporary audiences will connect with, such as love, betrayal, redemption, and inner strength.
Strong cast: The strong cast also includes acclaimed actors Dev Mohan, Sachin Khedekar, Mohan Babu, Aditi Balan, Prakash Raj and Madhoo. Interestingly cinema superstar Allu Arjun’s daughter Allu Arha makes her movie debut, playing the title character as a child – lead actress. Samantha described the youngster as fearless and a born superstar.
Biggest adaptation: The live cinema adaptations of Abhijnanashakuntalam started
with silent movies in 1920. There were many more in the subsequent decades, including 1966 Telugu version Sakunthala, which was headlined by iconic legends NT Rama Rao and B Saroja Devi. There have also been theatre plays and various television dramas inspired by the same story. This 2023 movie is by far the biggest budget version, with no expense being spared on
special effects, costumes, cast and everything else. This one compared to a Disney movie, is the most eye-catching version.
Pan-Indian: Shaakuntalam is the first pan-Indian film based on the classic play. There
are dubbed versions of the Telugu language drama being released in multiple Indian languages, so it will also be available for audiences in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada. Lead star Samantha dubbed the Telugu, Hindi, and Tamil versions herself.
Gunasekar: After a series of misfires, film-maker Gunasekar
found his footing as a writer, director, and producer with smash hit historical Rudramadevi in 2015. This is his first movie released since then and very much in the same space, which has raised expectations.
Visual feast: State of-the-art special effects created by talents around the world have turned Shaakuntalam into an eye-catching spectacle, with huge sets, creatures and a larger-than-life feel. There is also a 3D version being made available to audiences, which adds another extra layer to the movie. What adds to the visual splendour is the costumes created by multi award-winning fashion designer Neeta Lulla.
Super songs: Ace music director Mani Sharma has created top tracks that combine classical music with a contemporary sound. He has assembled world class singers for songs that have received a positive response and will inevitably be elevated to a higher level when seen on the big screen. All of the songs have been re-recorded in different languages for the various dubbed versions.
Tollywood: Whether it has been the two Baahubali epics, Pushpa: The Rise or RRR, Telugu cinema has been red-hot in recent years with record-breaking movies. This has turned Tollywood into one of the most exciting film industries globally. The historical looks like it will continue that momentum.