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Srikanth Review

Rajkummar Rao does the best with what he is given and he ably elevates the generic story-telling. Too bad that his performance remains the only takeaway from such an inspiring real-life story, notes Mayur Sanap.

There's something about underdog stories that work really well as narrative device in films. The going against the odds, powering through highs and lows to realise one's dreams, makes for an entertaining watch. More so, if it is based on a real life personality.

In Srikanth, Director Tushar Hiranandani paints the life journey of Srikanth Bolla, a visually challenged industrialist who fought his way up and made his mission to help others like him.

There is a natural greatness of the story at hand and the film features a fantastic lead turn from Rajkummar Rao. Yet, Srikanth fails to soar because of the all too-familiar conventions of a standard biopic.


The film begins with Srikanth's birth in a village in Andhra Pradesh and over the duration of two hours, it spins the narrative through many important chapters of his life.

We learn that Srikanth wants to be India's 'first-ever visually challenged President'. No dream is too big for Srikanth, who doesn't see his blindness as a handicap and neither does he want to be sympathised for it.

He is sarcastic and sardonic, and there's a deep-rooted wit that shines through any difficult situation Srikanth finds himself in.

His fiery ambitions soar under the tutelage of his teacher (Jyotika), who is like his godmother.

They challenge the education system when his glowing marksheet fails to find him spot in the Science stream because of his blindness.

He passes this hurdle but the same adversity occurs when he is denied admission to coaching institutes for IIT. He drops his IIT plans and applies for foreign universities and eventually gets accepted as a scholarship student at the prestigious MIT in the US.

As he finds his base in the States, he bonds with Swati (Alaya F) who inspires him to go back to India and bring the change for people like him.

Upon returning home and many rejections later, fortune puts him with his future business ally Ravi (Sharad Kelkar) who decides to invest in Srikanth's start-up idea. Together, they embark on entrepreneurial journey that creates employment opportunities for visually impaired people.

As with most biographical films, Srikanth wants to capture many aspects of the protagonist's life but the episodic nature of the events never quite sets the right rhythm.

The writer duo of Jagdeep Siddhu and Sumit Purohit toy around with many different themes -- a rag-to-riches tale, mentorship, friendship, a love story, an entrepreneurial dream, study of a flawed personality and the eventual redemption.

Many of these aspects are haphazardly explored and don't combine into a compelling whole.

To Hiranandani's credit, he steers clear of overt melodrama that plagued his debut feature Saand Ki Aankh, but like in his earlier film, he is too focused on crowd-pleasing moments rather than telling a genuinely stirring story.

Take Srikanth's ego trip for example.

We see his pride and arrogance as a budding entrepreneur when he tries to align with a political party against the wishes of Ravi. It is nice that the film isn't afraid to show us his flaws but it doesn't delve deeper into his inner conflict which would have made his redemption arc much more satisfying.

The film barely scratch the surface of Srikanth's activist side or his equation with Ravi, that's so instrumental in his entrepreneurial journey. Perhaps a deeper exploration into reflective moments of his life would have made a difference.

But Srikanth has no time for that.

The ending feels rushed which is representative of the entire film highlighted in Srikanth's big climatic speech that's more suitable for an Akshay Kumar film.

The film's epilogue is especially jarring, with a summing-up real-to-reel moment that's one of the great cinema cliché book and it feels completely misplaced here.

For its biggest positive, Rajkummar Rao is never the reason this film misses.

As Srikanth, he is an emotional and determined force on screen. This is an author-backed role and Rao's ability to rise to the occasion wills this film along. His speech, ticks, hand gestures and all-around physicality power his very likeable performance.

Jyotika is a luminous presence as his all-seeing teacher Devika but her character suffers from the clichés of the writing. We barely know who she is and what her aspirations are besides her devotion for Srikanth.

The same goes for Sharad Kelkar's empathetic friend and Alaya F's pretty-girl-in-love act. They play two-dimensional caricatures in a film where they are just ancillary to the protagonist.

In the end, it's Rao who does the best with what he is given and he ably elevates the generic story-telling. Too bad that his performance remains the only takeaway from such an inspiring real-life story.

Srikanth Review Rediff Rating: