Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

Vakeel Saab is the story of three girls who take matters into their own hands when a minister’s son tries to outrage the modesty of one of them. Shockingly, it is the perpetrators who sue the three girls and they are unable to find a lawyer who would defend them in the court as they are all afraid of the minister’s clout. When all hope seems lost, Satyadev Konidela walks into their lives and takes over the task of defending their freedom, modesty and also ensuring that the perpetrators get what they deserve.

Vakeel Saab is the second remake of the Amitabh Bachchan – Taapsee Pannu starer Pink. The film got a theatrical release on 9th April 2021 and has quickly found its way to the OTT platform probably because of the pace with which theaters are being closed off across the country. It is also because of how well the film was doing in the theaters and the makers must have felt that it was the best time to release the film on the OTT as the word of mouth was strongly in its favour. Being the second remake of a film that was a hit and had an iconic protagonist like Amitabh Bachchan is never easy and Vakeel Saab had to have something that Pink or for that matter Nerkonda Paarvai (Ajit Kumar, H. Vinoth) didn’t have.

As it appears, the director Venu Sriram decided to add a lot more meat to the titular character’s background. Keeping in line with the image of Pawan Kalyan, he decided to add atleast half a dozen action sequences. The film, unlike its two predecessors traces the origin of Vakeel Saab Satyadev (Pawan Kalyan) and we are shown how he chose to be a lawyer to advocate for the poor and needy who didn’t have access to justice because of the system. We see his love story with a vibrant and vivacious Shruti Hassan and how he was not there to take care of her when she needed him the most. The fact that he was also unable to save the poor from slipping into an abyss of fear and subjugation and the tragic loss of his wife and child makes him cynical and an alcoholic.

If is only after he crosses paths with the three girls, Nivetha Thomas, Anjali, and Ananya Nagalla who desperately turn to him for help when all doors close on them that Vakeel Saab comes back to his older ways and starts his war for the ones who cannot defend themselves. The second half of the film is mostly about the court proceedings and here it becomes an exact replica of its predecessors. Whatever little difference is there is in the rendering of the protagonist by Pawan Kalyan.

His physicality is overwhelming and the director puts in an action sequence wherever he gets the slightest of a chance. The goons of the minister attack Vakeel Saab thrice and each time they meet with the same result. After the second attempt they should have know better but then how we would have got the epic action sequences with another terrific S. Thaman score pulsating in the background. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the background score plays a stellar role in elevating the heroism of these sequences and Pawan Kalyan knows how to react and play to the beats of the score. The action sequences are not extraordinary but they are definitely heroic enough to keep you hooked.

Pawan Kalyan’s terrific performance is the biggest plus of the film along with the social issues that it tries to raise. Kalyan gives a performance that feels like he is actually feeling every insult thrown at his clients and is desperate to save their modesty by bringing the perpetrators to justice. His frustration often finds its way out through violence but it is never unwarranted. Kalyan is able to transfer his interpretation and attitude towards the situation into physical expression that makes the viewer understand his mental state and also endears his character to them.

Prakash Raj as the prosecuting lawyer, Nanda Gopal is as good as he always is. He is especially vicious when he is shown cross examining Nivetha Thomas and Anjali. The lack of empathy that he shows towards the girls and the ease with which he is shown to accept the perpetrator’s actions and defend him makes him the perfect antagonist for the story. Unfortunately, the three female actors, Nivetha Thomas, Anjali, and Ananya Nagalla are unable to evoke any tension or feeling for the characters. Nivetha Thomas is partially successful in breathing some life into some of the interrogations that she is shown facing. She tries to recreate Taapsee Pannu’s rendition of the character beat per beat and that doesn’t serve her well as parallels can be easily drawn and she invariably falls short when compared. The other two neither have the acting guile or the screen presence to merit the attention of the viewers.

Vakeel Saab suffers from the same problem that Pink did. The court proceedings cannot be taken seriously after the manner in which it ends and the quantum of punishment that the perpetrators receive. The best thing that a remake could have done was to fix this error in the writing. All the makers had to do was hire an advocate and work out how the proceedings could be tweaked to document the guilt of the perpetrators and how that could be quantified with strong evidence. Sadly, that is not the case here and we are forced to gulp down the same jingoistic nonsense that forces us to accept anything when it is being related by three teary-eyed women. Thankfully the courts don’t work that way. A much better example of how to solve these issues is addressed in another film, Section 375 (Akshay Khanna, 2019).  

Vakeel Saab is for the Pawan Kalyan fans for those who enjoyed Pink but thought that there should have been some action in it. Chuckle! Chuckle! While it adds nothing to the basic plot line, the protagonist gets a facelift, is given a detailed back-story and turned into a Rambo on alcohol. While many would despise these changes, I enjoyed it immensely. 

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