Salaam Venky Review: Kajol and Vishal Jethwa's film is a well intentioned, melodramatic tribute to Venkatesh & his mother

Film: Salaam Venky

Cast: Kajol, Vishal Jethwa, Rajeev Khandelwal, Rahul Bose, Aahana Kumra, Prakash Raj, Priya Mani, Riddhi Kumar, Aneet Padda, Jai Neeraj, Maala Parvathi, Kamal Sadanah

Director: Revathy

Rating: 3 Moons

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is among the rarest genetic disorder which is characterised by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness due to the alterations of a protein called dystrophin that helps keep muscle cells intact. This is no fiction but fact. Based on the story of a person named Venkatesh, Revathy's latest directorial Salaam Venky focuses on the genetic disorder and the importance of Euthanasia. 

The story of Salaam Venky orbits around Venkatesh Prasad (Vishal Jethwa), a young boy who has been diagnosed with DMD. Over a period of time, his muscles stop functioning normally, making him dependent on his mother Sujata (Kajol), and his medical team headed by Dr. Shekhar (Rajeev Khandelwal). Sujata, in spite of knowing that her son has limited time on his hand, shows the willpower to go to any lengths to give him a longer and happier life. Sadly, after 8 years of treatment, Venky's body starts giving up. 

Venky is intelligent, charming, and brave who sails through rough waters with a smile on his face. He shares a friend-like relationship with his mama and wants her to fulfill his wish for organ donation. Venky demands mercy killing or Euthanasia but Sujata is against it. Salaam Venky traces the journey of whether Sujata succumbs to her son's demand and what lies in store for her and Venky. 

Salaam Venky is Revathy's 5th directorial, including English, Malayalam, and Hindi. Given the nature of the content put on display in the film, it reaches the right target audience. If you walk in for drama, you'll find it throughout. Looking out for melodrama, of course, it is there. Signing up for subtle moments amid the loud drama, you will also get glimpses of subtly in those 2 hours 16 minutes. Revathy's intention behind Salaam Venky hits the bull's eye. It is a heartwarming, soft, and sweet tribute to Venkatesh who lived a life full of hardships with positivity and a bright smile on his face. 

Revathy keeps the atmosphere of Salaam Venky grim. Though there are moments that a light-hearted and easy on the eyes, it cannot be ignored that the film does get preachy and unnecessarily long. The scenes focused on Kajol-Vishal and Kajol-Aamir Khan are beautifully done. Projecting utmost sensitivity and dignity, Revathy directs the key hospital scenes beautifully. Especially, the idea behind Aamir's character is a masterstroke. 

Salaam Venky has its moments even though irregular. The fact that each and every character, especially Venky, Sujata, Nandini, and Sharda (Riddhi Kumar) get solid backstories to support their subplots. Visually simple and arresting, the film soars high in the first half as compared to the second. Some emotional outbreaks and turmoil are executed tastefully leaving you teary-eyed for a moment. The relationship between a mother and son is certainly the highlight of Salaam Venky.  

As mentioned previously, Salaam Venky relies heavily on melodrama and high-octane emotions to make people teary-eyed. The attempt to make the film a tribute to Venkatesh is decent but could have been tighter, relatable, and natural. Kolavennu Venkatesh, who was a master of chess, gets a tribute which in true essence fails to highlight his achievements. Somewhere, Salaam Venky pays more attention to the topic of Euthanasia than the person on whom the film is based. Most of the time, Venky, played by Vishal, is on the bed or in a wheelchair romancing Nandini (Aneet Padda), his blind childhood sweetheart. While the track is sweet and cute, it could have been trimmed a bit to fit in more about Venky and his moments of pride to allow the audience to connect and empathise with the character. 

It is understandable that Salaam Venky is a film and one cannot expect the core team to not take creative freedom. However, when Sujata is shown to be running pillar to post for her son, it is hard to believe that her hair is done in different and neat hairstyles. Her sarees are well-ironed and draped stylishly with her lipstick and makeup on point. All of this amid Venky's treatment? It is just too doctored.

The real star of Salaam Venky is Vishal Jethwa. He is simply magical and endearing as Venky. The actor gets one of the most complicated roles written in Hindi cinema this year and owns it with sheer dedication. The charm he brings to the silver screen is unmatched. There could have been no better and more seasoned actor than Vishal to pull off Salaam Venky

Kajol, in her usual element, is lovable as Sujata but that doesn't take away the fact that she is a tad bit loud for the role. There's no doubt that she brings her experience and motherly traits to the screen, but at several junctures, it pinches when she acts and emotes loudly. Having said this, it cannot be ignored that Kajol is among those who can cry well in front of the camera and make sure the sentiment reaches the audience. Yes, there are subtle moments and that's when Kajol steals the show. Especially in the sequence leading her to agree to Venky's demand for Euthanasia. 

Rajeev Khandelwal is charmingly good as Dr. Shekhar. He is the OG National Crush after all! Riddhi Kumar and Aneet Padda as Sharda and Nandini are lovable. They perform earnestly and shine brightly. Rahul Bose, Aahana Kumra, Prakash Raj, and Priya Mani excel in their brief yet poignant roles. Kamal Sadanah, in a cameo, does enough overacting which makes you wonder why was the sequence even included. 

The songs are a treat and complement the narrative. The cinematography is sharp and perfect. Salaam Venky could have been a bit shorter, especially when it ventures into becoming a courtroom drama. In a nutshell, Salaam Venky is for those who are seeking emotionally charged-up and melodramatic content. For the rest, Vishal and Kajol are enough to keep you glued to the screen. 

PeepingMoon gives Salaam Venky 3 Moons