Rating: 2.5/5
Director Krishna’s film makes use of conventional narrative offering hardly anything novel

Baadshah Pehlwaan (the Hindi version of the original Pailwaan in Kannada) on one hand boasts of a gripping emotional journey of a wrestler and his bond with his coach cum almost-father. But takes the same old routine road to reach to the destination. Packed with some jarring and superfluous slow motion wrestling moves to the goons playing their wicked and dirty politics, to one man wanting his son to fulfill what he couldn’t- the film offers nothing new in terms of the content. Look back at every film from the genre and you’ll find the same elements trying to fetch you.

Watch the trailer here: 


A former village wrestler Sarkar (Suniel Shetty) one day notices a young orphan boy Krishna (Kichcha Sudeepa) fighting a group of boys for some good. He decides to adopt him and eventually train him to become a world class wrestler. But that isn’t all, for Krishna upsets a set of goons who happen to be henchmen of Rana (Sushant Singh), an evil and oppressive ruler. What is also a distraction from the focus is that Krishna falls in love with Rukmini (Aakanksha Singh).

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D S Kannan, Madhoo, and Krishna have penned a story that is layered but as they unfold, you keep on predicting what will happen next. It’s a done-to-death execution where all the elements that make up a story have been seen, cherished, and over time even been ignored. What is new in the film then, you would ask. Hardly anything.

The film does have style and suits the sensibilities of cinema, but this is not at all a film one would want to see in 2019 especially after so many films on the similar topics, and that too involving wrestling as a passionate sport. Even if you remove wrestling from the plot, the film is still very much seen and rubbished right from 80s and 90s. In fact in the first half, it seems more of a love story, with too much impetus on establishing a chemistry between the lead pair, than a passionate wrestling film.

pehlwaan, hindi, review, film, 2019
A scene from the film (image source:

Talking about how it is actually shown is what makes you cringe in your seats. You want the film to end soon, not because it is bad or intolerable but only because it gets repetitive. Also, the unnecessary slow motion sequences during the wrestling portions elongates the already prolonged film. Imagine watching a sequence in real time and suddenly it turns into slow motion. For once, it thrills you and makes the impact. But if the same happens in every scene, you know something is wrong with the collective team of director, cinematographer, and the editor.

Also slipping into a full blown boxing mode, the film also makes a social and emotional commentary but even that seems out of place.


Kichcha Sudeepa is in full form. He performs ably and suits in the role of a meaty wrestler fully. But as the protagonist of the film, he doesn’t have much to say. Never to be blamed at any given point, as a powerhouse performer, Sudeep blows life in a character that otherwise would not have emerged victorious.

Suniel Shetty is also very good. He makes you believe in him and the conviction of the character he puts his efforts for. In fact, you watch the film with some interest only because of these two very good actors. They say quite a lot through their face, hence winning you, which the content fails to do.

pehlwaan, review, film, hindi, 2019
Sudeepa and Aakanksha Singh during promotions (image source:

Sushant Singh is capable of so much more. Is this the same man who early in his career scared us with Veerappan-like Durga Narayan Chaudhary in 2000 film Jungle? You neither disgust this man, nor you fear him. It’s a caricaturish portrayal of character who’s written only to make him different from earlier villains in cinema. But the writers couldn’t do so.

Aakanksha Singh is decent in her act, but suffers again due to cliché presentation of a girl in a male-dominated film. The scenario has changed a bit in general, but not here.


Songs by Arjun Janya don’t do anything good for the film. They seem to be there because it’s an Indian film, so going by the norms, it can’t do away with the songs right? Background score is very good, lifting your mood as per the progression of the film. It also helps in building characteristics of people on board.

Camera by Karunakara A. overall leaves an impact with lighting and palette doing significantly for the plot. The feel of the film visually balances the flaws of the content to some extent. The production design by Shiva Kumar too is satisfactory wherein the sets suit the scale of the film and you relate with the rooting of the story.

Editing by Ruben is good, not great. Especially the parts where there is too much of slow motion could be toned down. The narrative otherwise doesn’t offer scope to him as an editor to show much skill.

Marking Shetty’s debut in Kannada cinema, the film has been released in multiple languages, probably with an aim to charm mass. Talking about Hindi audience per se, the film stays quite distanced. With some great actors at hand and an idea that could become convincing and definitive, the writers had a chance to flip this into a victorious affair. It’s sad what has happened actually.

Rochak Saxena

Rochak Saxena a Mass Media Teacher, former journalist at DNA and an ardent lover of Hindi films - literally. The blog derives its name from the popular term ‘Willing Suspension of Disbelief’, most commonly used in the world of literature and cinema. Meaning to immerse yourself in an unreal world (where you know what you see on screen is fake) with a self-proclaimed/declared belief/wish to consider it real, the willing world becomes magical. It’s the same magic every Friday that drives Rochak to share things in the perspective that it needs to be observed with. Every film is different. And the difference needs to be cherished.

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