Can a palmist who is never wrong overturn a diagnosis of terminal illness? In Radhe Shyam, the question is purely rhetorical.
Radha Krishna Kumar’s Telugu movie, which has been dubbed in Hindi, is based on a story by Chandrashekhar Yeleti. Aditya (Prabhas) is an Indian Nostradamus who can read the lines on a hand and see accurate visions of the future. After having told Indira Gandhi that she will announce the Emergency in 1975 before she has even thought of it, Aditya flees to Rome. The Louis Vuitton briefcase-touting dandy has a fine time in the Continent, slaying women with a mere glance and living the lifestyle of a king.
Aditya is a self-declared “flirtationship” expert, disinterested in committing to his massive female fanbase. But he is forced to reconsider his views when he meets Prerna (Pooja Hegde). Knowledge that her time on the earth has been foreshortened only strengthens Aditya’s faith in astrology. He has held her hand. He knows that the doctors, diagnosticians and in fact, all of medical science itself, cannot match his ancient wisdom.
Director Radha Krishna Kumar steers his fanciful narrative past cloyingly cute romantic moments and visual effects-heavy sequences. The tussle between predestination and individual will unfolds in a fairy tale setting enhanced by Ravinder’s lavish production design and Manoj Paramahamsa’s soft-focus camerawork. The other-worldly feel extends to Aditya, played by Prabhas with a digitally scrubbed face and a slurry growl, and Pooja Hegde, who approaches imminent death with full make-up.
Although the 142-minute film demands suspension of disbelief, it’s hard not to let the mind wander when scene after scene tramples common sense in favour of miracle work. Aditya, described as “a bloody good-looking bad fellow”, is also a superhero who can check himself into a hospital after a nasty accident and confront a deadly wall of water with a mere scream. Hegde’s Prerna is about as convincing as a doctor as the youthful-looking Bhagyashree Patwardhan is as Aditya’s mother.
Other actors, including Sathyaraj as Aditya’s mentor, Sachin Khedekar as Prerna’s uncle and Jayaram as a hypochondriac patient, have a few scenes each in a film dedicated to Prabhas’s dubious romantic hero credentials. Radhe Shyam barrels ahead with the same confidence with which Aditya decides to take the sea route in the middle of a storm. The sluggishly paced film needs its own miracle to be convincing. You don’t require Nostradamus to tell you how that expectation pans out.