Kartik Aaryan finds a suitable outlet for his cocky screen persona in the Hindi remake of Trivikram Srinivas’s Telugu hit Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (2020). Aaryan is among the producers of Shehzada, a contrived comedic melodrama that borrows ideas from Trading Places and Bawarchi.

Valmiki (Paresh Rawal) has a son on the same day as his affluent employer Randeep (Ronit Roy). When Randeep’s baby appears to be dead at birth, Valmiki offers up his own infant in exchange. But when it turns out that Randeep’s child is alive, Valmiki decides to continue with the ruse, reckoning that his son will have a better life.

Randeep’s son grows in Valmiki’s care as Bantu (Aaryan), while Valmiki’s son is the flaky Raj (Ankur Raathee). Treated poorly by his adoptive father, Bantu nevertheless evolves into a confident young man who stands up to villains and steals the heart of lawyer Samara (Kriti Sanon).

The “additional screenplay” credit to director Rohit Dhawan is unearned. Dhawan makes very few tweaks to the source material, retaining nearly every one of Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo’s highlights. From the hero’s name to the slow-motion action sequences, the characters arcs and the comical moments, Shehzada faithfully rehashes a tried-and-tested formula.

Sachin Khedekar even plays the grandfather in both films. About the only change – and a welcome one – is the abandonment of Bantu’s sexist commentary on his lover’s preference for short skirts.

This doesn’t mean that Kriti Sanon has more to do than Pooja Hegde in the Telugu production. Both movies are star vehicles, in which every other character exists to make the hero look good, better and the best. If Telugu films bolster such projects with strong scripts, Shehzada is carried solely by Aaryan’s chutzpah.

Aaryan’s fanbase will be thrilled at the insouciant punchlines and displays of superhuman strength. Any other cast member expecting to leave a mark – including Manisha Koirala as Bantu’s biological mother – finds themselves on the sidelines of a mission to sell Aaryan as an overachieving all-rounder.

Shehzada (2023).