If ever there is a winning prescription for box-office success then it has be to Munnabhai MBBS. Vidhu Vinod Chopra's film was a major hit in Hindi. And its remake in Tamil is perhaps the success of the season there. It is also being made in Malayalam and Kannada.
So with Chiranjeevi acting in the lead role, Shankardada MBBS was always destined to be a hit --- the script is like that. In the event, for film fans, the only question of academic interest was how Chiranjeevi compares with Sanjay Dutt and Kamal Haasan who have played the very same role in Hindi and Tamil respectively.
Actually, that kind of an exercise is besides the purview of a film review. But in the kind of context that the film has been made, it is relevant.
Even though the story is well-known, it is worth repeating. Shankar (Chiranjeevi) is a dada who with his friends ATM (Any Time Money) (Srikanth) and sundry others collects money from defaulting debtors. But he also acts as a doctor for the sake of his old parents (Girish Karnad and Venniradai Nirmala).
During one of their visits, they bump into an old acquaintance Dr. Rama Lingeswara Rao (Paresh Rawal). But when they decided to unite Shankar and Rao's daughter Sunita (Sonali Bhendre), a doctor herself, in wedlock, the truth comes out. Humiliated by Rao, Shankar's parents turn their back on him.
Steeled because of the experience with Rao, Shankar decides to become a doctor and gets into a medical college by resorting to some chicanery. Once inside the college, where Rao is the dean, there are plenty of run-ins between the two. In the meanwhile, Shankar also falls in love with Sunita without realising that she is the daughter of Rao.
Shankar's efforts to stay in the college and hospital comes unstuck as he sees no point taking on Rao anymore after he sees the real side of life through the death of young man (Rohit) due to cancer.
But by then, Rao also sees life in its reality and all is well that ends well.
It is a simple tale that it is at once hilarious and at once serious. It depends how you see it. And that perhaps is the success of the film.
Chiranjeevi has a rollicking time as the funny don tilting at the windmills of medical education. His word play and his hitherto un-highlighted comedy skills are really good. Though he hogs the film, he carries it off manfully.
Paresh Rawal as his adversary dean is first rate. His laughing therapy has the entire theatre laughing in the aisles. Srikanth as the ATM is restrained (he comes more across as a fan of Chiru than as the actual accompaniment to the hero --- Arshad Warsi in the same character was superior). Sonali Bhendre looks divine and her acting is easy and uncomplicated. The rest of the cast is also adequate.
The music of Devi Sri Prasad is already a hit, but in some places it does look a bit loud. Jayant C's screenplay and direction is good. But almost everything has been laid out in front of him. So all he had to do was localize a few portions and that he has done it to perfection. The serious portions of the film don't lag.
All told, Shankardada MBBS looks a complete orthopedic surgeon --- reaching for your funny bone and doing a fine job with it.