Shakeela Review: This Story of the 90’s Sex Symbol is Bland and Tone-Deaf

Shakeela saw a theatrical release on 25th December 2020. Directed by Indrajit Lankesh, the biopic based on the life of adult star Shakeela stars Richa Chadha and Pankaj Tripathi in the lead alongside Kajol Chugh, Vicky Kadian, and other cast members.

Not-So-Dirty Picture

Shakeela is a biopic revolving around the life of Shakeela, an Indian actress and model who predominantly acted in the South Indian film industry. Over the years, she starred in around 250 films, most of them being softcore (soft porn), and was considered a major sex symbol throughout her work years (the late 1990s and early 2000s). Born in a conservative Muslim family, she was forced into the industry after her father’s sudden demise which left the responsibility of 5 younger siblings and an old mother on her shoulders. Her B-Grade films were dubbed and released in almost all Indian and foreign languages like Nepalese, Chinese, and Sinhala. After she acted in several such movies, the soft-porn movies in India were colloquially tagged as “Shakeela films”.

Starring Richa Chadha and Pankaj Tripathi, two power-packed and talented actors who justify their roles in the larger picture, the film is a failure both in execution and writing. It seemed as if it was trying to be the 2011 film The Dirty Picture which was around Silk Smitha’s life. I didn’t know about Shakeela before, neither have I seen her in any interviews and nor have I read her biography that she wrote herself but one thing I am sure of is that she did not go into a drug-induced hallucination stage in front of the writer of her book telling her life story (as it is the only place where she can’t lie).

It makes no sense. If the story was actually about Shakeela’s journey and her lost innocence then how could she be so ashamed of her story or be lying about it so much so that she would have herself admitted and hallucinated, to tell the truth? Where and why did she have such an untrusting writer? Furthermore, upon some research, I came across the fact that Shakeela was never that big in the industry that the biggest star of her age plotted her downfall. It is safe to say that the film is a deceitful, decorated, and lied-in biopic.


The film walks on a very narrow way, there has to be something constructive in a film that talks about sexualizing an actor or showing her as a victim of abuse but the film does not do that anywhere and expects viewers to feel something for Shakeela. There is lack of vision or anything good here. It is bad, period.

The film is mostly in flashbacks (remember the drug-induced hallucination?). Shakeela’s voice is what links the entire storyline to each other while at one moment it is dreamy and murmuring, on the instant other it is a full-blown commentary with various inconsistencies and probably lies. There is even a scene where Shakeela’s childhood love tries to reunite and reform her by investing in her biopic but upon seeing the film and the amount of nudity in it goes on to slap her and says “I was trying to cover a prostitute with clothes, you can not change!”

In instances like this, the film becomes absolutely problematic and is often pervy. Another problem with the film is the setup between Shakeela’s present hallucination stage and her past narrative. There is no difference, both are equally colour-graded and there is no slightly dull depiction of the past frames. Lankesh fails as a filmmaker here. Shakeela is a woman in a man’s world and that is the point that the film wants or tries to make but somewhere in an over-exaggerated storyline, the film loses its substance and value if there was any after all.

Summing up, the film has a strong and promising cast, Pankaj Tripathi and Richa Chadha, but they have contributed shows that are way better and not shallow to the industry over the years. Films/shows that’ll make you think and grow. But Shakeela is bland, tone-deaf, and tacky!

Stream It or Skip It


SKIP IT! There is not one but many reasons to skip this film – tacky and cheesy soundtracks, tone-deaf approach, underwhelming screenplay, and a plot that goes nowhere and is flat. It is not worth 2 hours.

Shakeela is now available in theaters.

Read our other reviews here.




Shakeela was a sex symbol in her times and would often be seen in softcore film but her biopic film is nothing more than bad and tone-deaf!

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