Just when you let your guard down, a movie suddenly comes cast in a script.
By usual Telugu film standards, Chatrapati is almost a classic. Based in the dredging dockyards of Vizag, the film reminds you of a pot-pourri of heyday Bachchan films like Deewar, Hum and Agneepath, and is the story of the rise from the working classes of a fury that is nourished by the monstrous atrocities of the ruling Big Bad Man and that becomes omnipotent – a story of the quiet seething of a man who knows only to look in the eye, a man who inspires awe and fear among both those he protects and those he protects them from, but who has to live with his own personal demons that almost make his a life that has no present, just a future to hope for.
Yes, Chatrapati has a script and all. And since Telugu movie scripts range from bad to non-existent, with even the hits coming off "stories" that are filed in the high-volume-low-cost shelf, that in itself is redemption. Add to that some leg-grabbing moments that make you clench your jaws as justice is delivered in the swiftest way possible – scything through the evil-doers in the old-fashioned motif – and show you how the world should actually be run, and it’s three hours of make-believe the way the doctor ordered.
Shivaji (Prabhas) is displaced, in a native-refugee riot in Sri Lanka, from his mother (Bhanu Priya) as a 12-year-old, thanks to the machinations of younger brother Akash, who hates him since he (Shivaji) is from his father’s first marriage. Shivaji is sold along with all the rest into slavery at the Vizag piers, to Baji Rao (Narendra Jha), a Devil-incarnate, and grows into a rugged young man with a stubble to show and a deep volcano that rumbles dangerously within.
A gut-churning incident involving a 8-year-old kid and his blind mother – quite movingly depicted – breaks all levees of Shivaji’s tolerance, and it’s a gore-fest as one man finally takes on Baji Rao’s entire mafia. Shivaji has to lose his best friend in the process, but he delivers like an avatar. And the evil finally meets its debris.
The first half has some revving screenplay, and while Prabhas is not as great at dialogue-delivery as would have really made you hoot and scream in the ecstasy of vendetta, you still break into goose-pimples and feel your blood gush. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how someone’s saying things – it’s what he is saying. And the dialogue writers in this do not disappoint.
The second half has Chatrapati, as Prabhas is now crowned, take on Baji Rao’s brother from Bihar, Ras Bihari (Pradeep Rawat), who wants control of the quays back, and another very unusual foe – his long-lost brother Ashok, who makes up for in scheming what he lacks in everything else. Ashok’s childhood grudge against his step-brother isn’t helped by his rediscovery of the latter, and it’s some fairly innovative characterization for a Telugu film as Ashok uses Shivaji’s love for his mother as the primary input in his adroit plotting.
The film grips you all through its 2 hour 45 minute unraveling, especially in the first half, and is uncharacteristically intelligent for Tollywood mass fare. Prabhas looks the role every bit and is slowly evolving into his own, and this film will probably be a milestone in his career. Shriya is just an adornment, but Shafi, who plays Shivaji’s brother, is an interesting find. Bhanu Priya is expectedly good, as is Kota Srinivasa Rao.
The songs, by Keeravani, are mass material, but some of the sets are trendy. “A Vachchi B Pai Vale” is perhaps going to catch up. Venu Madhav does a ticklish spoof of Aparichitudu in some of the film’s lighter moments, and there is an item number by Aarti Agarwal.
Certainly worth a watch this weekend.