Athadu borrows a whole lot from the entire glut of great Western action movies. There is the stylized action of the 1990s muscle-man trio (Arnie/Stallone/Willis). The Patrick Roberts open-palmed running scene of Terminator 2 (down to the clinically piercing eyes). The dispassionate look with the hint of inner calculation on Stallone in Assassins. And of course, the ubiquitous time-slicing, panoramic photography and bullet-time, to finish the seasoning for the exact effect.
But guess what? With all that borrowing and inspiration, Athadu manages to make one of the higher decibel bangs this year. To say it will steal the show for weeks to come might not be too much off the mark.
The story takes the scenic route home. Killer Nandagopal (Mahesh Babu) stops by at the home of trusting belle Puri (Trisha) and seeks refuge, but in disguise. Family buys story, trusts, and pours its affection on him. Killer becomes baked Alaska - half warm-and-melty with the love, and half still cold-and-calculating. Police catch up, and movie makes an unbearable ankle-spraining twist to cleverly punish the 'real' culprit, extradite the killer, bring lovers together and settle down the family.
The movie does not pause a second to fill up the ridiculous loopholes in the plot, although it very easily could have. Like how Nandu is left free in the end despite being identified as a professional killer, and why the hell he puts his 1 crore in a bank when that's the first place the police would look. And why the police don't look there until another criminal tells them that they usually put their money there because the police won't look there. It's a little giddy, and that's probably what the plot counts on to slip by.
But all the giddiness in the plot doesn't dampen the big bang. The dialogues and screenplay are so taut, you are straining to catch every word in anticipation. There are some brilliant lines that will stick on for ages, and Mahesh delivers them with a Bachchan-like naturalness. His jug-handle-eared and pouty-lipped look makes him one of the more lovable professional killers who have been on screen. But he manages to create a persona that is real fun to watch.
The hip-swaying title song Athade is groovy and grim, just like the character it is played for. It makes for a good coronal outline to the scenes of Mahesh walking with his swaggering sass, wielding his gun with a flourish.
Puri (Trisha) plays a slightly comical role as a girl who is thrashing around to get Nandu's attention. Nandu, who is in the family as Parthu, their accidentally killed son he is impersonating, responds to her with brashness to conceal his reticence. And that makes for some really hilarious scenes that splice rather well with the action.
On the whole, all the ticket-stub flinging and loud cheering that marks the first day first show of any much-awaited movie casting a crowd-pleaser like Mahesh, builds an anticipation that is met impeccably well. To rate the movie won't make too much sense because the movie will sell itself very well, no matter what. Borrowing or no borrowing, plot or no plot, Athadu is definitely a winner.