A small good turn by fate can offset a disproportionately large amount of baggage from the past. For Pavan Kalyan, fate happens in the form of contemporary Telugu cinema's best writer Trivikram Srinivas. And the good turn is not small either - this is likely to be an impressive hit.
It will help forget a bad phase that never seemed to end, and it will do more. Pavan Kalyan is a superstar again, and even if baggage builds again, there's going to be no contribution from the pre-Jalsa part of his career. That is now forever irrelevant conversation, irrelevant thought. When you go downhill, people tend to see it only from the last peak, and in the period before that they remember only the peaks.
Jalsa is a Trivikram Srinivas product, which says more now than any other promotional material. He manages something that falls more in the realm of professionalism than of creativity - consistence. And given that he already produces reams of creativity, that's all the requirements for a solid brand in the film industry.
The film has all that you go looking for - great dialogues, great comedy, good songs, stirring fights, big stars and gloss all around. It makes you laugh out loud, it makes your blood surge and it makes you ponder ("bedirimpu arthamkavadaniki bhasha teliyakkaraledu"). The story is simple enough - Sanjay Sahu (Pavan Kalyan) is a student who makes big enemies when he rescues a couple of girls Jyotsna (Parvati Melton) and Bhagmati (Ileana) from some goons. The girls both fall in love, but the dominant Jyotsna loses out to the mousy Bhagmati.
The courtship is more entertaining than mushy - while the movie has a good bit of romance in its core, it doesn't stand out anywhere for that - and keeps the first half lively. Sunil and Dharmavarapu add to the laughs, but Ileana's featherbrain character does little for intellectual stimulation in the serenading - Bhumika was as big in Khushi as Pavan.
The second half sees the villian Damodar Reddy (Mukesh Rishi) getting more pro-active and things appearing to lose focus, but this being a Trivikram film, it's not all downhill into a morass of violence. Bhagmati breaks up with Sanjay over something and he re-woos her in more lighthearted scenes, and the fights are arresting, too. All fights in general are, except the climax one.
Pavan Kalyan is a star, and that brings its own inputs to the watchability of a film casting him. He puts in a decent performance, but the problems with fast-paced dialogue delivery continue. In the pre-interval diatribe on society and suffering, for example, it's can be tough to follow what he's saying, and you have to concentrate like you do in a Hollywood film.
Parvati Melton and Kamalinee Mukherjee have negligible roles, and so does Sivaji - it's a moot point what the latter two are doing in the film. Ditto with Ali. And Brahmanandam comes in with promise but fizzles out soon in an abridged version of a role you've seen him do before, this very year. Prakash Raj is his usual talented self.
The songs are already popular, especially the Baba Sehgal rendered title track, and Devisri Prasad delivers in style. It's easy to see them top the charts one after the other. This is a film intended for family audiences, and the songs are visually in that palette.
And the fights, while rich in gore, have you seizing up in anticipation and gritting in endorsement. The first fight is a particularly just payoff for your expectations, and another sequence where Damodar Reddy attacks a mafia don to grab land impresses in the thought behind it - how the former comes prepared for Plan B too.
Jalsa is on the whole a well-made and good-looking film, and will arguably rate a notch below Khushi in Pavan Kalyan's career. It lives up to monstrous expectations, and is worth the crusade for tickets.
Finally, there's someone interesting who does the narration. Someone very interesting.