We could begin to tell you the plot with something like "Saaho is a cop-thief film where high profile robberies running into thousands of crores are being investigated by a team of cops headed by Ashok Chakravarthi (Prabhas)." This exposition will nevertheless prove to be unhelpful because the plot twists and turns (so much that it experiences motion-sickness and projectile vomits all around itself) and eventually reaches a conclusion which appears to be a completely different film.
However, unlike with, say, L.I.E
where nothing made sense and we wondered what (and whether) the writer/director was thinking, with Saaho, Sujeeth sees in his mind a film far more sensible than the one that has materialised on screens today. This is apparent in the way a number of scenes serve dual purposes, with the primary purpose being straightforward (it's an action scene, or a hero glorification scene, or a love scene etc.), and the secondary purpose getting revealed later on. Sujeeth, the writer, hopefully will pursue this style further into his career. That is unless Sujeeth, the director, thwarts him.
There is a sprawling lot of content in Saaho. The numerous plot points and their many characters could tractably be sown across a 13-episode saga and, given time to germinate, would lead to an entertainingly campy web series. But Sujeeth, the director, pushes Sujeeth, the writer, into a corner by putting all this content into a movie which, right from its conception, dedicated 60% of its runtime to action sequences, 30% to romance sequences, and the cumulative sum of 90% of its runtime to its star.
So almost everything seems undercooked. "Edible, but I'm not coming back to this restaurant" kind of work.
The edits seem to have been done in a hurry, and you wonder if it might be a better scene if the shots had played longer. This wonder is quickly suppressed by the longer shots where the performances are so dull you want it to end fast. The songs interpret the term ambient music
in pathbreaking ways by refusing to stay on your mind even while they are playing out. The score (Ghibran) is more enjoyable, but it frequently reminds you of other film scores (most conspicuously, the Kaththi theme by Anirudh).
The honourable exceptions to this lot of undercookedness are the cinematography and the action choreography. And the performances of Mahesh Manjrekar and Chunkey Pandey, both of whom feel very much at home with the kind of camp the script aims at.
And Shraddha Kapoor. She ends up being the most pleasant part of Saaho by being a sight for sore eyes. This pleasantness might also be owing to her not having to look or talk or behave super-dumb, in gross violation of the rules and guidelines of the collective of Women in Telugu Films (WTF). She can be quite expressive sometimes, making you wish the film paid as much attention to her lines as it did to her plunging necklines.
The observant reader will observe that not much has been said about the action sequences, the major expense of this incredibly expensive film. We urge such reader to be more perceptive and see that that's the point we are making. By the time the two hundred and seventy second blow is landed on a goon's face, you don't notice much. Owing to the twisty nature of the plot we aren't even sure whom to root for at any point of time. These scenes, very professionally choreographed as they are, do not pull the viewer into themselves.
And one would hope that none of this ought to matter as long as Prabhas can carry the film on his shoulders. The rebel star has moved away from the days where he generally looked confused about what he was supposed to be rebelling against. Now he appears much more confident that the only part of his moniker that matters is the 'star'. And this embracing of stardom is doing him good with all his scenes being elevated by his presence.
So, then, none of our complaints ought to matter as long as Prabhas can carry the film on his shoulders. Like he carried that heavy looking Siva linga on his shoulders in Bahubali: The Beginning
. But for that the film had to be tight and compact, like a Siva linga, to be hoisted up and carried. Saaho, like a big open sack of over-ripe mangoes, is a drippy and sticky mess. It doesn't suffice that the star is strong and confident. It calls for the director to be collected and proficient at cleaning up.