One important truth of life - very, very few people can deliver under high pressure. It cannot, then, be easy at this time being Mahesh Babu, or anyone helming a project involving him. The pressure of humongous expectations after what is now popularly billed the biggest hit in Telugu films
, cripples the kind of basic thought that an unknown first-time filmmaker, or just any member in the audience, would have - almost everyone in the crowds today could tell you exactly what went wrong with Sainikudu.
Everyone can, except Gunasekhar and Mahesh Babu and the few top crew members who created this one.
Simply put, there's nothing wrong with Sainikudu going kaput. It was always going to be tough to do something in the immediate aftermath of a roaring hit. The shadow looms laaaaaarge. In some ways, Pokiri may perhaps prove to be crippling for Mahesh for a while. You simply don't know what to do next.
The only way out of the cloud that pressure envelops the mind in, is to stick to certain basic rules every time. Sainikudu doesn't. The hallmarks of most Mahesh films in the recent past - subtlety, great dialogues, villians with menacing and character, genuinely funny comedy and slick look - are all mostly missing, there is no focus on one strong theme, there are errors of logic and the pace is s-l-o-w.
And he too makes the one mistake that all other heroes seem to make after their One Big Hit - make the fights more and more unrealistic. Balakrishna made a train go back by slapping his thigh, Chiranjeevi took on 200 people in the denouement of his last outing at the theaters, and Mahesh indulges himself by shaking about 50 people off the wooden scaffolding around an under-construction building in this one's climax. Yes, we like to see our heroes bashing up the baddies, we enjoy it, but don't take it to levels where it becomes a joke.
Siddharth (Mahesh) is a student who helps poor people, and in one such instance when he stops food-stocks meant for flood victims in Warangal from being smuggled out of AP, he needs to take on Pappu Yadav (Irrfan Khan), a goon-turned-politician. He takes on Yadav in the by-election for Warangal, but Yadav has him and his friends imprisoned in a wrong case, and wins the election, going on to become the state's home minister.
Siddharth escapes from jail in a pretty unconvincing fashion (where did his friends come from?), and kidnaps Vara Lakshmi (Trisha), right from the pandal where she's getting married to Yadav (she just disappears - how did they do it?). He takes her in an open-top jeep (only a movie hero can choose an open-top vehicle to take a kidnap victim along - let's not get into why she doesn't scream and attract attention all along the way), and gets into a forest nearly.
This part had lots of promise - a young couple stuck in a forest for some days - but it fizzles out due to completely unfortunate conceptualization of situations and sad attempts at humor. In many ways, the brilliantly written Mahesh-Trisha interlude for about 1 hour made Athadu
the hit it became. This one follows the same algorithm - a talkative Trisha pitted against a laconic Mahesh for a hour - but there is no chemistry and no soul this time. You are actually bored, and waiting for things to move on.
It also makes the movie lose track - it starts off as a political thriller where an ordinary student takes on the might of a seasoned and brutal politician, but becomes an attempted romance, and with none of the creativity required in developing budding romance threads. The main theme returns in the last half-hour or so, but there is no life in it anymore - partly because the script is bad, and partly because there are too many things that make you wonder.
For instance, just how is Siddharth able to make public appearances in the flood victims' colony when the whole state's police apparatus is looking for him? How can he keep Lakshmi caged in chains for weeks together (the time it takes for a whole colony to be constructed), for no fault of hers, and not make her hate him? And sheesh, what are they using for a toilet for all those weeks they are living in that seized truck that's parked right in the Police Headquarters?
Movies can take creative licenses, but not to the extent where you are primarily thinking about the gaps of logic. This is sheer inept writing, for these are errors that could have been avoided despite whatever pressure you are under.
The villian is made to look like a cartoon rather than a menacing and intelligent plotter who has great lines. And the climax has Mahesh fighting almost 50 goons while dangerously scaling the wooden scaffolding on an under-construction building. And he makes the whole mounting shake enough to topple all the men from their perches atop it.
The few good parts of the film include the TV9 bit with Dharmavarapu, and perhaps the small speech Mahesh makes on TV. The film drags unnecessarily after that - there is actually a song now. The film runs for about 2 hours and 50 minutes.
Mahesh is getting trapped in an image - a terse superhero. He has just two expressions we noticed in this film - the primary workhorse being a no-nonsense mood, and the second being a smile in the railway station at the end. There's no acting repertiore to speak of, and while this specific role might need just what he's given it, there's only so long that this continued choice of roles will last in appeal.
Trisha is very expressive, and makes that character seem worthy of a mention. It's worth wondering what Kota is doing in the film. There's too much violence in the second half, and it stands out given nothing else to talk about. The music has a couple of good numbers - Maayera deserves mention.
The film by itself deserves a half star lesser - but the momentum of the Mahesh Babu express, built to sonic levels after Pokiri, will carry this for a while. There are too many people who will want to see anything from Mahesh, after Pokiri. The film will, however, also reduce the momentum of the express.
It's also released to an unprecedented number of shows in the multiplexes (fullhyd.com's recommendations are specific to Hyderabad), with all shows seemingly full, and that should help quick revenues. Wait for a week, it should be much easier to get tickets.