Given the kind of characters that Mahesh Babu has been enacting recently, it is easy to forget how broad his acting arsenal is. He can be serious, he can be angry, he can be calm, he can be sad, he can be troubled, he can be funny. Like Batman is to Gotham, he is whatever his director needs him to be. But of late, he has done a string of roles that have earned him the criticism of appearing monotonous. With Sarileru Neekevvaru, he makes an honest attempt at reinventing himself.
Ajay (Mahesh Babu) is a Major in the Indian Army, and that naturally calls for a bunch of terrorists to be killed in an operation led by him. Another Ajay (Satya Dev), whose sister is going to get married in ten days, gets fatally injured in the operation, and the Ajay we are watching the movie for is sent to Kurnool along with Prasad (Rajendra Prasad) to inform the other Ajay's mother, Bharati (Vijayashanti), about what happened, and to take care of his sister's wedding.
He goes to Bharati's house to find that the house is locked and things are scattered all over the place. He instantly realizes that something is amiss and goes in search of Bharati. He finds her eventually trying to escape the goons of Nagendra (Prakash Raj).
Ajay learns that Nagendra is a local minister, who has murdered a few people, one of them being a relative of Bharati. Bharati had filed a complaint, but instead of the issue being solved, it lead to her fleeing for her life. The rest of the story deals with what Ajay does while he is Kurnool before he returns to his regiment in Kashmir.
The story and the script don't score high in terms of novelty - Telugu movies are replete with stories of one man going to a certain place and changing the dynamics of the game. But what works for Sarileru Neekevvaru is the presentation, that stays faithful to Anil Ravipudi's realms of entertainment. Although there are a few incoherencies, the laughs and the moments make this an enjoyable ride.
Mahesh Babu is entertaining throughout the movie, whether he is beating people up or laughing at their expense. He doesn't indulge in prolonged somberness, and ensures that the audiences are never bored. In case you forgot the skill he showed with comedy in movies like Khaleja
, Sarileru Neekevvaru is a pleasant reminder. It's only in his scenes with Vijayashanti that we see the subtle nuances that he had always been associated with until Pokiri
arrived one day and changed it all.
Both Vijayashanti and Prakash Raj are great in their roles, and deliver solid performances. Vijayashanti has a surreal aura around her and a screen presence that screams royalty. Prakash Raj plays a character that he has portrayed multiple times already, and yet he is still great to watch. Rashmika Mandana's role is different from all those that she has done so far. Unlike in her previous outings, she does not matter to the story here, but whatever she gets to do, she takes the ball and runs with it. You can't help but smile every time Rashmika and Sangeetha appear on screen together. They are silly in an endearing way, and their lines are going to be fodder for hungry TikTokers for quite a while.
Ratnavelu is regarded as one of the finest technicians in India today, and when you compare how the iconic Konda Reddy Buruju is shown in Sarileru Neekevvaru to how it was shown in Okkadu, you can see his brilliance in all its glory. The Kurnool you see through his lens makes you fall in love with every single frame. All these visuals are further enhanced by DSP's background score. Any high you get, any nerve that is touched, any emotion that is stirred - they all have DSP's name written on them. He simply ups the ante with his music, and not a single sound feels out of place.
Ram-Laxman's fights are good, and get copious amounts of adrenaline and dopamine flowing in you. Sekhar Master has choreographed the songs well. Mind Block song is an eye-feast, and Mahesh's dance in this song will make his fans swell in pride.
Sarileru Neekevvaru is a full-on Mahesh Babu show despite the significant contributions from Vijayashanti and Prakash Raj. There are enough moments in the movie that make it more than a one-time watch. Anil and Mahesh manage to succeed in giving the audiences what they want, and it's now a fact that Sankranthi has arrived earlier than usual for Mahesh and his fans.