The real star of Sambho Siva Sambho is the set of exemplary performances by Ravi Teja, Allari Naresh, Priyamani, Siva Balaji, Sunil, and the sundry others who probably wait ages for these kinds of films in order to stretch their acting muscles to the point of perfection.
Sambho Siva Sambho, the film, however, begs to disagree. Putting pain on the centre stage, it parades it around like a trophy, decking it up with shock and anger. Pushing every other factor, every other sentiment, backstage.
It's all the more of a letdown because its first half outdoes with chutzpah and by miles, a lot of things you've seen of late. Karunakar (Ravi Teja), Malli (Allari Naresh) and Chandu (Siva Balaji) are thick friends from different sections of society, who are each on the threshold of starting bright new phases in their respective lives. Priyamani plays the love interest of the first, and Abhinaya, that of the last.
When Karunakar's friend Santosh walks into the scene with a piteous story of love torn apart by malevolent politician parents (Roja plays the mother of the boy, and Mukesh Rishi, the girl's dad), the three buddies actually risk their own lives to bring them together. The rest of the movie is about the repercussions of those supreme sacrifices these men end up making.
And while the first half builds up to a perfect crescendo, behaving like an adventure thriller done up classily, the second half is like watching an open wound go septic. The first half has thrills and plenty of understated but effective wit - thanks to Ravi Teja, Allari Naresh and Sunil. There's neither of these in the second - instead, there's intense physical pain, unwarranted death, heart-break, opportunities lost... the works.
Sambho Siva Sambho is pretty much a movie all decked up for the awards - the heavy theme, the slow and laborious building up of scenes, the tangential moods during the scenes. Surprisingly, the drama isn't that subtle, and gets high-pitched and intense. As the resentment quotient in the story grows, you actually have each actor screaming in agony/anger for prolonged periods of time.
For the actors, Sambho... is all meat, indeed set to shine on their already rich CVs. Ravi Teja is a dynamo as always, Allari Naresh is all set to glitter at the award functions, and Siva Balaji is pleasant to be around. Sunil is as vibrant as usual. Priyamani's minimal make-up and charged-up screen presence is an asset, but she's not around in the second half. The character artistes - Tanikella, Ahuti, Chandramohan and the rest, even Roja - are wonderful to watch. It's surprising to see so much comic potential wasted, though.
There's a lot of realism that the camera captures - and not necessarily in an arty way. Rajamundry and Kurnool are the key locations of the movie, and settings are authentic and pleasing, literally assisting in the story-telling. The cinematography and technical values are among the movie's strengths.
The music has plenty of intensity and depth, and the songs are soulful. The first song, set in a festive mela at Rajahmundry, gives away the Tamil influence. The effort looks inspired from Rahman, though.
No picnic, this. If you want to, watch it after the festival is done with, and don't take kids or your date along.