Synopsis – The Story is about a power battle which is taking place in the higher echelons of power unrelated and unconnected episodes occurring in different parts of the globe, Intertwine in an unforeseen manner to a revelation of mind games.
My Take – The year 2015 was a big for actor Prabhas, for it saw the release of the magnum opus Baahubali: The Beginning, a film which not only smashed box office records upon release, and followed it up with the much bigger and more smashing sequel, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, it also turned the Telugu actor into a mammoth pan India star, especially in the Hindi speaking belts.
Hence, it was understandable how his return to the silver screen after a gap of two years would be eagerly awaited, that too in a film made on a whopping budget of Rs 350 crore. Filmed simultaneously in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, with some known faces from all three industries, expectations skyrocketed as soon as the first trailer launched, mainly due to the presence of the action sequences, which were reportedly made on par with International standards.
However, in the garb of making a stylized action thriller, relatively fresh writer-director Sujeeth, has utilized a screenplay which relies on a haphazard story that seems devoid of any form of context or emotional subtext, hereby ruining the overall cinematic experience.
Agreed, it’s great to see slick action sequences in an Indian film, and refreshing to watch Prabhas in a contemporary character but with incoherent script, the bloated film just fails to manifest its potential.
While Prabhas fans might soup this up delightfully, it’s hard to see how the film will hold up in the long run, following its stupendous opening weekend.
The story follows Ashok Chakravarty (Prabhas), an undercover police officer in Mumbai, who in commissioned with Amritha (Shraddha Kapoor), a junior officer, and a team, to track down a suave thief (Neil Nitin Mukesh), who has orchestrated a heist of Rs 2,000 crore, and is gearing up for his next.
Elsewhere, in Waaji, a fictional city controlled by Roy Group, has found itself in the middle of a gang war, when the group’s head Narantak Roy (Jackie Shroff) is killed. While his son, Vishwank Roy (Arun Vijay) quickly claims himself as the successor of the throne, his rival, Devaraj (Chunky Pandey) thinks otherwise.
In order to maintain the trust and support of his partners, Vishwank ensures that the key to their fortune behind a secret vault, known as the Black Box, is hidden safely in Mumbai. Naturally, the two worlds intersect when it is revealed that the thief himself is in search of the Black Box, leading to an eventual cat-and-mouse game, with an insane amount of twists and turns.
Pegged as India’s biggest action thriller, the film gets into the action mode pretty early on. With the search for the black box turning the narrative of the film into a video game like landscape where each level is filled with its own set of twists and stunts to take the story forward along with signature wide angles of massive structures and grim looking men, who mean serious business.
However with the plot being weak and almost wafer thin, the film entirely banks on its action sequences and Visual Effects to engage and entertain us. Right from its opening sequence it’s evident that the plot of the film exists just to act as a backrest for its long drawn-out stunts. The trouble is that director Sujeeth complicates matters by needlessly contriving the film’s plot – stubbornly stretching a one-line premise of revenge, robbery, and retribution – to make everything seem more urgent than it really is.
This also explains why the characterizations keep changing every now and then, making it really tough to be hooked onto the proceedings. It might be easy to change the flow of a story with a twist out of nowhere, but when most of the characters are left in the lurch without giving them any personality or motive, the twist itself feels like a misfit. Even worse is how the film is unable to build on the device of leaving the audience guessing about the identity of the main antagonist.
Instead of sustaining the mystery behind the motivations of its protagonists, director Sujeeth risks repetition by employing predictable clichés. Eventually, making this a film that poses more questions than answers, such as why would anyone make a film on a plot that the writers have discarded midway.
What is ironic is that despite its reputation and budget, the film fails to sustain attention or awe with its imagination.
When the story is predictable and simple, the screenplay has to do the job. But throughout the first half, there is a lot of lag and confusion. The enormous amount of twists do not help the cause either. The film has a run time of 170 minutes that could have been trimmed to get a more compact, tight product.
Even the one time it comes close to being remotely interesting, with a sleek car chase sequence on the sea-link, it is undercut by the stupidity of the moment that follows after, where we learn that the cops were chasing the wrong person all this time. Scenes come and go without a purpose and action goes over the top many times distracting from main plot. Both screenplay and direction played spoilsport in weaving a Hollywood standard action drama.
The much-vaunted Abu Dhabi chase sequence, which allegedly was made at a cost of Rs 70-80 Cr, could have been way better in terms of narration. The set of four songs also act as speed breakers mainly due to their untimely placement.
Technically, R. Madhi‘s cinematography is extraordinary and it’s ably supported by the rich background score of Ghibran. And no doubt, Kenny Bates‘s action sequences are one of the best we have seen so far in Indian cinema.
But I guess most of us went into this film to witness Prabhas fill out this larger than life role with his towering screen presence, and as one would have guessed he continues to ooze his ‘Bahubali’ charm. His dialogue delivery is decidedly slow, but works for most part as he has the only character that is layered, and also manages to elevate the action scenes with his swag.
While Shraddha Kapoor does look gorgeous, her character is poorly sketched, stopping her from bringing anything to the role. Introduced as a tough talking cop in the first half, the second half sees her as a liability often in need of a rescue. In supporting roles, Neil Nitin Mukesh puts in an earnest performance, while Arun Vijay, Murali Sharma, and Lal are good.
Unfortunately, Jackie Shroff, Mahesh Manjrekar, Mandira Bedi, Tinu Anand and Evelyn Sharma, are wasted in smaller roles. However, the biggest highlight performance wise comes in the form of Chunky Pandey. Often cast in comic roles, the actor makes his presence felt with a very convincing portrayal, and chews up every scene he is present in. On the whole, ‘Saaho’ is a bloated stylish action entertainer which despite a visual advantage fails in its storytelling.
Directed – Sujeeth
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 170 minutes