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Sarileru Neekevvaru

Cast: Mahesh Babu, Vijayashanti, Rashmika Mandanna, Prakash Raj.

Story, screenplay, direction: Anil Ravipudi.

Cinematography: Ratnavelu.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Sankranti, the harvest festival of the two Telugu states in South India, has traditionally been prime time for the Telugu film industry to release ‘big banner’ films with ‘top heroes’.

Other films, unless exceptionally well made with strong themes or technical brilliance, dare not release during this festive season.

This time, too, the audience had limited options — Allu Arjun’s ‘Ala Vaikunthapuramlo’ and Mahesh Babu’s ‘Sarileru Neekevvaru’.

‘Sarileru Neekevvaru’ proclaims that the story, screenplay and direction is by Anil Ravipudi. But you’ll be left wondering where’s the story?

Ravipudi, whose recent comedy ‘F2: Frustration’ starring Venkateswara, Tamanna Bhatia, Nani and Mehreen, was a big hit, seems to have made slapstick his calling card for this film, too.

Inane comedy is passed as humour here as well. And for Mahesh, who now carries the prefix ‘Superstar’ with ‘Sarileru ...’ as a legacy of his veteran actor father Superstar Krishna, this film is a deviation from his style of movies. He seems to be playing to the gallery in portraying himself as a mass hero away from his class hero image. He also dances for some songs just to appease his fans.

Mahesh, whose last film ‘Maharishi’ had a strong message, has nothing to offer in ‘Sarileru ...’ It’s meant to provide entertainment — and in that he succeeds a bit.

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Mahesh Babu and Vijayashanti.

But, it’s yesteryear heroine Vijayashanti, who makes a comeback after a hiatus of 15 years. She plays a powerful role as a righteous Professor Bharati, who would go to any length to stick to her ideals and takes on the villain, Minister Nagendra (Prakash Raj).

The wafer-thin story, in which the hero is an Army Major who deactivates bombs like a child opening a packet of chips, enters the terrorists’ lair without any protective gear, and faces bad guys armed to the teeth with machetes and comes out unscathed, has several characters whose sole purpose seems to be providing comedy in abundance — so abundant that the plot is lost.

If you are still interested in the ‘story’, here’s it: Major Ajay is sent to Bharati’s house in Kurnool to help her in the wedding of her daughter while her critically injured army officer son, also named Ajay, is battling death after an anti-terror operation in Kashmir. His other task is to inform the mother in case her son is martyred.

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On the train to Kurnool, he meets Samskruthi (Rashmika Mandanna), who is portrayed as a girl who would propose to any guy just to escape being married to the man chosen by her father (Rao Ramesh). Helping her are her mother (Sangeeta) and two elder sisters.

That’s when a full half-hour of slapstick comes on track with ridiculous comedy, where the girl even fakes a rape by the major just to force him to marry her.

Once Ajay lands in Kurnool, he finds the minister harassing Bharathi and her daughters. The stage is set for Major Ajay to get into action.

Telugu action films usually have lots of blood and gore where the hero kills the bad guys with impunity. Surprisingly, here he doesn’t kill anyone except the terrorists. He, instead, chooses to reform the villain. Just when you expect a climax where the arch villain gets his due, you are left with a denouement.

The cruel minister is reduced to a mere comic character and he taken to the border to be trained as a soldier. That’s the director’s idea of conveying patriotism with a mix of entertainment.

It’s Mahesh in every frame while Vijayashanti, too, has a meaty role and she does justice with her grace and poise. The less said about Rashmika the better. She’s been reduced to a dumb femme who swoons at the sight of Mahesh and mouths her catchphrase ‘Neeku artham autunda?’ (do you understand what I am saying?) at the end of the very few lines she’s made to utter. And she keeps gushing ‘ he’s so cute, he’s so sweet’, to the point of annoyance.

The music by Devisri Prasad is not too great. The song ‘Mind Block’ stands out, where Mahesh pleases the masses with his version of the lungi dance. Punjabi singer B Praak makes his Telugu debut with his ‘Suryudivo, Chandrudivo’. Tamanna, who does a cameo as herself, regales the armed forces with her song ‘Dang Dang’.

Watch it if you are of a fan of Mahesh.