The first of the big-budget summer films, Legend, starring Balakrishna in a double role, is a fine example of what ‘mass masala’ entertainers in Telugu are all about. Critics may brush aside these films but fan clubs will welcome them with claps, whistles and turn multiplexes into good-old single screens. In many ways, Legend can leave a discerning viewer searching for the right words. ‘Gravity-defying’ seems a lame way to describe the stunts that unfold on screen. How does one describe the experience of watching several people being hurled up in the air when Balakrishna merely stomps on the ground? How does one describe desert sand flying off the surface in anticipation of him vrooming into the picture? And how does one keep track of pages of rhyming, at times philosophical-sounding, dialogues that nearly every important character reels off?
Director Boyapati Srinu understands his target audience well and gives them what they want. He presents one Balakrishna as a young NRI living in Dubai and romancing a glamorous Sonal Chauhan. That guarantees scope for high-on-energy dance sequences and gives the director a chance to show five Balakrishnas clad in multicoloured floral jackets in one frame, performing fast-paced steps that will give many youngsters a run for their money. To contrast this, there is another Balakrishna — older, mature and worldly wise. If Sonal Chauhan is introduced in a bikini and provides the glamour quotient, there’s Radhika Apte befitting the traditional woman, introduced singing a devotional hymn.
The film has plenty of supporting actors, some of whom we’ve seen in merit-worthy roles before, being reduced to one among the crowd. Sitara does little else but weep; Kalyani is seen in a scene or two; Ajay and Kamal Kamaraju barely register their presence before being tossed into oblivion.
The women, as with many zamindari characters we’re accustomed to watching on screen, are dressed in fine silks and jewellery even on a regular day at home. Suhasini puts in a graceful guest appearance but it’s hard to not notice her heavy jewellery when she’s giving children a glass of milk or picking up her elder son from school.
The story is something the audience has seen over generations and considered a sure-shot recipe for box office success. Suman, a Good Samaritan and a beacon of the village, locks horns with a ruthless gang and meets his end. The scions of both the groups (Balakrishna and Jagapati Babu) continue the good vs. evil battle. It’s anyone’s guess who will win. The path to this victory is strewn with bloodshed. Weapons in different sizes and shapes are used callously, henchmen are left hanging from daggers, poles and balconies of buildings, and there are many scenes showing at least a dozen corpses in a frame.
The drama ends only after Balakrishna sheds some light on the idea of a good leader and democracy (some of these dialogues are just about audible in the ‘Balayya zindabad; Jai jai Balayya’ cheers of the fans in the hall) and is ultimately shown like a Narasimha avatar.
Balakrishna performs his role to the hilt and Radhika Apte is gracious. Jagapati Babu as the menacing villain is the surprise of the film. Brahmanandam provides a few laughs, keeps harping on tradition and values, taps his bald pate and then disappears. Sonal Chauhan too goes missing after the first half of the film.
Watch Legend if you’re a hardcore Balakrishna fan or want to get a taste of a typical mass film and join the chorus ‘he’s a legend… he’s a legend…’
Cast: Balakrishna, Jagapati Babu, Radhika Apte, Sonal Chauhan and Kalyani
Direction: Boyapati Srinu
Music: Devi Sri Prasad
Story: Age-old good vs. evil.
Bottomline: A film designed to keep Balakrishna fans happy.