SHORT TAKES Badshah is an unapologetic entertainer and is a huge hit
Its afternoon on a weekday with the sun beating down at a ‘tent’ turned theatre in the suburbs. An IPL game with RCB playing is about to start in Bangalore, but a sizeable crowd is waiting outside the hall about to show Badshah the latest Telugu release. A serpentine queue forms in front of the uncovered gates even though the tickets mention seat numbers. The limited balcony seats are quite comfortable. You tell the guy in front to sink in a little before settling down. The AC is turned on and my neighbour promptly dozes off. He’s here to escape the sweltering heat and is oblivious of the whistles that welcome the censor certificate. The film has been cleared not only by the Censor Board, but also the election commission. Elections are round the corner, you see. The running time is a daunting 160 minutes.
The whistling touches an ear-splitting crescendo as the hero (Junior) NTR’s face is flashed in fragments. I glance to my right and find my neighbour snoring. Hero is heavily shackled in a seedy den in Hong Kong swarming with baddies threatening to kill his father but fans know nothing is going to happen to either. Hero shakes off the shackles with a shrug, shoots a few and maims the rest of the sweaty, unkempt gang. Cut to Milan. Heroine is introduced, as usual hyper with a grin pasted on her face that makes her look high rather than happy. She’s the good Samaritan and when hero shakes a leg to collect euros for a noble cause, coy looks are exchanged. Cut to vigorous dancing in the snow. Some laughs with the redoubtable M.S. Narayana and hero is back to business. Is hero really ‘BAD shah’? Well his father runs a casino for an International Don (is there any other kind?) embroiled in terrorism who swears he’ll annihilate India. Hero’s mother thinks her husband is dead and the son for some strange reason lets her believe so. Hero, when not serenading heroine wears a smirk and mouths inanities like, ‘Badshah is more dangerous than danger’. A flashback tells us he’s lost his step-brother in a bomb blast. Post interval the action shifts to India. Hero has to intercept a huge cache of RDX strangely sent in containers claiming the contents are dangerous. He’s also masquerading as a wedding planner, trying to convince heroine’s dad that he’s planning to marry her off to the wrong guy. My neighbour is still asleep, blissfully unaware of the mayhem on-screen. I envy him.
The plot is more convoluted than the bylanes of Begumpet. Srinu Vaitla tries to reprise the magic of his mega hit Dhookudu and ends up copying from his own film. He’s Telugu cinema’s blue-eyed boy currently and tries to pack it in. No expense is spared. Mahesh Babu lends his voice and Siddharth appears in a cameo. Don’t even try to look for logic. Badshah proves that Telugu is truly a universal language. Everyone speaks the language be it in Hong Kong or Italy. The cast is a crowd of comediennes, cops and characters who kill for a living. The heroine’s family is so large you wish Sanjay Gandhi was still around. The film, honestly hinges largely on the laughs M.S. Narayana and the irrepressible Bramhanandam garner. The latter steals the show in the second half. NTR sports a new look with gelled hair and a slim body. He dances like a dream and is more subdued than his earlier films. This is the Mahesh Babu effect on most Telugu actors.
Anyway Badshah is a monstrous hit. Nobody is complaining about the length, lack of logic or IPL. “I wonder why we don’t make such unapologetic entertainers,” complained a Kannada producer. Telugu audiences deserve to be appreciated. They love the films made by Bapu and K. Vishwanath as much as they lap up the fare churned out by K. Raghavendra Rao or Puri Jagannath. They appreciate the sensitive as much as they applaud the senseless.
S. Shiva Kumar