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'Sarileru Neekevvaru' review: Mahesh Babu's film is a partly entertaining mixed bag

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The lead actor seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the outing, which makes it an entertaining cocktail of masala, comedy and nationalism

A bomb is ticking away. But the atmosphere isn’t that tense. As the camera shows us a nervous Prasad (Rajendra Prasad), we see the stage is set for some masala moments, even though everyone involved in the operation is from the Indian Army. Bomb diffusion can wait, Major Ajay Krishna (Mahesh Babu) must have coffee first!

Unlike the recent Hindi films that stoke the fervour of nationalism in all seriousness, when a Telugu superstar plays an Army officer, there’s room for mass masala moments with a rousing background score by Devi Sri Prasad. It goes without saying that the bomb is diffused and the culprits are hunted down.

In another instance, on a rescue operation to save children who are held captive by terrorists, the hero tells the terrorist ‘tumne gaali diya, maine goli diya’. How’s that for a punchline?

Sarileru Neekevvaru
  • Cast: Mahesh Babu, Vijayashanti, Prakash Raj, Rashmika Mandanna
  • Direction: Anil Ravipudi
  • Music: Devi Sri Prasad

Anil Ravipudi who directed the comic F2, infuses quite a bit of comedy in Sarileru Neekevvaru’s initial portions purportedly happening in Kashmir, dropping hints that he’s presenting a fun film. There’s even a song featuring Tamannaah as a celebrity visiting an Army camp and dancing with the officers.

Mahesh’s introduction happens in Kashmir where he stands in awe and respect of the Indian flag, but we know that the action will shift to Kurnool because of Vijayashanti’s introduction (as professor Bharathi), and also because we’ve heard so much about the filmmakers building a grand set resembling the Konda Reddy Fort (art direction by A S Prakash).

Mahesh and Prakash Raj had clashed in the backdrop of the Charminar in Okkadu (2003), and years later, the Kurnool fort stands witness. Sarileru isn’t as racy or interesting as Okkadu, it’s more in the Dookudu mode with the director trying to make Mahesh loosen up and have some fun. And the actor seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the outing.

When Mahesh is sent to Kurnool to meet Vijayashanti and her family, he tags Rajendra Prasad along. The train journey is where he meets Sanskruti (Rashmika Mandanna), her sisters and parents (Sangeetha and Rao Ramesh). Sanskruti spots the “cute, sweet and handsome” hero (she repeats the phrase so many times, lest we forget it) and sees him as the way out of the wedding her father has planned for her.

The theatrics that Rashmika, Sangeetha, Hari Teja and others unleash on the train lead to a few laugh aloud moments. The women seem to have had fun delivering the synchronised phrases with exaggerated body language and Mahesh too chimes in, but the comedy isn’t consistently in good taste. A girl faking molestation in the name of comedy isn’t cool. By any stretch of imagination, it’s unacceptable to look at issues pertaining to sexual harassment as material for comedy. What were the makers thinking while writing these sequences?

This isn’t a part by which Rashmika can be judged, because all she gets to do is fawn over Mahesh.

The film gathers momentum when Mahesh finally reaches Kurnool. The premise of Vijayashanti as the single mother and a righteous professor locking horns with politician Prakash Raj (he’s fabulous) seems promising, more so because of Vijayashanti’s persona. She’s a superstar in her own right but this time, since Mahesh is around, he’s the saviour. She does get her moments and owns the screen, but it could have been even better. It would be interesting to see her take up an author-backed role where she plays her age and wields power.

Meanwhile, Anil Ravipudi isn’t content showing Mahesh Babu as a superstar, he compares him to Alluri Sitarama Raju. You got to discover how this develops in between the action episodes.

The villain’s mansion is populated with comic characters — Raghu Babu as the teacher who’s taken to task for his moral lessons that Prakash Raj feels are of no value and the father Jayaprakash Reddy repeating a few dialogues in his trademark style.

The clash between Mahesh and Prakash Raj, which also involves a host of other characters played by Posani Krishna Murali, Brahmaji, Subba Raju and Vennela Kishore, are engaging enough. There’s a fun tractor sequence too. Mahesh also gets to troll a few other characters and remark that someone gave a 3 or 3.5 star review for a blockbuster film!

When the Kurnool clash is almost witnessing a closure, the Army angle is brought in again and Prakash Raj gets a taste of the significance of being a soldier. The Sarileru… anthem arrives at a crucial juncture and is moving, especially since it’s centred around Vijayashanti’s character and what she stands for.

Sarileru Neekevvaru is a mixed bag; it’s partly entertaining and at other times rather lame. Make what you will of lines such as ‘meow meow pilli, milk boy ki pelli’, referring to Mahesh as milk boy repeatedly.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 10:01:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/sarileru-neekevvaru-review-mahesh-babus-film-is-a-partly-entertaining-mixed-bag/article30542423.ece

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