Sarileru Neekevvaru is a story of an Army officer who goes to Kurnool to convey a message and gets involved in the rowdy politics of that place. Mahesh Babu‘s new film crosses the boundaries of shamelessness and exploits the current wave of nationalism by indulging in an insultingly funny Army episode with an item song, where we see the Para force gyrate with Tamannaah.
The film begins with Vijay Shanti’s character walking randomly in slow motion, before even being introduced. A minute later we see her deliver a heavy dialogue that is meant to establish her as this strong woman who will not tolerate wrongdoings, quite literally. Mahesh Babu standing erect, looking at the Indian Flag, in camouflage is the introductory shot of the hero of the film. The next thing we know, he’s indulging in an unfunny comedic scene with his fellow soldier as a time bomb is ticking off. He walks to the bomb and plucks the wires out like weed growing in the backyard. The complete irreverence shown to the degree of danger army flirts with is condemnable. The convenience with which Mahesh Babu executes the army operations are absurdly humiliating to the Indian Army’s valour. The action episodes in the Army portion lack any tension or authenticity whatsoever. One wonders if it is too much to ask for basic authenticity in a commercial film while the film openly represents a national body, like Indian Army.
The authenticity lacks in the performance of the Superstar, too. Mahesh Babu‘s entitled lethargy does not allow him to mould his body language or speech, as a military officer. A Chief Minister in Bharat Ane Nenu, a businessman in Maharshi and an Army officer in Sarileru, all sound alike. He is still not saying his lines, he shouts out his lines. The subtlety with which he powered films like Athadu and the excellent 1: Nenokkadine has long been lost. His simmering intensity is replaced with an insipid stoicnesss.
The film is a laugh riot. Only that the serious parts are funny and the supposedly funny parts are painful. Apparently, the director’s trademark is to write lines that might tickle a funnybone in 5 year olds and makes his characters repeat these bizzare lines multiple times. Another signature of the director Anil Ravipudi is unabashed sexism as a tool to generate laughs. An entire comedy track is based on a false accusation of rape. A mother suggests her daughter that she goes into the heroes room and scream, claiming that he tried to rape her. This scene is supposed to make us laugh and it seemed to work for most people in the hall. The regressive shamelessness of the filmmaker is at full display. In times where our society needs to be sensitized towards the safety of women, here is a superstar, advocating a movie that uses rape as a tool to make people laugh. The level of crassness makes me wonder how this is not opposed or spoken against.
Watching the last few films of Mahesh Babu will open your eyes to the conspicuous vanity his films carry and how much screentime and how many characters are added solely to sing his praises. Be it the character of Naresh in Maharshi or the heroine and her family who refuse to understand the concept of consent and force themselves on this cute, sweet and handsome guy (that is how the heroine describes him, multiple times). A chunk of the first half is dedicated specifically to the heroine falling head over heals for this godlike man. This 30 minute long chunk has absolutely no significance in the screenplay of the film and is totally inconsequential to the story of the film.
Anil Ravipudi is on an insulting spree. He first insults the army by downsizing and grossly simplifying their valour. He then insults women with a bunch of sexist jokes and a whole track involving the concept of rape, as a joke and then he finally insults your commonsense and time, as a viewer. The technicalities of the film are unremarkable. The cinematography is so banal that they do not even bother to put a colour palette. The army portions are a greyish blue and the Kurnool portions is a dusty brown texture, which feels more like a vision of a lens that hasn’t been dusted properly. The editing of the film lacks basic editing principles. Transition from one scene to another does not happen at all. A scene ends and another scene is put there, this horribly clumsy editing pattern gives you a headache. The director exists only to make use of the Dolly in three different ways, zooming in on characters as a deafening background score adds to the absurdity of the film. There is no purpose or vision Anil Ravipudi brings to this film, except that of elevating Mahesh Babu as an invincible superhuman but alas, he fails at that too, miserably.
Mahesh Babu once starred in films that are still considered classics. It is impossible to find a trace of the man who carried a film like Nenokkadine, now, indulging in a narcissistic film like Sarileru Neekevvaru. Sarileru Neekevvaru loosely translates as No one can match you. Yes, it would prove difficult to achieve or match the pointlessness of this propoganda piece that is masquerading as cinema.