It’s Sankranti in Andhra and Telangana, and that means a time for superstar-driven commercial potboilers. This time, the industry is set to witness the biggest box office battle in years with Mahesh Babu’s Sarileru Neekevvaru taking on Allu Arjun’s Ala Vaikuntapurramlo. Initially slated for a same day clash on January 12, mediation from the producers’ council resulted in the Mahesh-starrer preponing its release by a day. It is for the first time in six years that the superstar is having a Sankranti release.
The film opens in Kashmir where we are introduced to Major Ajay Krishna (Mahesh Babu), an orthodox Army man with a good mix of brain and brawn. He loves to lead by example and during one rescue operation helmed by him, a fellow officer (also named Ajay) gets critically wounded at a time when he was scheduled to take long leave for his sister’s marriage in Kurnool. Due to the unexpected turn of events, Ajay Krishna decides to visit the other Ajay’s hometown to ensure that the marriage and other formalities are completed successfully.
Ajay’s family comprises of his mother, Bharati (Vijayshanti) a college professor and, two sisters. Once our protagonist reaches Kurnool, he realizes that all is not well with the State minister (Prakash Raj) being the major obstacle. Quite expectedly, Ajay Krishna intervenes in this skirmish and takes it upon himself to solve the issues of Bharati and her daughters. What starts out as a personal contest soon gets entangled in a scam. How Ajay Krishna restores parity to Kurnool is the crux of the film.
It goes without saying that Mahesh Babu is among the finest action stars in India. However, the superstar had been under criticism in recent years for being too rigid in his performances. Khaleja (2010) and Dookudu (2011) were two masala entertainers that had seen the superstar in top gear. And in Sarileru Neekevvaru—be it in the action scenes, comedy sequences or even the dance numbers—he sets the screen on fire.
Seasoned actress Vijayshanti is a treat in her comeback film, oozing grace and style. Her screen presence is immaculate and the combination sequences with Mahesh Babu are all top-notch. Prakash Raj sleepwalks through the antagonist character which doesn’t have anything that he hasn’t done before.
Known for churning out entertainers like Pataas, Supreme, Raja The Great and F2, Anil Ravipudi creates another paisa-vasool potboiler. There are plenty of crowd-pleasing moments in the film. The much-hyped Mind Block song brings the roof down and it is clearly Mahesh Babu’s best dance number ever, hands down. But, “He’s so cute” song is a dampener, especially given how properly placed the other songs are in the film. Devi Sri Prasad’s background score is riveting. It provides a pulsating atmosphere to the crowd-pleasing moments in the film, particularly the action scenes. The music is also neat, with a couple of chartbusters. Rathnavelu’s cinematography complements the soundtrack perfectly.
There are a couple of bumps though. The train episode in the first half was meant to be a humour-filled track but it is a bit too stretched and after a point, gets tiring. Ravipudi’s style of comedy generally revolves around slapstick fare and he sticks to that line. Ravipudi is clear in what he wants to achieve and does so with elan despite the predictable wafer-thin storyline. The final output is largely satisfying and it’s safe to say that Anil Ravipudi’s success story has a new chapter.