Salaar Movie Review: Prabhas’ violence-riddled film is all noise, meaning very little

  oliver oliver   4121   22 Dec, 2023 

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Salaar Movie Review: It’s tempting to dub ‘Salaar Part One’ ‘KGF’ Redux, except it is bigger and bloodier. It is bathed in the same colour palette — shades of black limned with red. It has the same appetite for violence, with a higher body count. And instead of one hero, it has two, Prabhas and Prithviraj, playing childhood best friends whose primary job as able-bodied adults is to cleave through flesh, and lop off heads: let it not be said that Prashanth Neel doesn’t have a taste for blood. No, let it not. Let it also not be said that Neel doesn’t have the gift for world-building. The fictional ‘Khansaar’, an outpost somewhere in India which doesn’t follow any rules except its own, is impressive. It is ruled by a king (Jagapathi Babu) who has clawed his way to the throne after having decimated challenges from the two rival tribes that have lived there for ‘a thousand years’: the figure is used in the film enough times to give it a proper little epical ring. Just like KGF, this one too has palaces and hovels, the former in which the rulers live with their well-dressed cohorts; the hutments are populated by women in earthy red raiments who exist simply to wail and weep when one amongst them is chosen to be defiled by a vile ruler. We are given a solo segment, spoiler alert, in which the weepers and wailers get their revenge, but only after we have cringed our way through a grown predator towering over a cowering underage girl, and of course only after the male saviour shows up in a rescue act, which ends badly, of course, for the bad guy. It’s almost redundant to say this, but even the women with slighter bigger speaking parts, are either wide-eyed damsels in distress (Shruti Haasan) or long-suffering maternal figures (Easwari Rao) who feed hulking men food cooked with their own hands on demand. There’s also the comparatively commanding figure of the king’s daughter (Sriya Reddy) who sweeps about in her robes, but moves aside when the real business of the film gets underway. Which is, of course, the relationship between the two leading men, Deva (Prabhas) and Vardha (Prithviraj Sukumaran) and the conflict that arises from their actions. The deep bond between the two men is borrowed from so many epic jodis, especially the Krishna-Sudama pair, and you know that the time will come for one of them to make the ultimate sacrifice for the other. Prabhas, channeling his massive ‘Bahubali’ physique, starts off dour, and then is given a chance to get some movement in his face; Prithviraj has the slightly more complex part, and makes the most of it : when these two are on screen, they make you look. For the rest, you quickly get desensitised to the violence playing out: how many bloody stumps can make you sick? Neel’s universe is a perverse utopia featuring powerful Indian satraps out of the ambit of the state (shades of KGF here as well) can whistle up global militia, from Russia and Sudan and other current war-ridden hot-spots. Jackboots on the floor, greenish berets on the head, men playing violent games to kill and maim and rape: is ‘Khansaar’ as fictional as it seems? Till the violence is comic-book and ‘Games Of Thrones’-type stylised, you can find a way to rationalise it; the trouble ratchets up when it becomes more ‘real’. Salaar Part 2 promises more, more, more. Are we ready for it? Most of part one is eye-glazing enough, making you numb to the murder and mayhem: all noise, meaning very little. Salaar movie cast: Prabhas, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Jagapathi Babu, Shruti Haasan, Bobby Simha, Easwari Rao, Sriya Reddy, Tinnu Anand Salaar movie director: Prashanth Neel

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