Salaar movie review: Prashanth Neel film is KGF recycled; Prabhas, Prithviraj somehow make this pale imitation enjoyable

Director: Prashanth Neel

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Director: Prashanth Neel

Cast: Prabhas, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Shruti Haasan, Jagapathi Babu, Easwari Rao, Bobby Simha, Sriya Reddy, Ramachandra Raju

Where to watch: Theatres

Rating: 3 stars

There were times while watching Prashanth Neel’s Salaar in the theatre that I expected Yash to jump into the frame and Sultan to begin playing in the background. That is how aesthetically and thematically similar this Prabhas-starrer is to Neel’s previous outing – the KGF series. And it is a conscious choice, not that there is anything wrong to stick to what has been successful. However, in Salaar’s case, it does ot work because Salaar refuses to have an identity of its own, save for its two leads. Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran salvage the mess that Neel leaves in his attempt to recreate the KGF magic and somehow deliver a film that is, in parts enjoyable, in parts dull.

Salaar means commander. It is the story of Deva (Prabhas), a violent man who has left those ways behind to be a mechanic in Assam. His childhood friend Vardharaj Mannar (Prithviraj) now rules the city of Khansaar, a hidden city that is the den of all that is rotten in India and does remind you of KGF a bit too much. But then, a girl returning from US (Shruti Haasan) is kidnapped, leaving Deva and Vardha at loggerheads. We then learn how these two friends came to transform Khansaar into what it is today.

Salaar is intended to be the first part of a franchise. It’s full title is Salaar Part 1 – Ceasefire. So it’s natural that it takes some time to set up the premise and dwell a little on the world building of it all. But the trouble is that it spends too long in just building the base for the action. For an action thriller, it is disappointing that there are hardly too many whistle worthy mass moments in the first half. The film just lingers on.

Then there is the dialogue, which borders on cringe in parts. It’s only the talent and experience of performers like Jagapathi Babu, Sriya Reddy, and Prithviraj that some of the cringiest lines come across as impactful.

And on top of everything, there is the KGF spectre that looms large on Salaar. Everything, from the setting to the cinematography, from the colour tint to the music, firmly pushes Salaar into the KGF territory. It looks and feels like it, almost as if the makers decided to cash in on the KGF formula br bringing in the star power of Prabhas. Sadly the formula makes the film repetitive. The star power saves it though.

When Prabhas is on screen, he lights it up. He does not have much to do performancewise but still delivers a fine one, restrained in parts and expressive in others. He makes Deva human, more human than Rocky. The hero here is not vulnerable but he is sensitive. Prithviraj Sukumaran is the other highlight of Salaar. He gives us a good performance, reminding everyone that the mass genre should not always mean wooden or over-the-top performances. There is scope for true acting as well.

But sadly the rest of the cast has been resigned to overact and go all out. Shruti Haasan fails to impress despite her best efforts. Fine performers like Easwari Rao and Sriya Reddy bring their A-game but come across too loud in parts. A little subtlety never hurt anyone.

The action takes time to build, but when it does, Salaar explodes on to the screen. It is visceral, fun, and funny all at the same time. Prabhas and Prithviraj’s chemistry carries some scenes and the slick and gory action sequences evoke plenty of cheers in the second half. I will give the film some benefit of doubt. The setting up of a franchise in part 1 is always tricky because you have to balance multiple plots and bring them all together. There, Prashanth Neel does well, but he does go off the rails too often, leaving everything a bit too scattered.

Part 1 Ceasefire ends on a cliffhanger, setting up part 2 quite nicely. As someone who has admired the previous work of both Prabhas and Neel, here’s hoping Part 2 can tie all the loose ends that Part 1 left open. Because frankly, there are quite a few of them.

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