Salaar Review: Prabhas’s immense screen presence makes a difference

Salaar

What’s it about?

In 1985, two children named Varada and Deva, who share a close friendship, make a mutual commitment to assist each other whenever one is in need. Deva and his mother (Eeswari Rao) are compelled to depart from the city as a result of one incident. After evading capture by relocating to various cities across India for an extended period of time, the mother and son ultimately land in coal mine area in Tinsukia in Assam.

In the present day, Deva (Prabhas) and his mother make an effort to avoid attracting attention from the men in their hometown, Khansaar city. However, with the arrival of Aadya (Shruti Haasan), their life changes. Aadya comes to Varanasi with the purpose of immersing her mother’s ashes in the river. But she becomes the target of a kidnapping attempt by a group of men. A person saves her and brings her to Tinsukia.

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Deva is summoned by Varada (Prithviraj Sukumaran) to Khansaar due to a series of events. Raja Mannar (Jagapathi Babu) governs the city of Khansaar, but he leaves for another city due for some time. Consequently, the members of the ruling clan endeavor to seize control of the position of authority. Varada, as the offspring of Raja Mannar, is entitled to inherit the throne. However, he faces numerous formidable adversaries that he must confront. Will Deva assist him? Or does Deva have another plan?

Analysis

Prashanth Neel made his directing debut with “Ugramm”, a Kannada action film starring Srimurali, and went on to gain nationwide craze with his pan-Indian blockbusters – KGF Chapter 1 and KGF Chapter 2. “Salaar” marks his Telugu debut and this is also his first film with a big star like Prabhas.

Although I have not watched Neel’s debut film, after reading about it on Wikipedia, I have noticed striking similarities between the plot of “Ugramm” and the storyline of “Salaar”. During an interview, Prashanth Neel clarified that “Salaar” is not a remake of “Ugramm,” but rather a reworking of it. This implies that while the fundamental concept remains similar, he has expanded and enhanced those ideas to create a bigger and improved version.

“Salaar” belongs to the genre of “KGF” and “Game of Thrones”. Prashanth Neel appears to have developed a strong inclination for constructing an imaginary, gloomy universe to narrate his stories. The realm of Neel’s films can be aptly referred to as the “Prashanth Neel Mine Universe.” In the movie “KGF”, the setting was gold mines. In “Salaar”, we are presented with coal mines and cities that depict a gloomy and sinister environment.

The first half of the film comprises of two action sequences and many scenes of heroism, while the progression of the plot is nearly non-existent. However, Prashanth Neel captivates us with his ability to engage us with the proceedings. The initial portion of the film exemplifies an archetype of a mass masala action drama, offering ample moments of enjoyment and breath-taking action sequences. The first fight sequence is deserving of applause.

The film quickly transitions from a narrative about friends becoming enemies and a hero’s efforts to protect the heroine, to power play. Consequently, it shifts to the fictional place of Khansaar city. Thus the problems arise.

As per the film, the fictional city of Khansaar was founded a millennium ago and controlled by three distinct clans. After India gained independence, the city was intentionally separated from the country and is now governed by a leader known as ‘Kartha’ who follows a specific set of rules. The inhabitants of Khansaar resemble coal miners, and the women there are afraid of being raped and mistreated, despite the fact that the city appears to be right out of Europe when the camera regularly shows us bird view of the city. All of these incidents occur in the year 2010. With private armies ruling the day and common people living like slaves, can you really expect such a “world” in today’s time? This precisely is the problem with “Salaar”, the ‘world building’ setting defies the logic.

There is an extended sequence depicting women experiencing fear due to the threat of abuse from a rowdy ruler. All the women don red attire akin to the female characters in the film Raise the Red Lantern (1991). However, this episode appears to be a variation of the slave children episode depicted in “KGF 2”. I am discussing about the dystopian world of Khansaar city because it is depicted that the rulers of this city possess significant sway over multiple Indian states. Is this logically sound?

The later portions don’t convince much for various reasons. Even the mother-son relationship doesn’t hold. Perhaps, more will be revealed about the mother’s character in the second part.

In spite of this, Prabhas’s commanding presence on screen is the primary reason the movie keeps our attention. His “cut out” truly surpasses everything. His action stunts appear credible. Prabhas has not exhibited such formidable charisma since the release of “Baahubali 2”. The popular Malayalam star Prithviraj Sukumaran is also excellent. While his role is comparatively restricted in this instalment, he uses the scenes to his advantage.

I didn’t feel a connection to Eeswari Rao’s performance or role. Shruti Haasan’s role is primarily a cameo.

The technical crew that worked for “KGF” movies have collaborated on this project, which has been executed on a grandiose level, resulting in an rich outcome.

Director Prashanth Neel has once again demonstrated his prowess in creating extraordinary action sequences. However, his excessive dependence on slow-motion shots becomes irksome after a certain threshold.

Bottom line: “Salaar” is an action spectacle that relies heavily on Prabhas’s star power and his magnetic star presence. There is a strong “KGF” and “Game of Thrones” feel, and the dragged second half are tedious to watch. But the elaborately designed action set pieces work well.

Rating: 2.75/5

By Jalapathy Gudelli

Film: Salaar
Cast: Prabhas, Shruti Haasan, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Jagapathi Babu, Sriya Reddy, Eeswari Rao, and others
Dialogues: Sandeep Reddy Bandla, Hanuman Chaudhary, DR Suri
Music: Ravi Basrur
DOP: Bhuvan Gowda
Editor: Ujwal Kulkarni
Production Designer: T L Venkatachalapathi
Stunts: Anbarivu
Producer: Vijay Kirangadur
Written and directed by
: Prashanth Neel
Release Date: Dec 22, 2023

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What’s it about? In 1985, two children named Varada and Deva, who share a close friendship, make a mutual commitment to assist each other whenever one is in need. Deva and his mother (Eeswari Rao) are compelled to depart from the city as a result...Salaar Review: Prabhas's immense screen presence makes a difference