Megastar Chiranjeevi's Khaidi No 150 is both a celebration of his illustrious career and a quintessential potboiler laced with a message. Directed by VV Vinayak, the film is the remake of AR Murugadoss' Kaththi, and it narrates the story of how few villagers take on a multi-national company to reclaim their lands. The bone of contention between the two is land and water, and losing that to a cola factory means that the farmers will have to pay a heavy price. It's David vs Goliath, albeit with a divine intervention and a touch of Chiranjeevi's larger-than-life persona.
At some level, the film isn't just about the villagers and Shankar, a hydrologist who becomes their messiah to fight on their behalf. It's also about 'Megastar' Chiranjeevi and his fans, and their off-screen relationship. The very sight of Chiranjeevi on screen rekindles memories of the past, and every time he acts drunk or shows off his dance moves, it's like a time-machine which takes his fans back to an era where the actor had become their demigod. For that matter, Khaidi No 150 is drenched with nostalgia and objectivity goes out of the window because the two elements — Chiranjeevi and nostalgia, become inseparable after a point.
Chiranjeevi stars as Srinu, a convict, who ends up in Hyderabad after escaping from a prison in Kolkata. He plans to go away to Bangkok; however, at the airport, he bumps into Lakshmi (Kajal Agarwal) and falls in love with her. One night, he stops a bunch of goons from killing a man, who turns out to be Shankar (also played by Chiranjeevi). The rest of the story is what happens when Srinu takes Shankar's place.
Nine years after he took a break from films to dabble with politics, Chiranjeevi's return feels like life has come back a full circle. He brings his panache to his dance moves and he truly makes you believe that age is just a number. The film is unapologetic about its intention to play to the galleries in its first act and it's here that the 'vintage' Chiranjeevi returns to give what his fans had been waiting for all these years. And thanks to an emotional story, written by AR Murugadoss, Khaidi No 150 also touches a raw nerve occasionally. When Srinu realises that Shankar has been fighting against the tyranny of land-grabbers, in the form of an MNC, the emotional weight of that segment is heart-breaking. And then, it turns into a socio-drama with the protagonist highlighting the issues faced by farmers across the country.
A decade ago, Chiranjeevi's Tagore, which was also a remake of AR Murugadoss' Ramana, spoke about corruption and how it has seeped into every aspect of our lives. And now, it's all about farmers and how no one tries to even listen to them. Nothing much has changed ever since. Khaidi No 150 finds a place in the long list of films that try to strike a balance between what they want to say and what the hero's fans expect.
At the same time, for all its emotional undercurrent, Khaidi No 150, however, restrains itself from being an absolute tear-jerker which it could have been. Perhaps, the only thing that has 'aged' about Chiranjeevi is his voice and it's quite evident during the more emotional moments in the film. He just says his dialogues and sometimes, it doesn't feel good enough. Kajal has barely any role and she is relegated to songs, where she, and Chiranjeevi, go berserk. Tarun Arora, who steps into the shoes of Neil Nitin Mukesh, is no match to Chiranjeevi in the film and their fight itself feels like a one-sided affair the whole time.
It's a good remake of Kaththi, but at the same time, Khaidi No 150 plays safe in terms of how it shifts its focus to Chiranjeevi, mostly. There's a lot more 'entertainment' in the form of Brahmanandam. It's a different issue that a lot of it is cliched and just serves as a reminder that it's about time that someone reinvents the idea of Brahmanandam in Telugu cinema.
Directed by VV Vinayak, Khaidi No 150's objective, in the end, isn't to really tell an emotional story. It's to announce the return of the Megastar. And it serves its purpose. The story is just bonus. Nothing else matters.
Watch the trailer of Khaidi No 150 here: