Saaho movie review: Prabhas, Shraddha Kapoor’s action drama aims high, but goes completely haywire
Neither the twists nor the big action set pieces of Saaho are engaging enough to root for the characters, and the drama between them.
castPrabhas, Shraddha Kapoor, Chunky Panday, Jackie Shroff, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Arun Vijay, Lal, Mandira Bedi
Prabhas, Shraddha Kapoor starrer Saaho treads a fine line between being an action drama and a superhero film. Writer and director Sujeeth, who previous film Run Raja Run hinged upon a bunch of twists, repeats a similar formula for his big budget action extravaganza, Saaho, but its result is a film that is haphazard and devoid of a context or emotional subtext.
The film tells the story of an undercover cop, Ashok Chakravarthy (Prabhas), who is ordered to crack a robbery case in Mumbai. He meets Amritha Nair (Shraddha), and falls in love with her. Elsewhere, in the city of Waaji, several gangsters are after a black box, which holds the key for a large amount of wealth. The rest of the story is about what happens when these two worlds collide, and how nothing is what it seems to be.
Right in the beginning of the film, Sujeeth tells us that Waaji is filled with gangsters who have their own vested interests. Roy Group controls the illegal business activities and they have set their eyes on India; however, there’s a void at the top of the chain, and Devaraj (Chunky Pandey) and Vishwak (Arun Vijay) are vying for the throne. While Waaji waits for the rightful heir to the throne, the action moves to Mumbai where we are introduced to a special investigation team led by Ashok Chakravarthy. The problem is that the narrative moves so quickly that it doesn’t give us a clear idea of who these gangsters are and doesn’t give us a reason to care about any of them. In its attempt to create a mythology about Waaji and the gangsters associated with the city, the film alienates the viewers further leaving very little to root for.
At the centre of all the action is a black box, which, we are told, is the key to enormous wealth. The search for their black box turns the narrative of Saaho into a video game like landscape where each level is filled with its own set of twists and stunts to take the story forward. This also explains why the characterisations keep changing every now and then, making it really tough to be hooked onto the proceedings. It might be easy to change the flow of a story with a twist out of nowhere, but when most of the characters are left in the lurch without giving them any personality or motive, the twist itself feels like a misfit. It’s not just the characters and the actors who feel strange in the world of Saaho, even the songs and epic battles feel like a bunch of misfits.
Beyond all this, Saaho is Sujeeth’s version of a superhero film where he reimagines Prabhas in a variety of roles in different segments of the story. Like, what if Prabhas was a brash guy with Sherlock Holmes’ power of intuition, Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible series, or Neo from The Matrix. Although the film itself goes on a different tangent, the action choreography at every stage is a manifestation of Prabhas in a superhero mode. For instance, take that scene in the second half where Prabhas flies over Waaji with a jetpack on his back to rescue Shraddha from falling down. The entire staging is straight out of The Matrix series where Neo saves Trinity. But Prabhas’ Saaho isn’t The Matrix, and Saaho isn’t Neo. This film confuses the protagonist’s motive to achieve his goal as a license to raise the stakes for the hero and turn him into a superhero out of nowhere.
The world of Saaho keeps changing with every twist that Sujeeth introduces, and the director banks a lot on Prabhas’ swag to keep us engaged more than the depth of his characterisation. Prabhas finds his groove in the action sequences, but given the absence of emotional subtext in his characterisation, it’s tough to root for him. In the beginning of the film, Prabhas and Shraddha’s romantic subplot is the only emotional part; however, it’s so flimsy that it doesn’t even register that sparks are flying between them. For that matter, Shraddha’s role barely makes an impact. The film has plenty of characters, but except of Devaraj (Chunky Pandey) none of the others make you care about what they are doing.
The much talked about action sequences are epic in scale, but it’s a different question whether they make you root for Saaho. The answer is a clear no. Because the writing itself doesn’t leave you to invest your energy and time into the story, and not even the spectacularly choreographed action sequences make a difference to how you feel about the film. The sound design of the film is another major area of concern, and at times, the background score dominates so much that you can hardly follow the conversations. Madhie’s cinematography compliments the big scale of the film, and the production design by Sabu Cyril helps the film look visually rich.
At a runtime of just short of three hours, Saaho is a bloated action drama which never realises its full potential. No amount of stunts and gun fights help the film to camouflage its flaws, and the screenplay itself is so boring that you are never engrossed. The drama is non-existent. All we get is a black box which we wish had never opened. Because the anticipation to watch Saaho was more worth the effort than the film itself. A big thumbs down.
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