Saaho: Prabhas should have picked a smaller film, not tried to match blockbuster success of Baahubali
Much like how Ramesh Sippy chose to make the colossal Shaan (1980) after Sholay (1975), Prabhas’ decision to do a Saaho appears to stem from the desire to top the success of Baahubali.
Despite a terrific opening (where it earned nearly Rs. 130 crores on its first day), Saaho might still end up being a letdown. The action-thriller, written and directed by Sujeeth, has received lacklustre reviews, with critics across the board calling it a disaster in some form or the other. But the odds were stacked up against the film. Made on a reported budget of Rs. 350 crore, Saaho is Prabhas's first release post-Baahubali, and the film will need to earn at least twice its budget to be considered a hit, and that may never happen.
The trouble with expectations is that, more often than not, they let you down. The concept of following up a surprise blockbuster with another expensive no-holds-barred follow-up is not an uncommon phenomenon. Similarly, the volume of these subsequent big-budgeted failures too is quite high. From the looks of it, Prabhas seems to have fallen for the oldest trick in the film business. Much like how Ramesh Sippy chose to make the colossal Shaan (1980) after Sholay (1975) or Farhan Akhtar attempted the bigger budgeted Lakshya (2004) after the comparatively smaller-scaled Dil Chahta Hai (2001), Prabhas’ decision to do a Saaho appears to stem from the desire to top the success of Baahubali.
Back in the 1970s, when the Rajesh Khanna-Zeenat Aman starrer Ashiq Hoon Bahaaron Ka was being shot in exotic locales across Europe, Danny Denzongpa, the film’s lead villain felt that the lack of a strong plot and screenplay would hamper the film. Legend has it that when he voiced his concern to Khanna, whose relative was producing the film, the superstar told him, ‘Nikal jaayegi.’ Much like the other big box office draws of the era, Khanna too felt that the visual appeal of the film along with his star power was enough for the film to sail through.
A film such as Saaho seems pegged to succeed based on the star value of its male lead. There was enough pre-release buzz surrounding Saaho. On the face to it, Saaho (which garnered nearly Rs. 220 cr by day two, and collected Rs. 350 cr by day five) seems to be living up to the expectations. Shot across the world at locations in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Austria, Romania and other parts of Europe, Saaho also features Jackie Shroff, Neil Nitin Mukesh, and Mandira Bedi besides Prabhas and Shraddha Kapoor. A significant portion of the budget was spent on the film’s action scenes that were choreographed by international stunt coordinator, Kenny Bates. The way most critics and audiences have reacted to Saaho makes it amply clear that it has hardly anything to offer besides Prabhas’ dedication and well-choreographed action. In the end, the film’s incoherent plot, that one reviewer described as “too muddled to be slick and too lacking in charm to establish any emotional stakes”, might just be too heavy a burden for Prabhas’ star shoulders.
For cinephiles, a Ramesh Sippy making a Shakti (1982) or Saagar (1987) after Sholay or a Martin Scorsese going back to the drawing board with a relatively smaller film like After Hours (1985) to regain his mojo in the face of big disappointments such as The King of Comedy (1982) has been the stuff of unending debates. Would it have then made more sense for Prabhas to pick up a film that offered him something different from the expectations?
Interestingly, Baahubali’s other male lead Rana Daggubati seems to be following a different trajectory. Daggubati’s first release after Baahubali, Nene Raju Nene Mantri (2017) saw him play an ordinary moneylender, Jogendra, who forays into politics, which the critics found to be one of the ‘most intriguing characters’ he had ever played. For Prabhas, unfortunately enough, there doesn’t appear to be much on offer in Saaho, and even if it were to become a ‘hit’, there is precious little to write home about.
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