Saaho in this Ruthless World

In a fictional city called Waaji, two Jetman pilots hover over the skies to catch Saaho who is riding a high-speed motorbike. Saaho then clings onto one flying Jetman and shoots up to the sky before crash landing on a high-rise building. Later, he dons that Jetman gear himself and stands tall with that Jetpack wings spread, revealing a macho look akin to a superhero with an ethereal vibe. He then dives into the sky himself to save his love from falling off a helicopter. This cliff-hanger moment is not usually seen in Indian movies. On a normal day, I would expect collective gasps from the audience followed by cheers or claps. But that wasn’t the case on that Sunday evening, as that Vmax theatre was marred by less than 5% occupancy owing to the blatant negative reviews all across. For any movie enthusiast, it will be disheartening to see such low patronage to an Indian film that had high expectations and budget.

There may be multiple reasons for that outright negativity – one of them for sure is the high expectations set by the trailers that are hard to match with a sensible content. The trailer is one of the finest that you can see in the recent times – beautifully edited and supported by excellent background score that promises many edge of the seat moments, leaving you wanting more trucks to roll on the big screen, more goons be kicked and bigger guns fired, but of course intertwined through a coherent plot. In the trailer when Prabhas broke the jaws of a baddie who remotely looked like WWE’s Undertaker in the backdrop of high octane ‘bang bang’ music, there is this adrenaline rush even though you don’t know why they are fighting. A natural expectation is that you would enjoy these fights more on the big screen as, by then, you will have an emotional connection established with the characters. But that wasn’t the case unfortunately. The screenplay was too fast, perhaps, taking audience knowledge for granted. There are many ‘been there, seen that’ moments from Hollywood movies, but still it would have been engaging if it had brought in the emotional involvement right from the beginning. There are many frivolous objections that I have – for e.g., how did an honest and not so ebullient female protagonist tunes into ‘psycho saiyyan’ forgetting her job? Why does it looks like a dubbed movie at times even in its original language? What are a python and a black panther doing in a residential building? Or perhaps there was a context to it that I missed when I blinked. I will be too kind and ignore this nit-picking.

Having said this, there is a lot to appreciate too. A movie is not just a three hour experience, it is the collective sum of all the buzz and excitement it brought in right from the first teaser along with its marketing content until its actual viewing and the debates that follow. It succeeded on that front by creating a pan India buzz. It has all quintessential Indian movie elements – sly heroism, powerful villains, romance, beautiful locations captured by excellent cinematography, action sequences, refreshing background score etc. For the first time we are talking about Hollywood standards. Hollywood movies enjoy stupendous budgets and worldwide viewership and also have great technicians with advanced technology at their disposal. This movie is taking some of the baby steps in that direction, and it deserves a chance for that aspiration and the sheer audacity it exhibits in getting there.

It has many flaws, of course, mainly from a story telling perspective, but there are many other areas it attempts to make up for. Audience can have any view, it’s their prerogative. But that vehement criticism from the regular movie critics is a bit unfair. Am not undermining their credentials, but critics are having a whale of a time trashing it from every corner. A renowned movie critic on a national channel observes it as a 3 hours pounding headache. He smirks on the TV while I sulk in my couch silently contemplating how he became a movie critic when any movie, good or bad, can give him headaches, given that reviews are his day-to-day job. Other reviewer says we could buy 100 apartments in Mumbai with 350 crores instead of making this movie. What will happen to the critics if makers abandon movies for real estate investment? Assuming this is just a rhetoric to make a point, where is the love for movies when plain vitriol precedes objective criticism? There are some honest reviews too that have differentiated the good and the bad.

Last I heard, the movie is still making decent business worldwide despite that epic failure talk on the first day. And for that, a big Saaho (salute) for its existence in this ruthless world.

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