'Salaar' now showing in UAE: Prabhas’ film soars high in imagination and violence

Prabhas' new film banks heavily on his magnetic screen presence

By Lekha Menon

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Published: Sat 23 Dec 2023, 1:55 PM

Last updated: Sat 23 Dec 2023, 2:04 PM

Director: Prashanth Neel

Starring: Prabhas, Prthviraj Sukumaran, Shruti Haasan

Rating: 2.5 stars

‘Victories don’t come from wars, they come from forgiveness.' These words are written loud and clear on a blackboard in a scene in this film. The hero’s mother is the teacher and presumably, this is what she teaches her students. In an out-and-out action film like Salaar Part 1: Ceasefire, these are noble thoughts indeed.

However, nobody in this movie, including the director, pays heed to this sage advice. There is very little forgiveness here. Instead, you find a whole lot of retribution and revenge. Understandably so! How will blood flow if everyone forgives everyone in this world?

The world I am talking about belongs to men. Strong men, powerful men, scary men, hairy men, handsome men, angry men and brutal men. Women play a very peripheral role except being the victims of harassment by men or pushing them towards more violence (for the right cause, of course!). And the latter happily walk the path of gore. Blood flows like tap water, limbs are chopped, heads are rolled, bodies are flung about and arms severed. For those who have a large appetite for gratuitous violence, you can have your fill in Salaar and then some more.

Prashanth Neel, the man behind the mammoth KGF, lets himself loose and turns on the action to 100 notches higher than his previous ventures. Watching Salaar is like walking into a testosterone mall in which men do the slo-mo walk, pose imposingly and then proceed to chop a few people here and there.

Yet, there is something strangely magnetic about the fantasy-meets-reality universe that Neel creates. The story is set in the present time but the roots lie hundreds of years in the past. The crux is thirst for power between tribes, ego battles, palace machinations, coups by unscrupulous family members and revenge for previous wrongs, all set in a fictional dystopian place Khansaar while crisscrossing between real-life towns like Bharuch (Gujarat) and Tinsukhia (Assam). In the midst of it all, are the two heroes --- Deva (Prabhas) and Varadha Raja Mannar (Prithviraj). They are the best of friends with Varadha reconnecting with Deva to seek his help in reclaiming his power. But who is the actual heir to the throne?

In between, you see militias from Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and Afghanistan serving the heads of these powerful Indian tribes and laying the ground for more wham-bam action. But there is also talk of a ceasefire to be decided by vote (or should that be a referendum?). Confused? Don’t even try to make sense of it or solve the muddle, just sit back and watch the proceedings, your brain addled with the bloodshed around.

Narrated in a non-linear fashion by a wise old man to a wonderstruck Shruti Haasan (who has a confusing and unclear bond to the protagonists), Salaar is sensory overload. Neel has borrowed the vibe of a Game of Thrones, the ethos of a Baahubali and given it his own flavour with history, mythology, present day politics and a lot of burly men thrown into the mix.

The result is a heady concoction that is as fascinating as it is gruesome. He does tie the loose ends, at least enough to make us understand Part 1 but not surprisingly, form and style take over substance. The grey palette with splashes of colour in which he paints this canvas works well for the violence in the air. Plus there is Ravi Basrur’s scintillating background score that elevates the gory action to another level and takes the audience with it. If this is a ride that interests you, join in. Else, stay back and stay safe.

The centrestage belongs to ‘Rebel’ star Prabhas (as he is introduced in the credits) and to a lesser extent, Prithviraj. The latter is a far better actor but the former has an undeniable screen presence. The packed audience in the theatre I watched this film in whistled and hooted throughout every scene Prabhas was in, so I guess the director knew exactly how to position the actor - which is by giving him a few dialogues and replacing those with long stares. For most part, Prabhas stands tall (literally!), and flexes his considerable muscles to fling armies around. He lets his physique do the talking and it talks really well.

Frankly, it’s only towards the very end that the connections between the lead players begin to unravel. At least, there’s enough in it to make die-hard fans curious about the second part. For the rest, it’s a deadpan Shruti Hasaan --- still trying to process all the information she’s been served --- who sums it up best. “Wait, wait wait,” she says in one of the last scenes. “I need a drink. Do you have alcohol?”. Our thoughts exactly, gurl!