Sarileru Neekevaru(No one can match you) is a one of its kind movie. Being matchless is both, good and bad depending on the context. A few paras later, I’ll let you figure that out. SN is one of those movies where the hero, an army officer, keeps staring at a waving flag from a picturesque river bank. It’s an expression of brimming patriotism apparently. Yeah, it’s that kind of a broad-stroked generic affair. Later, when pushed to a corner, he stares intently at distance…destiny maybe. So staring is a motif. So is randomness. Then he goes on to clean a dirt-addled archaic tractor. When the thing that really could use a clean up, the script, keeps springing up such imaginative sequences. So Mahesh Babu plays this all-rounder army officer who defuses bombs nonchalantly, conducts covert operations singing yesteryear songs, woos hordes of women by his sheer vanilla presence, travels to break bad news to a fellow officer’s family while doubling up as a grim reaper cum conscience keeper to the corrupt political ecosystem there. All of this is another way of telling there are songs, dances, romantic escapades, fights and endless platitudes.
The movie really tries; by tries I mean shits bricks to work as an action-comedy and position MB as a saviour with a sense of humour. Having watched a wide array of movies, I’m fairly abreast with most kinds of comic outcomes onscreen- conversational, political incorrectness, hare-brained, screw-ups, set-pieces, mistaken identities, body shaming and even scatological. But the “suspension of disbelief” genre the movie pedals is a first time. Picture this, a dad handing out daughters to outright ugly fuckers only to make knock-knock marriage jokes. A mother pimping out her daughter to a random stranger on train while leching at him. The said girl using rape as a pick-up technique. Drop in a bunch bizarre catch phrases to this mix with some hefty animated acting. If your idea of wholesome entertainment is this, then two things. One, you need to be straight-jacketed right away. And two, you may actually find this funny, you deviant.
But the funny does come pretty unintentionally, albeit excruciatingly at that. The funniest part is the movie thinks it’s serious enough to warrant a separate comedy track. Take the stunt sequences for instance. It’s a very literal movie, SN. “Falling like a pack of cards”, ever heard the idiom? There’s one fight where twenty odd men after being touched by the fingertip of the hero’s wrath, literally arrange themselves in ascending order of height like a pack of card to only fall. Basketball, know the sport right? Now imagine, every two hundred pound hoodlum bounced off the ground like one, to only be kicked away to sweet oblivion like a football.The ball is dropped on the stunt sequences. And gravity is that ball.
The movie basically exists to service the legend of MB. A gander at MB’s twitter handle, one might think MB’s the movie’s PR. But the truth is you need to have seen the movie to know that it in fact is an elaborate PR campaign to MB. What else can explain a new tertiary character introduced, every twenty minutes into the run-time, to only sing praises of devotion and surrender to Babu. Eyeballs diluted, a hint of treble in the voice and dramatic gesticulations, their expressions while elevating him, range from a saint taking the lord’s name to a honest perv beating off.
A special mention to DSP, whose music is the insult to our injury. His music exists squarely to remind us that the end of world isn’t necessarily through calamities and plagues. Only if the jihadis knew the power of bad lyrics and dalda dabba rhythms.
To be fair, SN would have worked gloriously as a spoof of the commercial-potboiler space, given how farcical it keeps getting. But it’s too tightly-wound for its own good. The screenplay is structured in a way it blows hot and cold. If one scene escalates the conflict between the antagonist and the protagonist, the next shows them playing pranks on each other. If one scene is a sermon on empowering women, it is followed up by a joke on their desperation to get laid. Imagine a belly dancer gyrating to wolf whistles at a dimly-lit ally. To only follow it up with shaming the audience about their collective misogyny. As sweet irony begins to sting, goes on to talk about motherhood with a straight face. SN is that kind of a random cocktail, where the jokes are morbid and the sermons are hilarious. Only if it were a spoof, it would’ve then been a matchless one.