Salaar released today on the big screen and looks like Prabhas and Prashanth Neel are serving old wine in a new bottle
The troop of saviour men who can fight the world and stand strong without a single scratch with blood on their hands and drops of it on their faces are the new ‘heroes’ that have found their place in the hearts and minds of a wide audience. The 'pan' in pan-India somewhere means there will be an unapologetic display of machoism, a loud and thudding BGM, and some vibrant dance numbers or uncomfortable sequences only for which the female actor is cast. Salaar is great at storytelling, very interested in world-building, and worships its hero just right, but it also follows the aforementioned formula.
Is Salaar Better Than KGF and Prabhas' Past Films?
Compared to the past Prabhas movies post Baahubali 2 and Prashant Neel’s KGF franchise, Salaar Part 1 – Ceasefire has to be the best film in their filmographies. It gets the world-building, storytelling, and 'vibe' right. It is almost like someone is trying to redo Saaho, but a better version of it is born. You can call Salaar Prabhas’ redemption for Saaho. But while I call them the best, one has to see what is kept on the other side. Mediocre movies have little to nothing to offer. So even at its best, Salaar is still quite a flawed movie.
The first thing about this genre is that we have now slowly started moving towards a saturation point where the axe getting stuck in someone’s rib and the hero pulling it out doesn’t make us feel anything because we have seen it so many times and in so many variations; there is no excitement in it. Add to it that this world has no place for women who can fight for themselves without a man. Jawan is a classic antidote to them, with women saving the day for a hero for a very substantial part of it. As for Salaar and the like, they are nothing more than damsels in distress. If they are even a bit brave, they are villains.
Talking of the hero, Prabhas. He is a King who is fighting for his throne; he is the man saving a girl from an entire village of goons; he is a lover boy romancing a beautiful woman on an aesthetic train; he is also Lord Ram on his way to defeat Ravan and bring back Sita; but one thing common among all of this is a voice. Prabhas technically introduced most of us to the pan-India label and has been on it ever since. With Salaar, he now re-establishes the angry young man, and most of the credit goes to Sharad Kelkar.
You ask why? For most of the North, Sharad Kelkar’s voice is Prabhas’ voice. It was the voice in Baahubali that many of us fell in love with. But when Prabhas decided to dub for himself in Radhe Shyam, the facade was broken, and the audience rejected it. The result: Kelkar came back for Adipurush and so did the audience's reaction in the North. This means Sharad had done more for Prabhas’ pan-India career than Prabhas himself. The actor does little, and it is still a mystery why his stardom rose to so much power. His range is limited, and his movements are restricted. Everything depends on the world decorated around him, and yet he is being introduced as the God of his films.
We are not even going into the details of Salaar Part 1 because the Prashanth Neel universe is much beyond that. How do people travel from Banaras to Assam in 5 minutes? How is a fortress massive enough to look like a state? Why do the interiors look like London in the day and sets of KGF in the night? Why is every hero born out of a coal mine? Are they all looking for diamonds there? Salaar is not about questioning the material and seeking answers, but rather following orders. Even Animal has the same structure, but that is one film you should never take orders from.
Salaar can be called a decent watch, but it is old wine in a new bottle and a genre that shouldn’t have been but is a staple now. Even with the world-building, the layering is still very weak and thin. Salaar Part 2 will take this massive canvas ahead. I hope there is some common logic that at least doesn’t make some serious points funny. A group of villains has access to each and every CCTV camera in India, and there is one glimpse showing footage of Rashtrapati Marg! Let that sink in. I will leave you with that thought.