The Mahesh Babu-Keerthy Suresh starrer loses its way when the protagonist's problem is used as an excuse to project him as a messiah
Last Updated: 07.59 AM, May 12, 2022
Mahesh is orphaned when his parents commit suicide for their inability to repay a loan in a bank and are forced to mortgage their house. Many years later, the tables turn and Mahesh is an aggressive youngster who owns a financing company in the US and is ruthless in his ways if any of his customers default on their payment. Kalaavathi, a girl who loses all her money due to trivial pleasures, plans to con him for a loan. Unaware of the trap she's set, Mahesh is smitten by her charm, only to receive a rude shock later. He wants to teach Kalavaathi a lesson and recover the loan from her, even if it costs him a trip to India. Will he succeed in his pursuit?
In a majority of mainstream films, the protagonist's family or their beloved is often at the mercy of a vile moneylender who would pull all the stops to settle his debts. What if such a crooked figure gets a stylish, corporate makeover and falls for a trap set by his customer? Sarkaru Vaari Paata is a story born out of an ordinary citizen's frustration watching the Vijay Mallyas, and Nirav Modis fleeing the country under the influence of the elite, while they bear the brunt even for the petty amount they've borrowed from banks. What connects a finance company owner to a Vijay Mallya-like figure in Vizag? That's the film in a nutshell for you.
Writer, and director Parasuram, who has often confessed that it was a dream to direct Mahesh Babu in a film, gives him a lead character that exploits his strengths to the T. Mahesh Babu frees himself from all inhibitions to get into the skin of a character (tailormade for him) who speaks sans filters. Yet, while trying to do the balancing act between the needs of the story and the strengths of its star, Sarkaru Vaari Paata loses its direction. There are a handful of sparks, and moments of screenwriting brilliance in the partly enjoyable masala flick, designed to pander to the galleries, though the star vehicle turns a tad too over-ambitious in the later part of the story.
The director in his massiest outing to date crafts the masala moments and the emotional beats to perfection while introducing Mahesh's character. In a role reversal act, the son of parents who end their lives owing to a loan turns into a finance company owner and is after the lives of his customers when they don't pay their money on time. Parasuram couldn't have got a better line than this to summarise Mahesh - 'You can steal my love, You can steal my friend but you can't steal my money.' Even a man as aggressive as Mahesh can't resist the charms of a beautiful woman - his only weakling - a fact that the latter uses to her advantage.
Sarkaru Vaari Paata is terrific as long it sticks to the conflict in Mahesh's life revolving around his company and a girl. The film misses the bus when the director uses the personal problem of the protagonist as an excuse to turn him into a messiah of the middle class. While the entire first hour establishes Mahesh's ruthlessness in recovering money from customers, he contradicts himself later, while unleashing a revolt on banks that take on the average citizen for loan recovery and lets the elite escape scot-free. The laws are different for finance companies and banks, one feels - cinematic convenience folks?
The film flows like a dream in its light-hearted moments during Mahesh and Kalaavathi's romantic escapades. Mahesh Babu has the enthusiasm of a teenager while playing the lover boy (watch out for the scene where he says 'it's a boy thing') and Parasuram helps us revisit a side to the star we've almost forgotten during the Dookudu, Pokiri days. Vennela Kishore is the perfect addition to the mix, eliciting humour out of his sarcastic cautionary remarks to Mahesh's advances. As the stakes keep rising in the film, Parasuram gets into the fan-pleasing mode and compromises on his skill set as a writer. The entire second hour runs on a fragile storyline and the basis behind Mahesh's explosive reactions is weak.
The story is no longer about the protagonist-antagonist clash but the system and it underestimates audiences too much in the name of commercial liberties. The romance element is forcibly squeezed into the second half and it is extremely poor in taste. It's disappointing how the bar for a well-written female lead gets lower and lower for every commercial film. Kalaavathi as a character is convincing when she's badass, though one ultimately knows that she's here to be tamed by the hero. The 'taming' aspect isn't alien to Telugu cinema though Sarkaru Vaari Paata stoops down to another low while making the girl fall for the man (it's beyond the scope of this review).
What works for the film? Mahesh Babu himself, Ram-Lakshman's superbly choreographed action pieces, the humour in the first hour and Thaman's music. What doesn't? The filmmaker gets extremely conscious that it's a film driven by a star. The simplistic climax doesn't do justice to the efforts of the filmmaker in building a convincing backstory for Mahesh. The equation between Nadhiya and Mahesh Babu had to be stronger for the viewer to buy his pursuit. Despite its strengths, Sarkaru Vaari Paata isn't more than the sum of its parts. Samuthirakani continues his joy ride in Telugu cinema, while Keerthy Suresh's character is a delight to watch until she falls for Mahesh.
Sarkaru Vaari Paata is a mixed fare. It can neither be termed a disappointment nor an outright winner. If you're able to navigate past the film's fragile second hour, chances are that you'll be entertained. Mahesh Babu's fans will get everything they anticipate from their star but don't expect anything in the range of a Dookudu or a Pokiri.