When a movie is too layered or complicated to be categorised under one genre, it is either very emotionally challenging or just over-the-top. In the case of Saaho, it was both. Telugu director Sujeeth’s latest film, which was shot in Telugu, Tamil, and Hindi simultaneously, is exhausting. It has over 15 characters which are important to the story, which seems like good writing from the outside, but watch the motion feature to discover what it all leads up to. In the climax battle(s), a portion lengthier than that of Return of the King, we discover our effort was in vain. All that to go through needless romances, out-of-nowhere songs, one too many background stories, justifiable twists and at least five anti-heroes, was in fact, not worth it.
Saaho, as is evident, is about too many things to be about a concept or a feeling peculiarly. It starts as a third-person view inside a criminal organization trying to legalize their business. Parallelly, it runs as a story of a stylish policeman with all this right answers Ashok (Prabhas) who is trying to find a thief the department refers to as Shadow. The movie sets itself up in a way that combining both the storylines seemed the obvious way to go. But my argument as to why Saaho overdid things isn’t too many characters or plot points, it is the utter disregard for it. The movie conveniently leaves out what it finds fit and revokes character according to their need. The flashiness and incredibly lengthy action scenes mean it isn’t even the viewers’ fault to forget why they are fighting in the first place. All that, on top of adjusting to a cinematic universe, where even the ‘heroes’ don’t have their motives sorted, let alone the Physics.
If there is a God, or more specifically a Movie God, He has neutralised things within a gap of 15 days. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood gave us no plot, interesting character arcs and an incredibly true vision of a time or a place we don’t associate to. Saaho, on the other hand, had so much plot… that this could well have been a trilogy, or a web series, or sometimes with its explain-it-all dialogues: even a podcast. No character brings even an inch of depth to the table; what they bring though are new ways of using a gun, or punching, or deceiving, or delivering ludicrous one-liners which seem like ‘the big moment’ initially but as you watch more of this chaos you get trained to normalise these displays of passionate writing as emphasisers in an otherwise still incredibly bizarre storyline.
To be fair, the only thing that did keep matters relevant were the twists. But showing off of a 350 crore budget — which should have been used to save Bury, or Amazon, or both — meant there were more tones to this than one could track. My favourite was just after Ashok and Amritha (Shraddha Kapoor) embrace each other’s vulnerabilities for no more than 13 seconds (an attempt to tick mark the ‘emotional’ checkbox) and Guru Randhawa’s Enni Soni starts playing. Cinema reduced to school annual day programmes.
The 170-minute runtime doesn’t help anyone as well. Except probably the nostalgia merchants who got to see Jackie Shroff, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Chunky Pandey, Murali Sharma, and Mandira Bedi — all together in a single screening. And that is exactly where the battle was lost. In the effort to make this movie larger than life, it made itself beyond and yet incredibly underneath cinematic understandings as well. Saaho’s movie synopsis on Google reads: “A man uses an arsenal of weapons to battle a gang of heavily armed thugs in the city”. Having watched the movie now, I know it isn’t what the film is about. A man bestowed with power and resources couldn’t be the protagonist of this film, it could be the film itself.