Sarkaru Vaari Paata First Impression: An enjoyable entertainer burdened with a social message

A quick mini spoiler-free write-up of Sarkaru Vaari Paata, starring Mahesh Babu and Keerthy Suresh
Sarkaru Vaari Paata First Impression: An enjoyable entertainer burdened with a social message

Mahesh Babu is back on the big screen with Sarkaru Vaari Paata after a two-year gap imposed by the pandemic. The star cracked the formula for commercial success by blending larger-than-life entertainment with a relevant social element. He struck gold by capitalising this formula in films like Srimanthudu, Bharatha Ane Nenu, Maharshi and Sarileru Neekevvaru. The need to address a social issue in his recent filmography, at times, felt shoehorned and pretentious. The masses embraced Mahesh Babu’s newfound love for social causes but I belong to the minority that loves to watch the actor as an unbridled entertainer, untainted by the ostentatious prerequisite to give a message. And for the entire first half of Parasuram Petla’s Sarkaru Vaari Paata, I thought we finally got to witness the Mahesh we loved in Khaleja, Pokiri and Dookudu: the Mahesh who thrashes people with swag as effortlessly as spewing quick-witted lines with a naughty face. And I wish Sarkaru Vaari Paata was just that, because as long as the film’s goal is to entertain us, it works like a charm. When it tries to educate us towards the end, you see, that’s where things get out of hand. 

Good things first, the film wastes no time in setting up the protagonist’s character. A tragedy in childhood fortifies Mahesh’s (that’s the name of the character too, you see, the actor’s on and off-screen persona has no boundaries) respect for money and the concept of money-lending; repayment is sacrosanct to Mahesh. What happens when he locks horns with a crooked businessman, Samuthirakani’s Rajendran, whose dictionary doesn’t list the word repay? It’s a clash of ideologies that results in a couple of gloriously over-the-top and rousing action sequences: One set in a beach right before the intermission, one in the second half involving a truck, and the final one, the much-hyped bank sequence in the climax.

The mass moments, ably complemented by the soundtrack of the ever-reliable S Thaman, are a blast to behold on the big screen. You don’t question physics when Mahesh kicks goons with his perfectly dressed hair untouched. You just go ‘Jai Babu’

Keerthy Suresh gets a surprisingly remarkable role as Kalavathi, who is the source of entertainment for the major part of the first half. It’s a delight to see Mahesh and Keerthy in their comical elements, and the humour, with some support from Vennela Kishore, works beautifully. Even the line ‘Donga andhanga’ in the popular ‘Kalavathi’ number gets a terrific treatment. I reiterate, the first half of Sarkaru Vaari Paata is a brilliant entertainer, laced with comedy and effective build-up towards the hero-villain face-off.

The cracks in the narrative begin to show up in the second half as we see Mahesh break into long speeches once in a while, asserting the importance of our financial system, its flaws and how it affects the common man. When the film starts taking itself seriously towards the final act, by positing a social message, it becomes sillier and the narrative drags on and on. The fact that the writer wants us to believe that one speech from Mahesh can trigger a change among the residents of a local colony--a change that has the potential to snowball into a national issue--is laughable. 

Likewise, it’s hard to overlook the echoes of Bharath Ane Nenu and Sarileru Neekevvaru when Mahesh warns Rajendran that he will make him into a good man. It’s hard not to be reminded of the press meet scene in BAN when the actor addresses a group of middle-aged men about their finances.

Moreover, Mahesh’s character contradicts himself in the end, leaving us confused about the sides the film takes… Almost all the duller parts in the film result from the film’s good intentions. While they might have sounded noble on paper, the way they play on the screen in the final 20 minutes is futile and unintentionally funny at times.

Also, it's highly likely that a particular sequence involving the female lead in the second half, although it works on a comic level, will be problematised.

Despite the flaws, Sarkaru Vaari Paata has more than what it takes to redeem itself in the form of neatly written and performed lighter parts. The Mahesh we all love is back, albeit with the baggage of social messaging.

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