Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy movie cast: Chiranjeevi, Amitabh Bachchan, Vijay Sethupathi, Sudeep, Nayanthara
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy movie director: Surender Reddy
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy movie rating: 2.5 stars
The highlight of Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, starring Chiranjeevi in the lead role, is Amit Trivedi’s background score. The composer’s score adds a different texture to lacklustre scenes mounted on a massive scale. In scenes where the background score and slow-motion shots take over, I felt I was watching a Zack Snyder movie. The film has a bunch of cinematic moments that are soothing to our senses and engrossing. But, as we move on to the next scene, we are jolted by the harsh reality of director-writer Surender Reddy’s typical potboiler script, where British colonisers behave like typical Telugu villains.
The major flaw in Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is Surender’s attempt to force a sprawling story into a mould that fits the narrow definition of mainstream commercial cinema. The result is we get a typical Chiranjeevi film, where Chiranjeevi does what he has done in his last 150 films – fight for the poor and weak. The only difference is that he is at it while wearing an ancient warrior’s costume and riding a horse.
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is based on the life of Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy, a 16th-century feudal leader, who is touted to have sowed the seeds of rebellion way before officially documented India’s first war of independence in 1857.
Surender uses every opportunity to mythologise the character of Narasimha Reddy, played by Chiranjeevi. He opens the film in the middle of the 1857 war, where the sword-wielding soldiers of Jhansi are on the verge of accepting defeat. Enter a woman warrior, Jhansi Lakshmi Bai (Anushka Shetty), who tells the tale of Narasimha Reddy to fire up her army. So the legend begins, with the birth of Narasimha Reddy. He is declared as stillborn. But, after some time the baby is jolted into his senses by some miracle. You see, he defeated death right at his birth.
Narasimha Reddy as a teenager wants to single-handedly revolt against the British. But, thanks to the wisdom of his mentor Guru Gosayi Venkanna (Amitabh Bachchan), he decides to wait until he builds his army. He undergoes training to become a warrior. And he grows up to be a master of the senses. He can breathe and practically live underwater.
The most awkward scenes in the movie are the ones that revolve around the blooming romance between Narasimha and Lakshmi (Tamannaah). Lakshmi is awed by Narasimha’s ability to mediate underwater. She is the film director’s fantasy. She is so hypnotised by Narasimha (read Chiranjeevi) that she gives up her ability to think and act and accepts anything that the director would throw at her. For the entire first half, Tamannaah does nothing but stare at Chiranjeevi.
Surender resorting to overused methods to set up the 16th-century freedom is also uninspiring. And just when all hope was lost and you are on the verge of conceding defeat like the soldiers of Jhansi, something happens. Narasimha gets to work and starts beheading evil British colonisers. The fight paves way for the beginning of the end of the British Empire in India. Not soldiers but common people go to war against the colonisers. The British describe it as the “freedom struggle.”
Typically, the directors of Telugu potboilers embed a side-character in the villain’s camp, whose life is spared despite his penchant for singing praise of the hero. In this film, we get a clerk in the British administration, who gets away mocking his masters in the face of their biggest humiliation. Surender also uses him to explain an action sequence that is inspired by a mythological story of an avatar of god killing a demon.
In the second half, the guerilla warfare of Narasimha and action takes centre stage. The film works on a scene-by-scene basis but the film comes up very short on being a complete entertainer. It is because the narration does not really transport us into the era the story is set in. We don’t wade into the testy political waters and ego clashes of feudal masters. Nor are there great scenes that make us feel for the characters. What we get is a broad stroke of the actions of the evil, the valour and the sacrifices.
However, I liked Surender’s attempt to underline the fact that freedom was achieved by hundreds of thousands of people’s selfless sacrifices cutting across class and religious lines.
Apart from scenes where he is fighting or trying to fire up the crowd, Chiranjeevi plays his character with some maturity. Even as his character is built up as a mythological hero, he presents his character as a single-minded warrior, who doesn’t buy into his legend. And the huge star cast, including Amitabh Bachchan, Vijay Sethupathi, Sudeep, Nayanthara are all sacrificed at the altar of myth-building. Tamannaah gets to shine in a few moments even as she firmly stays in the shadow of Chiranjeevi.