Prashanth Neel’s Worldbuilding Skills Gives Prabhas His Much-Needed Win

salaar review

The film, co-starring Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran, is wonderfully high on drama and bromance

Director: Prashanth Neel

Cast: Prabhas, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Shruti Haasan, Tinu Anand, Eshwari Rao, Jagapathi Babu, Sriya Reddy, Garuda Ram

Available in: Theatres

Duration: 172 minutes

  • Besides all its visual patterns (like the grandeur of sets and the aesthetic gore), several other elements such as the power of promises and narrative strength in Salaar tell you that it’s a Prashanth Neel film. All such factors are found in equal measures in Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire, lending a certain simplicity to a complex narrative. A 10-year-old boy makes a promise to his friend, and this drives the central narrative of the film, which seamlessly shifts between the streets of Assam, New York, Khansaar and a few other places. 
  • When he creates a new world in his films, Neel’s biggest advantage is he can decide the rules that restrict him. Khansaar is a country that has its own history, tribes, leaders and reasons for revenge. As a viewer, this helps you buy into his narrative without scepticism or questions. It is how Neel uses this advantage with utmost care that interests you. The film, especially the second half when we completely move into Khansar, fills you in on a lot of details. It is easy to feel exhausted by the bombarding of information. However, it is crafted with such effort that you are wowed by the features even if it comes at the cost of feeling overwhelmed. 
  • Salaar has given Prabhas the comeback he needed the most. He is at ease in Neel’s world as Deva, a mechanic who doubles up as the powerful hero who equals a single army. When you think about it, Deva is a very simple man and Salaar is a simple story. Deva is bound by his love for his friend (Prithviraj Sukumaran as Vardharaja Mannar aka Vardha) and mother (played by Eswari Rao) and would go to any extent to save them. If Prabhas brings his usual tenderness to the macho man Deva, Prithviraj Sukumaran brings a certain power to the vulnerable Vardha.
  • The action in Salaar is not too much about innovation or style. In fact, not many of the action sequences get registered. However, the emotion that drives the action sequence makes it intriguing. The fight sequences featuring Prabhas and Prithviraj are entertaining because of the camaraderie they share. Neel also uses humour to make the action unique, which is organically built through the friendship the lead characters share. Their bond is the heart and soul of the film. They stand up for each other no matter what the situation demands — be it attacking hundreds of gangsters, sacrificing a kingdom or even falling on someone’s feat.
  • Besides the drama that helps the action sequences, it’s the intercuts that Neel’s films have come to be known for and the editing choices that keep you engrossed. Right from the introduction sequence, every mass moment in the film is powered by Ujwal Kulkarni’s edits. There are a lot of little details Neel uses to establish certain points. Some sequences like Deva’s mother literally holding an India map to see where else they can move to live in peace, far away from the violence, may come across as silly. However, many others like the sounds made by a vehicle engine’s starting trouble used as a metaphor for a roaring comeback and a still of Prabhas in the mining area with “Danger” highlighted on the board nearby are details that add more masala to the drama. 
  • As a result, you can’t dismiss most of these scenes as just an add-on and it’s satisfying when they get wonderful pay-offs. But a few scenes drag out the narrative. For instance, there is a long stretch in the second half where Prabhas’s Deva rises as a hero in Khansaar. A group of women are being tormented and abused, and both the lead protagonists are silenced because of politics. It takes a long time to establish this sequence that even if it’s delightful to see Deva break the norms and indulge in heroism, backed by some amazing dialogue, the sequence that builds up to this tires you. Although Neel’s visuals are sensitive enough, why in 2023 do we still have long sequences to establish that women are tortured by those in power when it hardly adds anything to the plot?
  • All said and done, you have to give it to Neel for the fascinating world he’s built. Even if the film is 172 minutes long, you’re given the enough amount story to know and are always curious. The film feeds you a lot of details and also leaves several things unsaid. The best part though is that none of Salaar‘s flaws leave you frustrated. It only makes you interested to know what it has in store with its sequel.

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