‘Mass Leader’ review: An uneven action film with troubling politics added to the brew

Director Narasimha throws together action, item numbers, sentiment and romance without any concern for continuity or pace.
‘Mass Leader’ review: An uneven action film with troubling politics added to the brew
‘Mass Leader’ review: An uneven action film with troubling politics added to the brew
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With a ‘mass’ film made to rake in the big bucks one can’t usually go into the theatre expecting to see refined political commentary play out on screen. And that’s the case with Shivarajkumar’s latest release – Mass Leader too.

The film seems to be firmly stuck to the territory of “All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” So, it ends with a rousing speech by Shivanna, on how Muslims and Hindus in India put their religion second and their nationalism first, and it’s the terrorists who raise the false cry of jihad in the country.

In its eagerness to point to a foreign threat the film clubs together everything from ISIS to Kashmiri separatists to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants as one giant spectre threatening India. And that spectre is so successful, Mass Leader tells us, because even as brave army men like Shivaraj the commando guard the borders tirelessly, politicians smuggle in migrants to create a ‘vote bank’. You don’t even have to work very hard to guess which political parties the film blames, as there are some very unambiguous scenes early in the film that pin the blame.

And, what is most troubling about the film is that it advocates spreading fake rumours of communal riots as a means to force illegal immigrants to go back.

But leaving aside the politics, Mass Leader is a very unevenly written and crafted film. Like an amateur chef throwing in whatever ingredients he feels like, writer and director Narasimha randomly sticks together action sequences, item numbers, romantic songs and scenes of family sentiment, without much regard for the pace and continuity of the narrative.

The various dots almost never seem to join together, and some plot points simply get forgotten without any explanation whatsoever. The ‘evil politicians’ in the early parts of the film, for instance, don’t even register on the radar in the second half of the film.

Besides the rather slapdash plotting, the film often attempts incomplete and strangely punctuated dialogue in a misguided attempt to give the film crispness. But perhaps these attempts at dialogues bitten off at the stub are better than the alternative – clumsy, ham-handed lines in English like, “I am standing on a live mine. Help me Shivaraj,” which bleed whatever energy has been built up in the action sequences.

Visually the film is just as haphazard. The director seems to think that choppy editing, strange camera angles and sudden jumps through muddy action sequences give a gritty and thrilling feel to action sequences. But most of the time they just end up making the viewer feel dizzy and irritated. Just in case you could survive the visuals, of course, there is also the excessively loud soundtrack to beat you into submission.

The acting cast perform about what’s expected of them. The manly heroes look stone-cold angry. The villains look stereotypically evil. And the supporting cast forming Shivaraj’s family look suitably cute, till disaster strikes.

Even if you’re a massive fan of Shivanna and a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, Mass Leader may prove a bit too much to take.

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