Sudeep has mastered the art of playing the stoic, upright hero, and delivers what’s expected in this film too.

Review Hebbuli is an action film by the book tailor-made for Sudeep fansYouTube
Flix Film Review Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 12:49

It’s a fact of life that most things Kichcha Sudeep touches in Sandalwood today turn automatically to gold. And when he does an extended filmic “tribute” to the sacrifices of the soldier on the border, you can bet that the registers are going to be ringing.

Make no mistake about it, though, Hebbuli is a by-the-numbers commercial action film. But it deserves brownie points for putting in a “message” about a social issue that you wouldn’t expect to find its way into a film of this genre.

That the film picks up on a healthcare issue that is usually drowned in lengthy and complex debates about patents and intellectual property, and manages to make a simple greed versus good battle out of it, is something to be marvelled at.

Of course, sticking to the conventions of the Kannada action genre, director S Krishna never gives us more than a simplistic, flat narrative about complex issues. Sudeep’s Captain Ram is a paramilitary commando, with a heart of gold and the righteous temper of a guardian of the nation.

The apparent suicide of his brother, IAS officer Sathyamurthy (Ravichandran) – another man with a milky white personality who just wants to do his bit to make the lives of the country’s poor a little better – brings him back from the border. The suicide is no suicide, but the heart of a nexus between a corrupt politician and a greedy industrialist, and it’s Ram’s job to take down the evildoers.

From the opening sequence of a cross-border surgical strike carried out by Ram and his team of commandos, Hebbuli’s strong point is its action sequences featuring a Sudeep tailor-made for the stoic, upright hero role. Over the years, Sudeep has mastered the art of playing the man of few words and lots of action, and he delivers just what fans want in this film too.

If one is left feeling that these sequences could have been a little more creatively choreographed instead of sticking so rigidly to tried-and-tested formulas of slow-motion fight sequences where villains are felled with a single blow, they’re still paisa vasool for the most part. And there are occasional surprises like an all too short high-energy knife fight close to the climax.

Where the film really struggles is outside the action sequences. While the first half sticks closely to the action script, the second half meanders as it tries to flesh out its social message, and establish the tear-jerking love between the hero brothers. The ensemble of villains featuring Ravi Shankar and Ravi Kishan doesn’t contribute any depth to the story either, as these characters play out as the stock villains without a single shred of humanity in them. The arrangement of songs and the very unsuccessful comedy track, in particular, often puts the breaks on the film’s pace.

And there’s not all that much to take away from Amala Paul’s debut in Sandalwood, given that the action narrative has little room for her character. Still, Hebbuli isn’t the worst offender when it comes to giving space to women actors, and Amala’s character has a little more screen time than we’ve come to expect with action entertainers.

At the end of its runtime, Hebbuli is the kind of big-budget film that Sandalwood has learnt to roll out with regularity: with enough spectacle and heroism to please the fans, but falling short of that something extra to draw in the rest of the crowd.