Ten years is a long time to be gone from the film industry, but Chiru's fame lives up to the meaning of his name.
The actor's 150th film (and the third with Khaidi in the title), coming after a decade spent away from the arc lights, is festival-time for his fans. And he gives them every reason to celebrate. There are the signature touches of a Chiranjeevi film - dance (loads of it), power-packed action sequences, punch dialogues, and comedy.
And within all the glitz and fun, amply packed in by director V Vinayak, lies a nucleus that's most appropriate for Sankranti - the harvest festival - the plight of farmers struggling against the vagaries of nature and the steel muscle of the corporate sector.
Playing the dual roles of Seenu, a small-time thief, and Shankar, an activist who comes from a farming family, Chiranjeevi is present in almost every scene of the film. And damn, the man looks good for 61!
Even if you have watched Kaththi, the Tamil original, like I have, Khaidi No.150 will still manage to move you because of his performance. This despite the distractions that the movie throws at you in the form of songs and comedy sequences, just when the story becomes sombre and you begin to introspect on the indifference we show as a nation to what happens in the hinterlands.
While this compromises the integrity of the film, it gives you plenty of paisa vasool entertainment because well, it's Chiranjeevi dancing and you can't help but watch. Kajal Aggarwal as Lakshmi has little to do in the film other than smile and look pretty.
We have no idea who she is, what she does for a living, and why nobody seems to care that she's spending all her time with this dude who came out of nowhere. Kajal looks almost bored in most of the scenes but compensates in the dance sequences by matching Chiranjeevi's electrifying steps to Devi Sri Prasad's foot-tapping numbers.
There's much to like about Khaidi No.150 but just like Kaththi, the film is too simplistic. It functions on the one line premise that if you are urban, rich, or belonging to the corporate sector, you must be scum.
Anyone who has read anything about the agrarian crisis in India will attest to the fact that we in the cities with our white collar jobs, don't care enough about rural India but lumping the entire cast in these broad strokes means that the plot becomes predictable.
You just need to see if someone's wearing a suit as juxtaposed to one in faded clothes, to know who is bad and who is good.
And then there's that whole sequence with Malli (Ali) and Dober (Brahmanandam) in a staged rape scene which Shankar captures on a phone camera in order to blackmail the latter. Really?
When will our filmmakers and actors realise that there's nothing funny about rape, staged or otherwise? Thankfully, the audience I was watching the film with, didn't laugh even a wee bit.
Khaidi No.150 is a masala flick with its heart in the right place. Like the egg shampoo it outrages against, the packaging is pretty and you may think it's a crime to waste so much time and money on it, but how many would have watched a film on the farm sector, if all the screen offered you was the truth and its misery?