An army major Ajay (Mahesh Babu) - you could guess that the hero introduction would be a mission where he downs a bunch of terrorists in Kashmir - is sent to Kurnool to convey the news of the martyrdom of one of the soldiers, also called Ajay, to his mother Bharathi (Vijayshanti). The local MLA (Prakash Raj performs well in a now routine for him avatar) has sent his henchmen to get rid of her and her daughters, after she files a case against him. Ajay gets down to the bottom of the scam, and as expected, rids Kurnool of their corrupt MLA and about 200 of his goons.
While the plotline itself is wafer thin, the movie has three aspects going for it. Vijayshanti brings with her grace and elegance as a straight-as-an-arrow professor. It's good to see her in a strong role such as this after all this time. Mahesh Babu is in prime form, bringing along with him high-adrenaline action and the flair for comedy he had displayed with dexterity in Khaleja and Dookudu. His screen presence was never in doubt, but the movie will also give fans several goosebump moments, evoking memories of Okkadu, that made Konda Reddy Buruju legendary in Telugu movie history.
Thirdly, the movie doesn't use the now routine comedy sub-plot. Instead, it uses the female protagonist (Rashmika) and her family to create the fun moments. Rashmika yet again shows why she is one of the most promising new gen women actors. Despite being part of a script that doesn't give her anything, she still manages to make a mark with her comic timing, without which her admiration for the 'so cute, so handsome' protagonist could have become cringe-worthy. Rao Ramesh complements her well although most of his lines are borderline misogynistic.
Anil Ravipudi, the director's trademark catchphrase repetition, leaves you in splits on several occasions. But his penchant for sexist comedy is also amply at display. Despite a massive chariot for his superman hero and the army sentiment going for him, he needlessly inserts innuendos targeted at women, for no particular reason (as if he was using an opportunity to vent his own frustration). The emphasis on 'magatanam' (masculinity) is slightly misplaced in today's day and age. Nevertheless, the director brings out the best of Mahesh Babu.
Apart from an emotional outburst against corrupt governments and a touch of patriotism infused in the climax, he also provides Ajay's character with an endearing emotion. Right through the movie Ajay avoids killing the goons while repeating the line, 'Meerandaru nenu kapadukunna pranalura, pranalu istunnam akkada' (You are all lives I have been trying to save, we sacrifice our lives there). That dialogue is a rather sensible deviation from the preachiness and hyper-nationalism moviemakers use to depict the army. A couple of poignant scenes, especially the one where Vijayshanti showcases her understated but effective acting, bemoaning the loss of her second son, moves you thoroughly.
Oh and then there is the small matter of Mahesh Babu dancing in 'Mind Block', that fans would really enjoy, a pat on the back for Sekhar Master. DSP's soundtrack resonates well with the strong emotions in the movie. The title song is dedicated not to the hero but to the soldier, a powerful ballad. B Praak's 'Suryudivo' is a wonderful folk track to build the familial bonding between Ajay, an orphan, and Bharathi, who lost both her sons in the army.
Sarileru Neekevvaru is an out and out fan entertainer, where the makers have complete clarity on what they set out to do - make the Mahesh fans happy through a tribute to the soldier. They have succeeded in doing the same. The movie combines heavy action and a lot of comedy to give our audiences the kind of entertainment they seek.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.