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'Salaar: Part 1' Review: Prabhas & Prithviraj Film Scores High on Action

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire is directed by Prashanth Neel.

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This week, two big films helmed by two superstars in their own might, are battling it out in the box office. Shah Rukh Khan, with two hits under his belt, returns with Dunki and Prabhas, whose previous films failed to make a mark, returns with Salaar

So how does Salaar fare?  

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Director Prashanth Neel takes the 'one man army' trope perhaps as far as he can in his latest Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire.

At the heart of the film is a young boy's promise to his friend; one of protecting him against all odds. Cut to the present and this boy Devaratha or 'Deva' (Prabhas), now a grown man living in Assam with his mother, is keeping his promise to her. A promise to never pick up arms and never fight. 

What pushed Deva's mother to ask for such a vow? That's the story that Neel explores in the film's second half right when the director's stellar worldbuilding comes into play. We're taken back to the fictional land of Khansaar, a place that stands tall because of 'fear' – nobody is a stranger to violence and a bloody war for the throne wages on. 

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire is directed by Prashanth Neel.

A still from Salaar.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube screengrab)

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Deva's friend Varadha's (Prithviraj Sukumaran) father Mannar takes an extreme step to eliminate all contention to his power – sitting proudly as the head of Khansaar but there are threats looming around him, constantly getting closer. 

Neel manages to use an almost dizzying pace to keep the audience hooked to the movie. One action sequence follows another, limbs are hacked off, blood flows freely, threats are exchanged on the streets. To the writers' credit, while the sheer number of different players can get confusing, the shifting power dynamics always remain clear. 

'Rebel star' Prabhas gets a treatment deserving of his screen presence and charisma. Even as he walks in slow-motion for the umpteenth time, the effect doesn't wear off. He walks into fights with the air of a person who hasn't even considered the possibility of defeat. For all intents and purposes, he is invincible. 
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The way the actor uses his body language to convey what Deva is thinking (he has little to say for the most part) is commendable. In an action film of this scale, watching Deva try to make violence his last resort is almost comical (in a good way).  

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire is directed by Prashanth Neel.

Prithviraj Sukumaran in a still from Salaar.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube screengrab)

The action choreography by the duo Anbariv is delightfully violent and gory – there is not a second of respite. As far as gore is concerned, it's all pretty much a standard affair but the action sequences are elevated because of the iconic black and red colour palette. Cinematographer Bhuvan Gowda's camera work complements the palette well to create a truly grisly atmosphere where our violent characters can thrive. 

All the gushing about the action aside, Salaar: Part 1 doesn't have a lot going for it with regards to the screenplay. Firstly, it doesn't feel new if you're familiar with the filmmaker's work – it's Ugramm packaged in a KGF pallette. 

Furthermore, the women are relegated to being damsels in distress, mostly to show that if there is one thing Deva can't stand, it's violence towards women. As a character trait, it's pretty solid but the women soon just seem to become pawns placed in the film for the service of the lead character's hero journey. 

Even when it feels like the women in the film are finally getting the revenge arc they deserve, they just become background music (yes, become). 

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire is directed by Prashanth Neel.

A still from Salaar.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube screengrab)

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Other times, some of the scenes just feel trite. As the tenth character begins to sing praises of Deva you wonder if we could've stopped at the fight. Once Deva is given free reign to fight, let the audience buy into his spirit; there's no need for dialogue to hammer it home. At one point, he slowly forms a fist waiting for orders from his mother and the sounds of an engine starting play in the background. Scenes like these take away from otherwise mesmerising setups.  

One person who does get a meatier role is Sriya Reddy as the imposing and fiery Radha Rama Mannar. While Sukumaran plays his role as a wounded but proud animal waiting for his time to strike, Reddy plays hers with a disquieting fury. While Rama's loyal aide Obulamma (Jhansi) acts as her source of intel, Varda's Deva runs into battlefields he can't. If Salaar had focused on the relationship between these siblings and their motivations more, there would be much more to chew on. 

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire is directed by Prashanth Neel.

Prabhas in a still from Salaar.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The solid performances by Prabhas and Sukumaran and their easygoing chemistry are the biggest pulls in the film. With a stronger screenplay and more attention to the characters relegated to the sidelines, Salaar: Part 1 would be a blockbuster to remember. As it stands, it's good enough to wonder what the second part will bring. 

Despite its flaws, I'll be tuning in for part 2.

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