It’s Usain Bolt, and NOT Mo Farah that motivates the suave, young businessman Rishi’s (Mahesh Babu) meteoric rise as a much-celebrated global star. Yet director Vamshi Paidipally unhurriedly packs in copious amounts of SLOW-MO shots to document his rapid rise. Oh, the irony! But despite being handed the numerous catwalks - to flash his well-manicured entourage and a stunning selection of helicopters to the beat of loud background score – nothing REALLY slows him down.
Mahesh Babu, playing the rising star in one broad stroke, launches one punchline after another while faithfully wearing a smug look. It’s almost like he can sense when his diehard fans will erupt in cheer and whistles inside the movie halls. So he patiently mouths every dialogue without much emotion, hoping it’d set the box-office registers on fire. “Success is not a destination. It’s a journey,” he declares, quickly drawing inspiration from commas and full-stops to map his growth.
But if you thought money was his motivation considering his childhood was punctured by the lack of it, you’d be wrong. That’s because: “Money is a strange thing. When you chase it, it eludes you. But when you turn your back on it, it comes after you,” he chants.And just when you begin to question whether he’s using the three-hour-long screen time to churn out HOW TO BE A BILLIONAIRE SWIFTLY, he switches off his mumbling lesson about Artificial Intelligence being the future to champion a cause for social reform and patriotism.
It’s the rags-to-riches story that’s twisted in sense and sensibility. But it’s not as much Mahesh Babu’s problem as it’s that of writers Vamsi, Hari and Ahishor Solomon, who are blatantly banking on his starpower and box-office magic. Vamsi also parades veterans Prakash Raj and Jagapathi Babu but they are all shoved into the background to play second fiddle to Mahesh Babu’s stardom. There’s the pretty Pooja Hegde who is reduced for the dances while a half-baked love track drags her down further.
Maharshi attempts to take on Shah Rukh Khan’s epic journey in Swades but is unable to weave the same magic, because he’s unable to shake off Mahesh Babu’s fandom.