There are films, and there are films by director Boyapati Srinu. Then there are films by Boyapati Srinu starring Nandamuri Balakrishna. In the cinematic universe where the two collaborate, everything is larger than life. Nothing is subtle, not even remotely. In their third outing together after
Legend , the two decide to up the scale and the decibels. Telugu film
Akhanda stars Balakrishna in a dual role, but we’ll come to that in a bit.
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The director is aware of the star’s massive fanbase. Chants of ‘Jai Balayya’ are the norm when his films arrive at the theatres. This time, the fans took it a step further. Sample this: ‘Edukondalavada Venkataramana… jai Balayya!’ In
Akhanda , one of the roles essayed by Balakrishna is akin to a demi-God, someone who has superhuman powers. The other character played by Balakrishna is named Murali Krishna, a Good Samaritan who has been instrumental in stopping faction strife and is revered by all.
With the stage set for a larger-than-life canvas, Boyapati goes all out. The 167-minute film begins and ends with action sequences that are carefully choreographed, with ample slow motion shots designed to be dutifully lapped up amid loud cheers. Balakrishna walks between two large wheels and later tyres that are rolling away, after beating people to a pulp, of course, in slow motion.
Elsewhere, he thrusts a trishul into someone and turns it round a couple of times, just so we know he isn’t letting the evil ones get away easily. In another scene, bullets pop off someone’s skull. Another man beaten up by Balakrishna and hurled up is still spinning in the air while the star walks away in s.l.o.w.m.o.t.i.o.n. This is only the tip of the iceberg; there’s plenty more action in the film, unfolding to Thaman’s rousing score.
The story is that of twins separated at birth. Been there, seen that? A uranium miner exploits the land and its people to the hilt. Seen such stories too? Boyapati gives these oft-repeated mainstream storylines an added edge with the ‘Akhanda’ (invincible) aspect, throwing in a good measure of religion, spirituality, good Vs. evil godmen.
The narrative unfolds in a familiar fashion, depicting the hero’s good deeds. There’s room for romance as well. The new district collector Saranya Bachupalli (Pragya Jaiswal) is depicted more as a romantic interest and later as wife and young mother than as a civil servant. She gets ample screen time, but not enough scope to be taken seriously as a district collector. The age difference between the couple also appears glaring.
Poorna, as principal secretary Prabhavathi, probing the mining scandal, has slightly better scope to portray a no-nonsense government official.
Srikanth is cast as mine owner Varadaraju who knows no remorse. He eats at a poor woman’s house and in return, presents her with the severed head of the man of the house. If that gives an idea of the depiction of evil in this film, there’s more. A series of barbaric events sets the stage for the arrival of ‘Akhanda’ as the saviour.
The drama goes on and on, with Boyapati and team not tiring of several more action sequences. All this is laced with dialogues by M Ratnam. Some are sermons while most are punchlines — ‘
Meeku samasya vaste dandam pedataru, memu aa samasyake pindam pedatam ; both are not same’. Boyapati and Balakrishna seem to have thoroughly enjoyed making the film.
Srikanth is introduced as a powerful antagonist but eventually comes across as a regular villain. Numerous other characters fill the screen but have no scope to make an impact.
The film gets tiresome post intermission and the incessantly high voltage background score doesn’t help either.