Mahesh and Keerthy shine in this undercooked drama

Sarkaru Vaari Paata Story: Mahi, a moneylender, is scammed in the US by a gambling addict named Kalaavathi. While coming to India to collect his debts, he decides to stay behind and do his part in the country’s financial health.

Sarkaru Vaari Paata Review: Parasuram Petla’s last film Geetha Govindam was a rom-com that was a smash hit but didn’t seem to grasp the concept of consent. Now his mass entertainer Sarkaru Vaari Paata oscillates between commercial cinema, where anything goes, and a film that tries far too hard to arouse sympathy for some of the supporting characters.

Mahi (Mahesh Babu), a moneylender and debt collector, has a sad story. Despite his checkered past, he made a name for himself and set up his own finance company in the USA. While mostly easygoing, he also tends to stalk people who owe him money in any corner of the world, no matter the amount. He uses these stalking skills when he meets Kalaavathi (Keerthy Suresh). She walks into his life in a pretty saree, flowers in her hair, books in hand, and pretends to be anything but the gambling addict she really is. While the red flags she emits can be seen from a mile away by his girlfriend Kishore (Vennela Kishore), Mahi is too much in love to see them and finds it easy to cheat on him. When reality strikes, he sees no other choice but to head to Vizag to collect the debt she has accumulated from her father, a politician and tycoon named Rajendranath (Samuthirakani). But what Rajendranath and Kalavaathi don’t know is that Mahi has a different agenda.

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Sarkaru Vaari Paata suffers from a lack of focus when it comes to the film’s tone. Yes, yes, we know that’s how commercial cinema works – with a little bit of everything – but what happens when none of these tracks seem to reach the potential they have? Mahi and Kalaavathi’s love story, apart from Kishore’s character, draws some genuine laughs in the first half of the film, while an action sequence involving a truck in the second half prompts some unintentional laughs. Love soon turns to harassment, with Mahi vacillating between overturned boats and hooking up with strangers at airports. While that’s all well and good, he also finds hitting people (including Keerthy and Brahmaji) and infantilizing his supposed girlfriend problematic. Parasuram also plays up a physically disabled man for unnecessary sympathy. The VFX and green screen work could definitely have been better.

The film has a social message that supports it. What begins as a love story turns into a needless ego war between two men and soon evolves into a mini-revolution against the banking system, yes exploitation. While the message chosen by Parasuram is valid and even relevant, he makes the odd choice of choosing the “tell and not show” option, with Mahesh delivering lengthy dialogues. These plot points really require more screen time than they’re given. You have to admit it’s refreshing that the protagonist wants the antagonist to learn a lesson and be a part of the solution instead of just dying.

Where the film works is when it comes to Mahesh and Keerthy’s performances. The former seems much more relaxed and makes even the dumbest dialogue appear readable in his character’s skin – at least for the moment. Keerthy’s character comes and goes as and when it suits the story, but she does a good job of pulling off her crazy role. Thaman’s OST for the film might not be for everyone, but the songs don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Especially his BGM supports the story well. Samuthirakani can play this role in his sleep, as can other actors like Nadhiya and Tanikella Bharani, whose characters remain a note. Some parts of the film will keep you hooked, while others – not so much.

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At the end of everything Sarkaru Vaari Paata remains a half-baked commercial drama to get through largely due to performances by Mahesh and Keerthy. Check it out if you missed a more massive version of Mahesh on screen. Just don’t expect too much.

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