There’s a lot to like about the new Teluga-language action-comedy “Waltair Veerayya”. Directed by Bobby Kolli, the movie takes some big swings and has an even bigger vision. There are bursts of good action, several compelling characters, and a spare laugh or two. And it leans heavy on its big star, Chiranjeevi, giving plenty of screen time to the popular actor, producer, and former politician. For die-hard Chiranjeevi fans, that’s probably enough to have a good time. But it doesn’t cloak the film’s flaws which unfortunately are too big to overlook.
For starters, “Waltair Veerayya” is a little too ambitious. I like the idea behind it and I certainly don’t knock its scope. But Kolli (who co-wrote the script with Kona Venkat and L. Chakravarthy Reddy) can’t bring it all together in a cohesive way. It’s especially evident in the messy and scattershot second half that gets bogged down in seemingly endless backstory that zaps the movie of its energy. The story structure is clever, but connecting the dots becomes more of a chore that enjoyable.
But its biggest issue comes in the awkward and jarring shifts in tone. The movie really struggles nailing down an identity, haphazardly hopping back-and-forth between blood-splattering violence, playfully romantic dance numbers, grim tragedies, and stretches of silly slapstick. It’s a pretty bold and challenging move to try and incorporate all of those things into your movie. But if they don’t come together well, you end up with a film constantly at odds with itself. Sadly, that’s often the case with “Waltair Veerayya”.
Those are issues I never could shake, but that doesn’t mean the movie is a dud. In fact, there were several moments where Kolli had me fully onboard with what he was doing. And while the second half is messy, the way Kolli brings it together in the final act gives you a better appreciation of what he was going for. Minus a few slow patches (mostly with the attempts at comedy), the first half is especially good at setting up the story and introducing key characters. It definitely sets things on the right track.
When a Malaysian drug lord named Michael Caesar (Prakash Raj) sends his henchmen to Vizag to bust his younger brother Solomon (Bobby Simha) out of jail, it ends in a gruesome police station massacre. The inspector in charge, Seethapathi (Rajendra Prasad) is relieved of his duty, but remains determined that justice be served. So he hires a notorious smuggler Waltair Veerayya (Chiranjeevi) to travel to Malaysia and extradite Caesar back to India to pay for his crimes.
It’s a good setup, but it’s not without its hiccups. Every so often, the movie gets sidetracked with these wacky scenes that almost play like sketch comedy. The feel so detached from the crime story at the movie’s center. Worst of all, they make it hard to get a grasp on who Waltair Veerayya is supposed to be. One minute he’s a gritty, intimidating, violent force; the next he’s a bumbling oaf. Not only do these scenes clash with the story, but they almost play like a showcase for Chiranjeevi rather than a tale of Waltair Veerayya.
Still, Chiranjeevi has plenty of charisma, and whenever the movie is focused, he makes for a good protagonist. The film is also helped by some good and sturdy supporting work. Seasoned actor Prakash Raj is no stranger to ‘bad guy’ roles, and he’s a perfect fit here. Shruti Haasan is terrific as a hotel guest relations manager who may not be who she claims to be. And Ravi Teja brings a needed swagger to the second half playing Police Commissioner Vikram Sagar who we learn has a special connection with Veerayya.
Aside from some rocky storytelling and a wildly inconsistent tone, “Waltair Veerayya” can still be entertaining. There are plenty of twists, turns, and double-crosses. There’s enough stylishly choreographed action to keep things lively, and the dance numbers (on their own) are enjoyable. If only it all gelled. If only the grim and violent didn’t clash with the silly and whimsical. If only it did as well telling its story as it did showcasing its star. “Waltair Veerayya” is now showing in select theaters.