‘Skanda’ movie review: Boyapati Sreenu and Ram Pothineni’s mass outing is a test of endurance

In director Boyapati Sreenu’s Telugu blockbuster, “Skanda – The Attacker,” starring Ram Pothineni, Sreeleela, and Saiee Manjrekar, the story kicks off with a bang. The son of the Telangana Chief Minister (Sharath Lohithaswa) elopes with the daughter of the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister (Ajay Purkar). This act turns two former friends, the CMs, into bitter enemies. One of them menacingly warns the other, saying, “Naa inti gate kaadhu, naa state toll gate dhaatu choodham” (Forget crossing the gates of my house; let’s see if you can cross my State’s toll gates). As we ponder which CM will emerge victorious, a character identifying himself as “Seema bidda” (son of Rayalaseema soil) enters the scene and later brings both CMs to their knees. Another character issues a chilling warning to the CMs, suggesting they won’t hesitate to turn anything or anyone in their way into pickles and bottle them up in jars! It’s tempting to find amusement in such lines since “Skanda” lacks much substance to offer.

“Skanda – The Attacker” embodies all the trademark elements of a Boyapati Sreenu film. It features massy action sequences executed in slow motion, complete with heads rolling, limbs flying, and people being hoisted on spears and daggers. The film boasts verbose rhyming dialogues that could easily serve as meme material, accompanied by excessively loud music that keeps the volume consistently up, thanks to S. Thaman’s work. However, leading women in the film find themselves with limited roles and little to do. While nuance and subtlety are not expected in a film of this genre, “Skanda” proves to be a test of endurance and an assault on the senses.

The film’s prologue introduces Srikanth as Rudraganti Ramakrishna Raju, an entrepreneur from Rudrarajupuram, wrongly sentenced to death. His daughter, played by Saiee Manjrekar, is fighting for her life, setting the stage for a hero to rise and ensure that good triumphs over evil.

Ram takes on the role of the hypermasculine savior who confronts caricaturish depictions of powerful chief ministers. In a rather comical scene, a character compares his speed to that of a tiger, followed by a staggering 22 slow-motion shots before the next line of dialogue is spoken. Ram’s character is also depicted taming a fierce bull injected with a drug more easily than Bhallaladeva taming the oversized bull in “Baahubali.” The protagonist’s initial portrayal as a crude college student who refers to his classmate (Sreeleela) as an ‘average’ woman is played for humor. He argues that marrying an average-looking woman would garner more attention and make him appear more handsome. These ‘average’ references are intended to amuse, but a later revelation paints a different picture, suggesting that he was a Stanford University topper skilled in ethical hacking. However, he now engages in hacking for the love of his family and his father’s close friend, Ramakrishna Raju.

The film’s storyline, centered on revenge and retribution, extends for a lengthy 167 minutes, filled with numerous slow-motion shots and rhyming dialogues. It incorporates international film and literary references, with someone being humorously referred to as Tarzan and the word “Matrix” prominently appearing in the background during a goon’s attack planning. The famous Shakespearean line, “To be or not to be,” also makes an appearance, and one character even calls Ram a “walking Rolls Royce.” Meanwhile, many female characters are dressed in elegant silks but have limited roles, mostly consisting of weeping or showering their sons with love. A group of young women can be seen swooning over the hero.

“Skanda” falls short in terms of innovation in storytelling, character development, music, and action choreography. It relentlessly celebrates high-decibel mass entertainment to the point where you might want to keep your noise-cancelling earphones handy. The revelation of a sequel in the works towards the end of the film may be seen as more of a threat than a promise.

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