Chatrapathi, the remake of SS Rajamouli’s Telugu 2005 hit of the same name, serves as the Hindi launch pad for Telugu actor Bellamkonda Sreenivas. As events that unfold over 123 bottom-warming and unintentionally rib-tickling minutes prove, this latest Bollywood hopeful is more rando than Rambo.
In Sreenivas’s defence, it can be said that everybody else in the cast goes through the motions. Director VV Vinayak’s inability to get a handle on even the routinest of mass entertainers has one noteworthy quality: the incompetence is consistent from the first frame to the last.
Shiva (Sreenivas) has been separated from his beloved step-mother (Bhagyashree Patwardhan) and his evil step-brother Ashok (Karan Singh Chhabra). Shiva works for the gangster Bhairav (Freddy Daruwala) and his brother Bhavani (Sharad Kelkar). Shiva’s search for his mother is initially futile but has one positive outcome: he meets Sapna (Nushrratt Bharuccha), leading to a song sequence where the female singer’s voice sounds like it’s on Auto-Tune and the backdrops resemble computer wallpaper.
Shiva eventually channels his inner superhero to become the boss man. Ashok, who has unnerving blue-grey contact lenses and the slithering manner of Gollum from the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, shows up to ruin Shiva’s party.
It’s like we never left the land of unending cliches. Widowed mothers, step-sons who are nobler than biological heirs, a slum with an elderly tea seller and a bright kid who has a blind mother, well-oiled toughies, crooked politicians – nobody is left out. Not to forget the wooden hero, who dispatches adversaries in slow-motion while standing in the exact centre of the frame surrounded by a semi-circle of admirers. Is it time to elevate action directors (Anl Arasu in this case) as co-directors?
The story takes place in Alang in Gujarat, where people slip into Mumbai slang to express their deepest thoughts. The clunky dialogue produces at least one gem.
One of Shiva’s friends has been grievously injured. I’m here, by your side, Shiva tells his friend by way of comfort. But I’m on my way out, the dying man replies.
So are we. So are we.