Telugu actor Prabhas’s first screen outing since the Baahubali films spills over with promises that it has no intention of keeping. Saaho, directed by Sujeeth, has been made in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi on a budget that is rumoured to runs into a few hundred crore. But the ordinary production design and tacky visual effects offer little evidence of the money. The thriller is mostly staged indoors and on sets, and the much-vaunted action sequences built around Prabhas won’t impress anybody who has had the misfortune of consuming better mounted Hollywood fare.

The plot would fit right into the flaring nostrils of any of the movie’s numerous overwrought characters – with room to spare. Roy (Jackie Shroff) heads a criminal empire in a Dubai-like city called Waaji. A power struggle breaks out when Roy is injured in an accident. A son, Vishwank (Arun Vijay), turns up to claim the throne, causing Roy’s associates, including characters played by Chunky Pandey and Mahesh Manjrekar, to hatch dastardly plots that go nowhere.

Meanwhile in Mumbai, Ashok (Prabhas) – described as the Mumbai police force’s most intelligent officer ever – is putting the moves on his colleague Amritha (Shraddha Kapoor). A daring robbery has taken place, and a task force is in hot pursuit of the thief known only as Shadow (Neil Nitin Mukesh). Ashok approves of Amritha (she is more serious about her shoe polish than her nail polish, he notes) but unerringly steps in to finish what she started.

He cannot stop his eyes from moving up and down her frame, just as she cannot help losing her heart to him. In this stubbornly primitive movie, where men run the show and women take the places assigned to them, Amritha follows Ashok’s lead and tries to affect something called love for her eternally smug paramour.

Saaho (2019).

The incoherent screenplay, which revolves around a device that can open a vault containing lakhs of crores, draws links between Ashok and Roy and Mumbai and Waaji. Thrown into the mix are tuneless songs featuring underclad, gyrating women, a scuffle in a chawl containing humans, a python and a panther, the erasure of a computer-generated tower from Waaji’s horizon, and a battle in a desert town where a dust storm conveniently conceals the unimaginative action.

The promises never stop even as the 179-minute movie crumbles under the weight of its ambitions. I will inflict great pain on you, Chunky Pandey’s Devraj warns Ashok, but like the rest of Saaho, this turns out to be yet another instance of empty talk and pointless swagger.

Shraddha Kapoor in Saaho. Courtesy Vu Creations.