Before I begin, as an ardent student of history and even more ardent follower of pop culture, I must laud the intentions of the makers for bringing into light, the contributions and references of freedom fighters from Southern India, which most historians and influencers have overlooked, to their fault.
Based on the life and times of Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy, a Polygar from the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh, who led the first people-built army against the British-led East India Company in the early 1800s, ‘Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy’ is an earnest but arduous retelling of the account of the rebellion that resulted owing to the stricter laws imposed upon the agrarian sector by the British.
Written by Paruchuri Brothers, ‘Sye Raa’ on the technical ground almost attempts to recreate a grand-scale narrative alike the ‘Baahubali’ franchise. The references are evident in its production design by Rajeevan. For instance, one cannot be sure if the Polygars of Andhra Pradesh resided in palatial mansions during the 1800s. Ratnavelu’s cinematography establishes the rusticity of the times, the film is set in. But the biggest hindrances come in the form of the background music by Julius Packiam, the editing by Sreekar Prasad and the action sequences staged by Greg Powell, Lee Whittaker, Ram-Laxman and A Vijay. Firstly, at 170 minutes long, the battle sequences are the most overdrawn portions of the film. Not to forget, visually disturbing. Heads and bodies are sliced off as if they were fruits and vegetables. These sequences are accompanied by Packiam’s background score that are rendered at the highest decibel possible. I found myself scrolling through my phone in between these portions.
But when the narrative shifts to the performances, there is enough respite and much to appreciate in the fine performances of a dream ensemble. Making his comeback into films after twelve years with the titular role, Megastar Chiranjeevi’s presence shines throughout the film, proving that his acting chops are intact, despite a successful political career too. He is ably backed by superlative performances essayed by Sudeep (Avuku Raju), Vijay Sethupathi (Raja Pandi), Nayanthara (Siddhamma) and Tamannaah (Lakshmi). Amitabh Bachchan as Narasimha's Guru Gosayi Venkanna and Anushka Shetty as Jhansi Lakshmi Bai offer delightful cameos.
For the fans of Megastar, ‘Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy’ is worth the wait.