Would a hero who has averted serial blasts in multiple Indian cities look God-like when the mastermind's empire had been built till recently by the generous casino money unscrupulously looted by his (the hero's) father? Baadshah is such a story where NTR would seem, in the end, to have only atoned for the sin committed by his greedy and rogue father. If the terrorist deserves to be ruthlessly gunned down (as desired by NTR's brother, played by actor Siddharth, who plays a cameo), the supplier of dirty money must get nothing less than a life term.
Thus, though this film would seem to follow the formula of Dookudu, this serious dampener makes the story look fluffy. When we hear the narrator (Mahesh Babu) say that Baadshah became Baadshah for his father's sake, we expect that such a father is a noble person, like Prakash Raj in Dookudu.
NTR comes with the philosophy of playing only one-sided wars. True to this now-famous one-liner from the trailer, all gun battles look quite unconvincing, because they are all invariably one-sided. In the very first scene, Crazy Robert (Asish Vidhyarthi) wonders why villains in our movies always keep talking to omnipotent heroes instead of killing them off without giving any further chance for the hero to lash back. It is a good directorial thought yes, but we see Vaitla making us wonder why he nor the many goons present there don't have the commonsense to shoot him off as NTR revives from the dead to kill everyone, except Crazy. In another fight, villains don't take guns in their hands and take positions even though one among them is killed by the hero who is out of sight.
What begins on a high note very soon descends into the rom-com mode, with NTR dancing like a lover boy (a misfit, because one would have liked to watch a heroism-edifying number to begin with). The title song, when it does come much later in the first half, fails to enthuse those who might have expected to see NTR in a moralistic role rather than a crook's role (till at that time).
What may have ailed Baadshah is Vaitla's obsession with presenting the superstar (as he did with King first and Prince next, so he does with the Tiger now) in more than two variations - and only two of them work. He obviously imaged NTR in the role of a suave and modish mafia man, who is sentimental in behaviour and regimental when it comes to cleverly planning the moves. NTR gives his best when he is cast in a righteous raging role and this classy avatar is definitely not his best output.
To begin with, Rama Rao lands as Rama Rao in Milan to win over Janaki's (Kajal) bleeding heart. Janaki is a lovely do-gooder, who has written a rib-tickling autobiography, now a bible for Vennela Kishore. She gives out funny 'aphorisms', thinking they will change the people around her, all of which are faithfully jotted down by Kishore. Rama Rao, after helping her raise money by dancing on the street for a cause taken up by Janaki, pretends to be a jilted lover seething with rage and on the verge of committing suicide.
Just at the right time, the narrator takes us back to Rama Rao's violent past, where he is introduced as an aggressive and quick-witted son of Dhanraj (Mukesh Rushi), the owner of a Macau casino. The bad father finances Kelly Dorjee's (as Saadhu Bhai) dastardly activities. Much without the knowledge of his father, Baadshah is working against the interests of Saadhu Bhai to torpedo his empire.
The rest of the film is all about how NTR saves innocent Indians and the economy from unprecedented blasts being planned by Saadhu Bhai, who has logistical support from unlikely quarters in the police department itself.
The second half is fun to watch, thanks to NTR's dialogue-delivery (another Dookudu element) and Brahmanandam's modulations. The songs are colourful, as NTR is energetic and Kajal is vivacious. The dialogues are witty at places. NTR's imitation of Dil Raju and Brahmi's parodying of Rajini's dialogue in a scene stand out. On the lines of the 'Reality show' idea in Dookudu, there is the 'Dream machine' idea that works just fine.
What makes the film look less than earnest is Vaitla's casual treatment of the screenplay. If Dookudu turned out to be a blockbuster even in the B and C centres, it owes largely to the clever elevation of Mahesh's heroism, besides the non-stop comic doses. How can Rama Rao beating to the pulp ruthless gangsters at the behest of Janaki, who thinks they are Saira Banu's men, look serious? How can just one don be the sole terrorist enemy of India? (Proud jehadis may please excuse our directors like Murugadoss and Vaitla). "Death solves all problems. No man, no problem." How does this line sound? If someone lays hands on him from the back, Baadhshah will get violent. What marked out Dookudu was the fact that Mahesh maintained the dignity worthy of a superstar of his range, while NTR is shown as a run-of-the-mill wedding planner, giving him no room to live up to his massy image. At the risk of offending his fans, it may be said that he played a second fiddle to Kajal and also Brahmi for a good part of the film.
Mukesh was projected as a man with a heart only because he is the hero's father. In the scene where we see the good wife (Suhasini) to be very much alive and kicking, she is shown speaking about event management. As we see Rama Rao at Nasser's place, in the garb of a wedding planner, everyone is so liberal towards him that they don't chide him to behave even when he says, "I will take away the bride." Take out Navdeep and the undercover police angle, it is no more serious than Gudumba Shankar.
It is also incredulous that Navdeep has never seen the pic of the man who is his sole bete noire.
For many more years will the heroine/villain keep saying that NTR is 'chinna pilladu'?
The scene where some all-time superhit Sr. NTR songs are played, the Junior could have been made to look terrific but the bad cinematography makes it look as less impactful as it can get. Credit must go to NTR for his able parodying of Major Chandrakanth, albeit with a comical touch. MS as Revenge Nageshwara Rao shows an RGV-kinda attitude and his role could have been lengthy.
NTR shows shades of what he displayed in Adurs, and adds a new shade to his repertoire in the second half. Brahmi and Kajal ably support him. Navdeep, an important character, did not get many dialogues, which robbed his character of the required flesh. Nassar, Kelly, Mukesh, Tanikella, JP and others do their parts well.
Thaman's music is not hummable, though the BG score passes muster. KV Guhan could have done a better job and NTR doesn't seem domineering in the fights (the way he looked even in Dammu).
Verdict: With a wise elevation of heroism and an earnest treatment, Baadshah would have stood better chances. Though NTR dishes out a meaty performance with three variations, the story plays the spoilsport. Given that the situations (except for Brahmi's comedy) are all old, it expectedly tastes like old wine. NTR's fans may watch out for their hero's peppy performance. Others may watch it for Vaitla's formulaic doses.