Early on in director Boyapati Sreenu’s Telugu mass outing Skanda – the attacker, starring Ram Pothineni, Sreeleela and Saiee Manjrekar, the Telangana chief minister’s (Sharath Lohithaswa) son elopes with the daughter of Andhra Pradesh chief minister (Ajay Purkar). The two CMs, erstwhile friends, turn foes. One snarls at the other, ‘Naa inti gate kaadhu, naa state toll gate dhaatu choodham (forget crossing the gates of my house, let me see if you can cross my State’s toll gates)’. If you are wondering which CM will win, midway through the film, a character introduces himself as Seema bidda (son of Rayalaseema soil) and later brings both the CMs to their knees. Another character warns the CMs that they will not hesitate to turn anything or anyone who stands in their way into pickles and bottle them up in jars! Oh well. One way to watch Skanda is to be amused by such lines, because it doesn’t have much going for it anyway.
Skanda -the attacker (Telugu)
Cast: Ram Pothineni, Sreeleela, Saiee Manjrekar
Direction: Boyapati Sreenu
Music: S. Thaman
Storyline: A hero has to undo the injustice done to his father’s friend, even if it means taking on two chief ministers
Skanda – the attacker has everything that one would expect from a Boyapati Sreenu film — massy action sequences executed in slow motion during which heads will roll, limbs chopped and people hoisted up on spears or daggers; verbose rhyming dialogues that can serve as meme material; extra loud music (the brief to S. Thaman must have been to bring in additional drums and consistently keep the volume up) and leading women who don’t have much to do. One certainly doesn’t expect nuance and subtlety, but Skanda is an endurance test and an assault on the senses.
The prologue features Srikanth as Rudraganti Ramakrishna Raju, an entrepreneur from Rudrarajupuram, who is sentenced to death for crimes he did not commit. His daughter (Saiee Manjrekar) is battling for her life. A hero has to rise to facilitate the win of good over evil.
Ram plays the hypermasculine saviour who takes on the powerful chief ministers whose characterisations are caricaturish. Since the goons in the film also get their share of slow-motion shots, Ram gets a lot more. A character equates his speed to that of a tiger, following which there are 22 slow-motion shots, after which the second line in the dialogue is uttered.
Ram is also shown to tame a fierce bull injected with a drug more easily than Bhallaladeva taming the oversized bull in Baahubali. The protagonist is also shown as a crude college student who refers to his classmate (Sreeleela) as an ‘average’ woman. He argues that if he woos and marries an average-looking woman, he will draw more attention and be regarded as handsome! These ‘average’ references are passed off as humour and if you think you cannot expect better from a brutish character, wait for the reveal. We are later told he was a Stanford University topper adept at ethical hacking. Never mind if all he does now is hacking people. He is doing it all for the love of his family and his father’s (Daggubati Raja’s) close friend Ramakrishna Raju.
A simple story of revenge and retribution lasts 167 minutes, accommodating hundreds of slow- motion shots and rhyming dialogues. International film and literary references are also thrown in. Someone is referred to as Tarzan. The word Matrix appears prominently in the background when a goon plans an attack, and a character says, ‘To be or not to be’. Someone also refers to Ram as a walking Rolls Royce! Meanwhile, many women are dressed in the finest silks and have to be content with being props. Gowtami and others are wasted. All they have to do is either weep or shower their sons with love. A group of young women, meanwhile, swoon on the hero.
Skanda is bloated with no innovation in storytelling, characterisations, music or action choreography. It is relentless in its celebration of high decibel mass fest that you may want to keep your noise-cancelling earphones handy. Towards the end, when we learn there is not one but two saviours and the story of the lesser-known saviour will be revealed in part two, it sounds like a threat.