Mounted on an extravagant scale as befitting the myth of Narasimha Reddy, the movie is ultimately let down by uninspiring storytelling.
The film is loosely based on the life of Narasimha Reddy, who revolted against the atrocities of the East India Company in 1847, 10 years before the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The movie’s extravagant scale and larger-than-life treatment are befitting the myth of Narasimha Reddy, whose stories are part of Telugu folklore, particularly in the Rayalaseema region. There are some sequences, particularly one in which Amitabh Bachchan teaches a young Narasimha in his gurukul that is set amid rolling hills and a gushing stream, that I felt were straight from the pages of a beloved Amar Chitra Katha book.
Sye Raa boasts of a brilliant cast, but it’s Chiranjeevi’s show unabashedly throughout the movie. Narasimha Reddy seems to be literally everywhere. He’s there to save farmers from getting exploited, he’s there to save people entrapped in a burning house (in the middle of the night), and he’s there at the British camp taunting them. A punch dialogue from an older Ajith movie came unbidden to my mind that felt rather apt. Thappu nadakura edathula naa irupen, athu yen thappu ila (I’ll always be there at the place of wrongdoing, but it’s not my fault).
While the British colonizers are reduced to caricature-ish villains, the stellar support cast fares no better. The cameo of Anushka Shetty as Jhansi Rani seems forced. Nayanthara plays the one-dimensional role of a doting wife. I was watching the Tamil dubbed version and I could actually feel the audience getting increasingly impatient for Vijay Sethupathy’s cameo. We get to see the Makkal Selvan only later in the second half, but the self-proclaimed Lakshmanan to Narasimha’s Ram hardly has anything to do. Similarly, the likes of Jagapathi Babu, Sudeep, and Ravi Kishan are also happy to cede the spotlight to Chiranjeevi. There is a fleeting Avengers Assemble moment when the key characters fight together at the battleground, but it’s disassembled almost as soon as it’s formed. Amitabh and Tamannaah get to shine in a few moments, but firmly stay in the shadow of Chiranjeevi. I cannot, for the life of me, identify Narasimha Reddy’s brother in the movie, even though he betrays him quite a few times. I think I also saw Nasser in the movie but can’t be too sure.
The film works on a scene-by-scene basis thanks to Chiranjeevi’s rousing performance, but the film falls well short of being an out-and-out entertainer like Baahubali. The movie also doesn’t have any standout moments, which Baahubali had in spades. Sye Raa is an ambitious attempt that works in patches, but is let down by the lackluster storytelling that leaves a lot to be desired.