With outright negative reviews spread wide over this Mahesh Babu starrer, I was sceptical about the content of the film. What might have went wrong? That was the question which bothered me considering the name Trivikram which was behind the film. With these questions I stepped into the theater.
The title sequence itself suggested that this film was no ordinary film as it suggested the earthy content and subject of the film. Without any frills and baggage, the director jumped into the subject by showing the central theme of the movie right in the first scene. There are some mysterious deaths in a village with 25 of them being dead within a month. The superstitious village head (Rao ramesh) declares that there was a GOD waiting for them and he would come and help them out. But first they need to search for him. And he asks Sidda (Shafi) to be go on search for him. By having this scene in the first half itself, Trivikram set the tone for the film. But what followed next until the intermission point was an exercise in futility. Though this futile exercise had a valid explanation in the end, the proceedings, though entertaining, dragged a bit.
With the establishment of the hero, Raju (Mahesh), in Rajasthan, the story moves in circles while revealing few details about the hero and the circumstances he is in. But what is missing with the hero and the audience is that emotional connect to empathise with him and to feel for him. He always comes across as a streetsmart Taxi driver with a knac of falling into bad situations whenever he meets his Bangaram alias Subhashini (Anushka). The episodes of bad luck between Mahesh and Anushka are very entertaining but what lacked in those scenes was a sizzling chemistry with the heroine. Well these things aside, the real story does not move an inch with Sidda (Shafi) still in search of his saviour.
The story takes a different turn in the second half as Raju comes to the village where he is treated as a GOD. Whatever he says turns true and whatever he wishes gets fulfilled. Unable to bear this kind of attention and with his mind going crazy, Raju escapes from the village along with Subhashini. But will the problem of Pali leave Raju? What is that problem which Pali is being haunted? Is it a supernatural thing or else a conspiracy by those human beings who think they can hold the world to their finger snaps?
While watching the movie, I felt a sense of deja vu creeping in me. Why is that I am not being able to connect with what is being portrayed on the film? Am I being taken for a ride? Did Trivikram for a change focussed too much on his hero and his characterisation and forgot that he had a story to tell? The major drawback with Mahesh Khaleja is the hero himself.
Firstly, the hero is not connected to the basic problem he has to deal with. There is no personal journey of his. He is always comes across as a person who reacts than acts. He does not take charge of the situation but rather reacts to it. Finally when he does want to take control, his handling of the problem on hand is too amateurish and totally illogical. Secondly, the hero comes off as a sort of person who never allows relations to grow. He ridicules even the most serious of the situation and trivialises the seriousness of the issue. No one would like to relate with this kind of a selfish hero who is aloof from the world, no matter how much entertainment he offers with his brand of jokes and humor.
Another issue with the subject is that Anushka. Her character is totally disconnected from the movie and the manner in which she has been projected as a dumbo did not cut ice with the audience. Another major drawback is screenplay which does not reveal anything till the final few minutes. But when revealed, it comes across as an anti-climax for a major issue.
Performances wise, Mahesh totally reinvented himself with this film. He shouldered the movie entirely on his shoulders and ensured that he entertains. But if there was one moment in the film, which would have made him lovable right at the start, I would have written a totally different review. Anushka should forget this movie immediately. She has outgrown these kind of roles. Prakash Raj did his regular routine. But the scene stealers in the movie in acting department were Shafi and Rao Ramesh who maintain their composure and create that eerie feel which was required.
Coming to the technical departments, Mahesh Khaleja is a technical wonder. The cinematography (Yash Bhat and Sunil patel), the production design (Anand Sai), the background score (Mani Sharma) create an awesome impact. The dialogues were really good sometimes. The sense of humor which is a trademark of Trivikram is embellished throughout the film but all said and done if Trivikram had allowed the director in him to dominate the writer in himself, the film would have been a sensational experiment in the annals of Telugu cinema. But alas, Trivikram is guilty on two counts, first for neglecting the subject for his hero and the next, not allowing his editor (Srikar Prasad) to work away over the flab of the movie.
If the content of the movie is cut short by a good half-hour, even with its flaws, Khaleja would be a success story with its slow-poison like subject.