Cast: Prabhas, Shraddha Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Jackie Shroff, Chunky Pandey, Mahesh Manjrekar, Mandira Bedi, Arjun Vijay

Director: Sujeeth

Saaho, which stars Prabhas in his first screen outing since the Baahubali films, took almost two years to complete, cost roughly Rs 350 crores to make, clocks in at nearly three hours, and leaves you with the kind of pounding headache that’ll take the better part of the day to recover from. At one point in the film Chunky Pandey, who plays a nostril-flaring crime boss named Devraj, threatens someone, saying, “I will put you through a lot of pain.” He might as well be speaking to the audience.

Written and directed by Sujeeth, Saaho is the sort of film that pretends to be smarter than it actually is. It has a convoluted plot that’s crammed with twists and turns, and secret identities and big reveals. Yet, when stripped to the bone, it’s ridiculously silly. Jackie Shroff plays Roy, the head of a crime syndicate in a fictional land named Waaji, who is killed the very night he lands in India. Let’s just say the issue of his successor is a complex one. Closer home, meanwhile, the Mumbai police force’s star attraction Ashok (Prabhas) has been tasked with ferreting out a mysterious figure known only as Shadow (and played by Neil Nitin Mukesh), who’s believed to be the brain behind an ingenious theft of Rs 2,000 crores.

There’s a lot going on in the film, but not a lot of it is especially compelling. Any expectation of logic and any semblance of reality quickly goes out of the window after Prabhas’ character is introduced running up every floor of a chawl, vanquishing criminal elements and miscreants including – wait for it – a python, and in another flat, a deadly black panther.

I think it’s fair to say that the mantra of this movie is ‘anything goes’. The action jumps from one part of the globe to another without explanation, Ashok never misses an opportunity to shake a leg with fellow crime-fighter Amritha Nair (Shraddha Kapoor), and the crime syndicate appears to have a roster of heavily tattooed, imaginatively hairstyled henchmen who show up anywhere and everywhere to make trouble. The McGuffin in this story is something called a Black Box that Shadow has his sights on, and as you may have guessed, it is of course linked to the Roy empire.

Now I don’t want to be the party pooper who’s looking for logic in a dumb action tentpole. To be fair we don’t ask these questions of a Fast and Furious film or a Mission Impossible movie, or even from the Race franchise in Bollywood. But the truth is that Saaho isn’t content with being a dumb action tentpole with slick set pieces – it insists on sweeping you into its plot, which is more than you can offer given how singularly harebrained it is.

Literally the film’s only saving grace is its leading man who sportingly goes along with what’s expected of him. He is both tough guy and gentle giant; he is both romantic hero and rock-hard-abs-sporting-action-star. It’s a shame the film does little justice to his enormous presence and his unmistakable sincerity. In one bizarre yet oddly fascinating sequence he leaps, shirtless, into the open sky, as it turns out to rescue his damsel. Any actor who agreed to do that scene without questioning its relevance or logic deserves your sympathy.

Others like Shraddha Kapoor, Chunky Pandey, Mahesh Manjrekar, Mandira Bedi, Tinnu Anand, and Neil Nitin Mukesh barely register despite reasonable screen time. You can hardly be blamed. The impressively staged but ultimately exhausting action sequences take up the bulk of screen time, but they can’t salvage this soulless film that has all the depth and emotional wallop of a video game.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five.

Rating: 1.5 / 5