Stories that try to be quirky dark comedies and are woven around oddball characters are not easy to pull off. They can be game changers when done well. But when they miss the mark, they can end up a big bore. The Telugu dark comedy Bhaag Saale, written and directed by Praneeth Bramandapally, rides on an interesting premise of a diamond ring of historical value changing hands between a motley bunch of characters that range from a don (John Vijay) who wants it to win over his lady love to a poor chef (Sri Simha Koduri) who wants to bail out his girlfriend and her father from trouble. While the idea and the characters might seem promising, the writing isn’t sharp enough to make Bhaag Saale an edge-of-the-seat fun ride.
Bhaag Saale (Telugu)
Cast: Sri Simha Koduri, Neha Solanki, John Vijay
Direction: Praneeth Bramandapally
Music: Kaala Bhairava
Storyline: A priceless historical diamond ring goes missing and a poor chef, who hopes to open his own restaurant some day, has to retrieve it.
Bhaag Saale begins rather well. In his trademark witty style, actor Siddhu Jonnalagadda’s voiceover introduces us to the fictitious story of a diamond that was once considered as precious as the Kohinoor and later, was split into multiple pieces. One of these pieces is in Hyderabad as a diamond ring named Shali Shuka Gaja. The SSG will inevitably play a part in the life of Arjun (Simha Koduri), a chef who dreams of opening a restaurant and puts on a fake identity of a rich guy to impress Maaya (Neha Solanki), even as his father (Rajeev Kanakala) stretches every rupee to make ends meet.
We never learn why Arjun puts on a farcical image to romance Maaya in the first place though he does not intend to hoodwink her for long. Meanwhile, a colourful character called Don Samuel (John Vijay) is in search of the diamond ring with which he wants to win over actress Nandini (Nandini Rai). Jackie (Viva Harsha) is Samuel’s sidekick. At the other end of the spectrum is Ramya (Varshini Sounderarajan) who is looking for a solution to her marital problems. The diamond ring makes these characters cross paths and do the strangest of things. Caught in this mix is also Arjun’s friend Kittu (Sudarshan) who has his own marital woes to deal with.
The premise and characters of Bhaag Saale have plenty of potential for a wacky crime comedy — a hero who rents luxury wheels to impress the affluent heroine, a father who orders the painter to work with as less paint as possible to give his house a new look, a Don who finances the films of the actress he loves but will not meet her until he has the diamond ring she wants, and copies of Bhagavad Gita sold by a child which become a plot point. But the situations that bring together these characters do not keep us guessing.
Bhaag Saale invokes a sense of deja vu, of situations and characters in indie crime comedies across different languages. Sri Simha puts in an earnest performance while John Vijay seems to be getting typecast. The romance between the lead characters doesn’t have the gravitas and a few madcap characters that emerge later do not stand out. Take for instance Satya who is cast as a police officer named Promise Reddy. He is given a curious name and that’s about it. The jokes revolving around him, his wife and his maid just pave way for some inappropriate humour that objectifies women.
Gunshots are fired and people are beaten up for a diamond ring that doesn’t even look too appealing. On the bright side, the film is just over two hours long. Kaala Bhairava’s music, Ramesh Kushendar’s cinematography and Shruthy Nookala’s production design try to dress up this quirky tale that never soars.