Rating: 7/10 (Devudu Saamy)
Superstar Mahesh Babu is finally back on the big screen after a gap of 3 long years. Production hell has forced his next film with star director Trivikram to only see the light of day now. Can the duo create another classic like Athadu? Sadly not but this movie has garnered a cult following since. Released in October 2010, find out why it's a 7 in my view.
Story: There is a village called Pali in Rajasthan where people are dying due to an unknown disease. A village siddanthi (Rao Ramesh) has a prediction that a man will come with certain features and that he will be their savior. He tells Siddha (Shafi) to go and search for the man. In Hyderabad, Alluri Seetha Rama Raju aka Raju (Mahesh Babu) is a taxi driver and he constantly gets into life threatening situations because of Subhasini (Anushka). When he no longer has insurance on his cars after constant accidents, his boss (Dharmavarupu Subramanyam) tells him to go Rajashthan and get the insurance from a man's family whom he recently gave a ride to and who died.
He goes to Rajasthan and meets Subhasini again and various events happen. Due to some uncertain circumstances, Raju is attacked and left for dead by a group led by Govardhan (Subbaraju) but he defeats all of them except for Govardhan. Suddenly after the battle, he shouts and Siddha hears him and saves his life. The villagers suddenly start to believe that he is their savior who will save them from the disease. How Raju ends up saving the village and what the conspiracy about why people are dying in the village forms the rest of the story.
Performances: Mahesh Babu is a revelation in this movie. His perfomance itself is worth your ticket. It is an absolute joy to see the Superstar back on the screen again after a long gap of 3 years. Forget Athidhi, his performance in this movie is just incredible. His new modulation is hilarious and his body language is awesome. The way he says certain dialogues is really funny and the way he describes the situation to Anushka after meeting her again later in the 1st half is extremely entertaining. He has completely reinvented himself in this movie and If there's a reason to watch the film, look no further than Superstar Mahesh.
Anushka is alright as Subhasini and is a good height match for Mahesh. Prakash Raj as the villain lacks depth in his characterization and it's routine for him.
Sunil and Ali provide some comedy in the 1st half and keep you entertained. Brahmi fails to evoke laughs this time around.
Rao Ramesh does a role which is an extension of his character from Magadheera. Shafi is another revelation as Siddha. He is simply amazing in this film.
Subbaraju is ok as Govardhan. Dharamavarupu Subramanyam is entertaining as Mahesh's boss. The rest of the cast is alright.
Technicalities: Music and background score by Mani Sharma are excellent. Mani Sharma and Mahesh Babu are an evergreen actor-musician combo in TFI and have produced some of the best songs and albums ever made. Khaleja is no different and the Melody Brahma shows us again why he's the best music composer around in the industry. Dialogues by Trivikram are highly entertaining. Art by Anand Sai is nice in the village. Cinematography by Yash Bhatt is inedible and the movie is a visual feast specially in the 2nd half. Editing by A Sreekar Prasad is alright. Movie is a bit too long. Fights by Ram Lakshman and Peter Heins are very good. The interval fight and climax are the highlights of the film. Production Values by C.Kalyan are very good.
Analysis: Meeru Maa Devudu Saaammmy! This is one the dialogues that is reiterated in the 2nd half of the movie. Khaleja is not your average masala film. It's a different type of film. It is an action film with a different type of twist. The film starts off in the village in a stunning way with Rao Ramesh and Shafi. Then we get Mahesh's introduction and the scenes with Anushka. The story of the film is a bit weird and Trivikram couldn't execute it in the most convincing way possible.
The 1st half of the film proceeds in an entertaining manner with Mahesh's dialogues and performance taking the cake here but there isn't much of a story. The interval bang is pulsating and sets it up for a interesting 2nd half. The 2nd half of the movie deals with Raju questioning his identity and the villagers constantly believing that he is their savior. But one feels there are too many subplots and logistics missing in the film. The sub plot with Subbu and her marriage is not very effective and Raju's transformation into actually caring about the villagers and coming back in the end is not told in a convincing manner and something is definitely missing here in this parts. Also the 2nd half kind of meanders and takes a while to get to the conclusion. The flashback about the the village is not convincing enough and is strikingly similar to the pharmaceutical issue in Prabhas' Munna.
The story is the biggest drawback of the film as it really has a wafer thin storyline. The connections that Trivikram tried to make between everything going on seemed a bit contrived. After watching the film many years ago, I liked the film. But I could understand why people didn't like it. Trivkiram's execution and everything was fine, but the way he told the story in wasn't in the most convincing manner.
On a whole, Khaleja is a misunderstood classic in the TFI. Mahesh Babu's incredible performance and Trivikram's dialogues are the highlights of this different action film. Had Trivikram executed the film a little more convincingly, the film definitely would have had a different end result. I'm going with 7/10.