White Guy Watches Bollywood

A random white guy engages with contemporary Indian cinema... one movie at a time

Sailesh Kolanu

Telugu Movie Review: Saindhav is watchable in spite of its gangster cliches, thanks entirely to lead Venkatesh

Victory Venkatesh Daggubati and Ssara Palekar star in the new Telugu action-crime film "Saindhav," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

Saindhav is an amalgamation of a lot of the major tropes in today’s Telugu cinema: a reformed hero with a dark past, a close-knit father and young daughter mourning the loss of Mom, an unstable gangster underworld brimming with power struggles, a backdrop of global terrorist threats. For the most part, the movie doesn’t even try to elegantly weave all of these disparate elements together; it combines them in as easy and efficient a manner as it possibly can. The script is lazy, and much of the finished film’s construction is as well. But Venkatesh is so good at selling this sloppily-written mess in his lead performance that – at least for a while – the movie holds together well enough to keep the audience’s attention.

In his prior life as a gangster henchman, our hero used to be called “SaiKo,” as in psycho – an early “reveal” that the movie initially seems to be protecting, despite it being patently obvious that the name Saindhav Koneru would be cleverly abbreviated in this way. Saindhav swore off his life of crime around the time of his wife’s death, which has left him raising their young daughter Gayathri (played by Ssara Palekar) as a single dad. He’s now a humble crane operator at the local port. But Saindhav’s past can’t help but come back to haunt him, as two tragedies simultaneously unfold. First, Saindhav’s past associates begin supplying local kids with weapons, recruiting them for terrorist groups, crossing a redline he had set when he left the organization. Second, Gayathri is diagnosed with the rare disease SMA (spinal muscular atrophy), requiring a life-saving injection that costs ₹17 crores, an exorbitant sum that no simple crane operator could ever afford.

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