[Written Aug. 2009]
I watched this in the theater this afternoon and was extremely impressed! Here's my mishmash of thoughts:
What makes the film are the historical parts from the 1600s- the costumes, the fighting, the pan shots of the kingdom (in Rajasthan/Guajrat), and the stunts of Ram Charan. There were a few parts that had me absolutely spellbound, particularly a chase scene ending in quicksand. What was so refreshing is that, for the most part, you forget that you are watching computer-aided special effects. It's not perfect (there are some egregious exceptions- the ending helicopter crash the worst!), but I kept thinking to myself "wow, how did they do that?" or "that looks amazingly real." My friend and I kept commenting how beautiful the structures in the kingdom looked. Compared to the tacky computer-work in the Tamil film Dashavataram (with Kamal Hassan), this film is light years ahead- I'm sure Telugu people are extremely proud. On top of that, the costumes are not gaudy and tacky like low-budget historicals such as the Tamil film Uliyin Osai, which is what I feared from the trailer. They unfortunately chose to put a scene of a sword bending in the trailer which made the props look extremely tinny and cheap, but that is the only example.
The plot basically revolves around a reincarnation theme- it begins briefly in the 1600s with the parting of a warrior and a princess who are reborn in the present day and end up in parallel situations to the past that complete the unfinished business of their past life. The beginning was freaking awesome- I was as hyped and as excited as every other Telugu person in the theater, who were throwing confetti at the screen and screaming at the top of their lungs every time Ram Charan did something kick-ass (which was fairly often). It was totally hero-centric in that Telugu way, with Ram Charan's name displayed under him when he debuted and Chiranjeevi dancing in a special appearance.
The historical parts were so fresh for me, but I haven't seen many Indian historicals so others may feel differently. However, the modern-day scenes were your average boy-girl-baddie stuff with some Sunil/Brahmanandam humor mixed in, and I mostly just wanted to get to the historical bits, which were tantalisingly flashed-back to every so often until they took center stage in the second half. Though I"m not sure exactly what was said, the romance between Ram Charan and Kajal just didn't seem all that convincing. It's good to remember the draw here is the visuals and the action, not so much the story, so that expectation should be kept in mind. Also, the main baddie villain also got a bit over the top at times with his super-fierce expressions and yelling. And yes, there is violence, but honestly I didn't find it as bad as a few other films I've seen. It's probably because it's the stabbing/spearing/clubbing historical violence you expect and not the modern-day goon/gang/mafia violence that can be lingered on and put in for shock value.
And Ram Charan... I haven't been so sure about him from pictures, but I am a total fan now. He ROCKED in the serious action scenes, was very sexy, and was completely believable as a warrior from the olden days. I tried to imagine other Telugu heros like Allu Arjun, Prabhas, or Mahesh Babu doing the role, and Ramcharan is the only one that could do it any sort of justice to it, imo! I liked him considerably less in the modern-day romantic stuff, especially because his smile is strange and he's just too rough looking. He can sure dance though and had some groovy crowd-pleasing moves in the songs.
I found the heroine Kajal just... blah. She couldn't convince me that she was a historical princess of sorts in the historical bits, and her variety of facial expressions were slim. But my (male) friend was a huge fan of her so you can guess where her appeal lies. :D
Songs-wise, the music was quite good, but most of the picturisations were modern-day and featured some item girls like Mumaith Khan. I wanted waaay more historical stuff, which I was treated to with the absolutely beautiful "Dheera Dheera Dheera." The ending fight scenes had some beautiful background music accompany them that reminded me so much of Gladiator.
All in all, I totally ate this film up, was overall supremely entertained, and will totally be buying the DVD to watch some of the rockin' action/dance/Ram Charan scenes again. :)