Nothing seems impossible when Balakrishna is onscreen, because amidst all the over-the-top drama and punch dialogues, you just get hooked on to the emotion rather than the logic. In his latest film, Jai Simha, there’s a scene where Balakrishna lifts an SUV with a single hand. Yes. And you know why? Because a baby’s feeding bottle is underneath it. It’s pretty much the same case with the film itself. Here, the bottle is the story which is, perhaps, manufactured in the ’90s, and Balakrishna lifts it single-handedly, much to our amusement.
The film narrates the life (or tragedy) of Narasimha, a do-gooder, who leaves Vizag along with his one-year-old son. After hitch-hiking to several places, where he wants to live a peaceful life, he ends up going to Kumbakonam. Eventually, he finds a job as a driver in a rich man’s house. But soon, his past begins to haunt him and there are flashes of anger, which underline that he has a different avatar. Meanwhile, he’s shocked to see his childhood friend-and-former girlfriend Gauri (Nayanthara) in the same town. The rest of the story is all about unravelling the mystery of Narasimha and his equation with Gauri.
Directed by KS Ravikumar, Jai Simha is a cocktail of action, drama, sentiment — the staple troika of masala films — that falls short from being an engaging film. To its credit, there’s plenty of suspense in the initial portions of the film, about who Narasimha (Balakrishna) is and why he is forced to leave Vizag. In one particularly dramatic scene in an encounter with a corrupt cop, Narasimha teaches a lesson, in quite a literal scene, about the importance of priests in temples. And then, he smashes through the metal frame of an SUV while fighting with a goon.Oh, that’s not all. He even kicks a bed with such force that it defies all laws of physics and turns 90 degrees vertically! Now, none of this seems possible in the real world, but in a Balakrishna film, it’s the emotion that counts. The problem with the film then, is its lack of consistency. Just when we begin to root for the characters, there are a bunch of silly comedy sequences and dialogues that seem so old-fashioned that they’ll send you on a major deja vu trip.
Compared to his recent films, Balakrishna is visibly restrained for the most part in Jai Simha, and the movie’s fate is tied to his characterisation. The film is engaging when Balakrishna gets angry, it’s dull when the focus shifts to Brahmanandam’s shenanigans. The whole sub-plot revolving around Balakrishna freaking out when Nayanthara nudges him to talk to her father is badly written. This canyon between what the film wants us to feel (even during some of its more emotional moments) and what it actually depicts is too wide to cross. It gets boring after a point, but just when you are about to give up, Balakrishna and Nayanthara save the day — to an extent.
The film does offer some whistle-worthy moments, especially when Balakrishna dances to the tune of ‘Amma Kutty’ or when he says, ‘Nenu neela chadhuvukoledhu…nakanthe telusu (I am not as highly educated as you are…this is all I know)’. It all boils down to what KS Ravikumar tries to do. The intention to highlight the importance of sacrifice might be noble, but the style of filmmaking is bland. It feels like you have accidentally walked into a roller-coaster ride that takes you back to the ’90s. Except for Nayanthara, the other two actresses (Harripriya and Natasha Doshi) find themselves completely overshadowed by Balakrishna.
With a run time of close to 160 minutes, Jai Simha feels a tad too long and boring at times. Having watched Balakrishna in different avatars over the past few years, including that of Simha, Legend and Gautamiputra Satakarni, his Narasimha avatar in Jai Simha is nowhere close to his better films. But in this case, that’s the only thing we are left with to root for.