When it comes to Sandalwood, a Sudeep movie isn’t just another movie. It’s an event worthy of celebration, equivalent to that of a Khan release in Bollywood. You’ve got your multiple teasers, social media buzz turned up to 11, promotional events on Kannada channels, massive cutouts etc. But putting all this aside and considering that Sudeep’s recent output has consisted of 2 barely watchable remakes (Maanikya and Ranna), a cameo in Baahubali, and an absolutely awful bilingual (Kotigobba 2), one does approach his latest venture with a certain amount of trepidation. So the question would be, is Hebbuli a good solid old school masala entertainer, or yet another run of the mill movie pandering to Sudeep’s fans?
Captain Ram (Sudeep) is one of the Indian Army’s top para-commandos, a veritable killing machine whose patriotism can’t be questioned. After a hostage rescue operation where he earns the affections of a beautiful doctor, Nandhini (Amala Paul), he is informed about the suicide of his elder brother Satyamurthy (Ravichandran) and returns home to take charge of his grieving sister in law (Kaveri) and niece. However he notices certain discrepancies in the forensic reports, and thus starts digging into the issue, coming into contact with a crooked politician, Arasikere Anjappa (P Ravishankar), a Pharmaceutical company owner, Amrith Shah (Ravi Kishen) and his cruel younger brother, Kabir (Kabir Duhan Singh). Can Ram get to the bottom of his brother’s death, and find out what or who caused it?
Like most Sudeep movies, even this one starts off with a bang, with a pretty well captured rescue op sequence, which a discerning viewer might recall having seen in the Hollywood actioner, Act of Valor. Considering the plotline, Hebbuli had the potential to be a solid revenge action-thriller, but director S Krishna who also wrote the story for this movie is more focused on turning this into yet another tale of hero-worship, and that’s precisely what ends up working against the movie. After starting the movie on a high note, Hebbuli just goes into free-fall, mainly thanks to the abysmal writing that doesn’t bother with character development, a taut screenplay or even a plausible form of song placement.
Sudeep in yet another author backed role seems to be having an absolute blast, and it shows, and is able to rescue the movie by putting yet another intense performance, with some crackling dialogues that threatened to bring the roof down. It is an absolute travesty however to watch the extremely talented Amala Paul wasted, playing a typical air-headed yet feisty love interest. And sadly like most star vehicles, the villains are given short shrift, hindering the movie, and here too, P Ravishankar, Ravi Kishen and Kabir Duhan Singh are absolutely wasted in underwritten roles, where it seems they only exist to get beaten up by the hero, or to make stupid decisions that end up getting them in trouble. And to add to the pain, Chikkanna shows up in yet another badly written comedy track which involves him trying to emulate the legendary Vishnuvardhan from Bandhana
Overall, Hebbuli is yet another star vehicle that Sudeep fans will enjoy for sure, but the more discerning viewers would do well to stay away from.