On a rainy day, a crowd of people watch a skinny kid take down three big boys to win a bet to feed his hungry friends. Among the spectators is Sarkar (Suniel Shetty), a local wrestler coach who is mighty impressed with the child's strength and large-heartedness.
When he learns that the boy is an orphan, he tells him that as far there's humanity on earth, nobody is an orphan. While Kiccha Sudeep's latest release, 'Pehlwaan' begins on a promising note by striking an emotional chord, things don't last for long.
Coming back to the plot, Sarkar brings that boy named Krishna home and raises him as his own son. Together, the father-son duo harbour the dream of the latter winning the National Championship trophy.
Years pass by and a grown-up Krishna (Kiccha Sudeep) is now a wrestling champion with a heart of gold and a devoted son. Things take a dramatic turn when our hero falls in love with Rukmini (Aakansha Singh) and breaks his vow of celibacy which he had promised to follow until the fulfillment of his father's cherished dream.
Director S Krishna's 'Pehlwaan' might remind you of a lot of Hindi masala films which we have grown up watching and the cliched narrative makes it a tiresome watch.
Some of the scenes look outdated. For example, when was the last time you saw the heroine's dad ask the hero to fill the amount in a blank cheque in order to stay away from his daughter? Even the anti-heroes are stereotypical and over-the-top. The filmmaker also tries to add some mythological references from Lord Krishna's life but, it simply fails to translate on the big screen.
On the positive side, the action-sequences are well-choreographed and keep you glued to the seat. The back-ground score gels well with the narrative. The film's visuals look grand in scale on the big screen.
Speaking about the performances, Kiccha Sudeep has a strong screen presence and delivers an honest performance. He convincingly pulls off the over-the-top action sequences as he flexes his muscles on the big screen. Aakansha Singh looks replescent. However, she doesn't get to explore her role much. Suniel Shetty is a treat to watch and one wished that he had more screen-time in the film.
Sushant Singh as the arrogant king Raja Rana Pratap plays the typical stereotypical villain and his theatrical performance doesn't help much. Kabir Duhan Singh puts up a decent act.
Karunakara. A's cinematography perfectly captures the mood of the film. The songs in the Hindi dubbed version merely add minutes to the runtime. The movie could have been trimmed a bit at the editing table.
Despite Kiccha Sudeep's earnest act, 'Pehlwaan' fails to rise owing to its bland and predictable writing. This one falls short of being a 'knock-out'. I am going with 2.5 stars.