Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire (lit.'Ispahsalar'; transl. Commander) is a 2023 Indian Telugu-language epic action film written and directed by Prashanth Neel and produced by Vijay Kiragandur. It stars Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran, with a supporting cast that includes Shruti Haasan, Jagapathi Babu, Bobby Simha, Tinnu Anand, Easwari Rao, Sriya Reddy and Ramachandra Raju. Set in the fictional dystopian city-state of Khansaar, the film follows the friendship between Deva (Prabhas), a tribesman, and Varadha (Prithviraj), the prince of Khansaar. When a coup d'état is planned by his father's ministers and his relatives, Varadha enlists Deva's help to become Khansaar's undisputed ruler.

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPrashanth Neel
Written byPrashanth Neel
Dialogues bySandeep Reddy Bandla
Hanumaan Choudary
Dr. Suri
Produced byVijay Kiragandur
Starring
CinematographyBhuvan Gowda
Edited byUjwal Kulkarni
Music byRavi Basrur
Production
company
Distributed bysee below
Release date
22 December 2023
Running time
175 minutes[1]
CountryIndia
LanguageTelugu
Budget₹270 crore[2]
Box officeest. ₹705–715 crore[3][4]

The film's initial story was pitched from Neel's debut film Ugramm (2014)[5] and is the maiden part of a two-part film. It was officially announced in December 2020 under the title Salaar, however, in July 2023, the official title was announced as Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire. Principal photography commenced in January 2021, and occurred sporadically in several legs over nearly three years, before wrapping in late 2023. Filming locations included Telangana, Italy and Budapest. Production difficulties, ranging from the pandemic, reshoots and VFX delays, postponed Salaar's release date several times. The music is composed by Ravi Basrur, cinematography handled by Bhuvan Gowda and editing by Ujwal Kulkarni.

Salaar was theatrically released on 22 December 2023 in standard and IMAX formats to a generally mixed-to-positive reception from critics. It was a hit at the box office, earning 705–715 crore on a ₹270 crore budget, making it the highest-grossing Telugu film of 2023 and third highest-grossing Telugu film of all time.

Plot

In the year 1985, Deva and Vardharaja "Vardha" Mannar are inseparable companions in Khansaar, a puissant city-state ruled by Vardha's father, Raja Mannar. After Raja Mannar, the chief of the Mannar tribe, commands the decimation of the Shouryaanga tribe, a mob pounces on Deva and his mother at their residence, but Vardha intercedes for them and confers an important territory of his in exchange for sparing their lives. Before exiting Khansaar, Deva vows to return on Vardha's call.

In 2017, a business tycoon, Krishnakanth, learns that his daughter, Aadhya, arrived at Varanasi from New York to finish her mother's last rites. This alerts Krishnakanth's old rivals, who conspire to abduct her, but Krishnakanth enlists the assistance of Bilal, who thwarts the enemies' attempts to seize her and safeguards her at his friend, Deva's place, in Tinsukia, Assam. Aadhya pretends to be an English teacher at a school where Deva's mother is the headmaster. Eventually, Aadhya is traced to Tinsukia where upon his mother's reluctant orders, Deva hinders the goons' attempts to capture her. Dreading for Deva, Deva's mother plans to abscond with him, while Aadhya and Bilal are carried off in a convoy led by Rinda and one that is sealed with the mysterious emblem of Khansaar.

Witnessing this, Deva's mother signals him to rescue Aadhya and Bilal. He immediately refrains the convoy, grabbing the attention of Vardha and his step-sister, Radha Rama Mannar, who has ordered Aadhya's abduction to avenge something Krishnakanth has committed against her in Deva's favour, seven years ago. Radha admits to strategizing the events to pit Deva and Vardha against each other since opposing the seal of Khansaar is a crime and the perpetrator has to be killed, a rule that Deva himself is told to have established seven years ago. After their rescue, Bilal recounts the tale of Khansaar and Deva and Vardha's past to Aadhya.

In 1127, notorious dacoits from the three tribes of Mannars, Shouryaangas, and Ghaniyaars consolidated their influence over an area called Khansaar. In the year 1947 after the Indian independence, Raja Mannar's father, Siva Mannar, the chieftain of the Mannar tribe, refused Khansaar to be a part of the country and governed by the Constitution of India. He signed a pact with the Indian government that retained Khansaar's autonomy and erased its existence from the map. He segregated Khansaar into 101 provinces and appointed Kapus (governors) to head them. In the hierarchy, above the Kapus were Doras (feudal lords), who were submissive to the Karta (King).

After Siva Mannar's demise in 1985, Dhaara, the chieftain of the Shouryaanga tribe, was selected to be the next King, but Raja Mannar usurped the throne by assassinating Dhaara and massacred the entire Shouryaanga tribe. Subsequently, Raja Mannar recruited his close confidants and family as Doras to rule the city-state. In 2010, Raja Mannar's son-in-law, Bhaarava, pleaded with him to consider reconciling with Vardha, who was banished in 1985 for giving away his territory to a Ghaniyaar tribesman. Raja Mannar commanded Ranga (whose father Vardha bribed his territory to in 1985), one of the Doras, to sacrifice his position for Vardha's sake and thus, Ranga was instilled with rage and jealousy towards Vardha, while Raja Mannar's children from his first wife, Rudra Raja Mannar and Radha Rama Mannar, were against this decision.

Raja Mannar temporarily delegated his responsibilities to Radha Rama and left Khansaar to look over a concerning issue. In order to prevent violence in his absence, Radha Rama proposed imposing a ceasefire, but her decision was opposed to a large extent and a voting on whether to lift the ceasefire or impose it was supposed to take place after nine days. Immediately, all the Doras and Kapus brought powerful mercenary armies from Serbia, Austria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Russia and South Sudan with the intent of usurping the throne as soon as the voting ended. Meanwhile, Vardha turned to Deva, who resided in Bharuch, Gujarat with his mother. Deva re-entered Khansaar and for most of the days, tolerated the humiliation of Vardha by the Doras and their henchmen.

However, Deva eventually fought and murdered Vishnu, son of Narang, one of the Doras, as he tried to rape a girl; instigated by Bhaarava, Rudra pit Narang against Vardha and directed him to punish him during the trial, instead of Deva. During the trial, an infuriated Deva slaughtered and beheaded Narang for manhandling Vardha, after pleading with him not to do so, stunning all the witnesses. Vardha, Deva, and all of their associates including Vardha's younger brother, Baachi, aides Bilal and Rinda, and advisor, Gaikwad alias Baba, were all apprehended. On the day of the voting, Raja Mannar suddenly returned to Khansaar and voted to continue the ceasefire, in favor of Vardha. However, Vardha, with his deciding vote, voted to terminate the imposition of the ceasefire.

Immediately, everyone staked their claim for the throne; Vardha, after defeating drug-addicted men dispatched by Ranga with Deva's assistance, broke out of prison and killed Ranga. Raja Mannar disclosed to Radha Rama that Bhaarava actually hailed from the Shouryaanga tribe and is one of the few people that survived the massacre of the tribe in 1985. Elsewhere, Bhaarava and an army of the surviving Shouryaanga tribesmen swore vengeance against Raja Mannar for the genocide of their tribe. Rudra joined hands with his maternal uncle, Om, for the throne. Bhaarava's captured associate, Dheru, revealed to Raja Mannar and Radha Rama that Deva is actually Devaratha Raisaar, the son of Dhaara Raisaar, who was the chief of the Shouryaanga tribe and supposed to be the next king of Khansaar in 1985. Simultaneously, Vardha addressed Deva as his Salaar, just as his loyalists learnt that he is a Shouryaanga tribesman.

Cast

Production

Development

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire is the first collaboration of Prabhas (L) with Prashanth Neel.

In August 2020, Prabhas approached Prashanth Neel to direct his next film after watching Neel's debut Ugramm (2014). The new film was set to begin production in 2022, as both were busy with prior commitments at the time; Prabhas was filming Radhe Shyam and Adipurush, Neel was making KGF: Chapter 2.[6] In November, Neel was reported to begin production for his next directorial ventures with either N. T. Rama Rao Jr. or Prabhas soon.[7] On 2 December, Hombale Films announced that Neel would collaborate with Prabhas next, on a Telugu-language film (Neel's first) titled Salaar.[8][9]

A muhuratam pooja ceremony was held on 15 January 2021 with the presence of the film's cast and crew in Hyderabad.[10] Ravi Basrur was roped in to compose the score, in his fourth consecutive film with Neel, while Bhuvan Gowda and Ujwal Kulkarni were approached to handle the cinematography and editing, respectively.[11] Initialed to be a one-part movie, on 8 July 2023, the production house announced that Salaar would be released in two parts, with the first subtitled Ceasefire.[12]

Casting

Shruti Haasan (L) was cast to play the lead actress role, pairing opposite Prabhas for the first time. Prithviraj Sukumaran (R) would make his return to Telugu cinema after Police Police (2010).

On casting Prabhas, Neel stated "I was drawn to his innocence. Prabhas exudes more innocence compared to most other actors. To draw out this innocence and show it on screen will be fantastic.",[13] while Prabhas stated that his character is "extremely violent", something that he "haven’t really done before".[14] The latter was reported to get more fit and muscular for his role.[15] He was further reported to play a dual role, which was later denied.[16]

On 28 January 2021, Prabhas wished Shruti Haasan a happy birthday, and welcomed her to the Salaar team.[17][18] She played the role of Aadhya and received a remuneration consisting 8 crore (US$1.0 million).[19][20] Prabhas, during a press meet for Radhe Shyam in Kochi, revealed that Prithviraj Sukumaran would play a role in the film thus, marking Prithviraj's return to Telugu cinema after Police Police (2010).[21][22]

Madhu Guruswamy,[23] Jagapathi Babu,[24] Easwari Rao,[21] Sriya Reddy,[25] Tinnu Anand,[26] Bobby Simha,[27] Ramachandra Raju,[28] Prudhvi Raj,[29] Jhansi,[29] Saptagiri were cast to play prominent roles.[30] Mime Gopi and John Vijay's presence in the promotional trailer revealed their inclusion.[31]

Filming

 
A part of Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire was filmed in Matera, Italy.

Principal photography commenced on 27 January 2021 at a set in Godavarikhani, a town in Telangana.[32] Haasan joined the production two days later.[33] A action sequence featuring Prabhas was reportedly filmed. A day later, an on-set picture of Prabhas was leaked to social media and went viral, prompting tight security to be arranged during filming.[34] On 8 February, cinematographer Bhuvan Gowda announced that the first leg had concluded.[35]

The second leg commenced on 3 August 2021 in Hyderabad, with the filming of a scene featuring Prabhas and Shruti.[36] Since the filmmakers wanted Salaar to look "next level at any given angle", it became the first Indian film shot via Dark Centric Theme technology.[37][38] By 12 August, the second leg concluded.[39]

Shortly after the release of Prabhas' film Radhe Shyam in March 2022, filming was halted, mainly due to him getting an knee surgery done in Spain and later joining the sets of Kalki 2898 AD.[40] By May 2022, 30 percent of filming was reportedly completed.[41] The third leg was reported to begin on 24 May,[15] but commenced instead on 18 May. The studio shared a behind-the-scenes video that day, which showcased the crew setting up a set for an action sequence.[42] The fourth leg commenced on 28 June in Hyderabad. The schedule reportedly had a huge set erected for an action sequence, which featured Prabhas, Shruti and various fighters, stunt-choreographed by the duo Anbariv. It was reported that the schedule would be a lengthy one.[43] In December, producer Vijay Kiragandur revealed that 85 percent of filming was finished.[25]

Filming was reported to be in the final leg in early February 2023, and set to conclude by the month end.[44] In this leg, the crew shot a 20-minute-long action sequence in the middle of the sea, at a cost of around 10 crore (US$1.3 million).[45] Haasan joined the sets on 10 February, after being busy for the post-production and release works for Veera Simha Reddy and Waltair Veerayya.[46] She completed filming her portions by 23 February.[47] In mid March, production moved to Matera, Italy; filming would then continue in Naples, then Rome and Budapest.[48] The initial release date of 28 September 2023 was postponed due to reshoots in mid-September. It was reported that after watching the final edit, Neel felt that there was room for improvement.[49] In late October, a "big war sequence" was filmed, featuring over 750 vehicles, including jeeps, tanks and trunks.[50] Principal photography wrapped after a total of 114 working days over nearly three years.[51]

Post-production

In December 2022, Vijay Kiragandur stated that visual effects work would take around six months.[25] By August 2023, post-production work was moved to Basroor village in Karnataka, where composer Ravi Basrur's studio is located, reportedly to ensure security and prevent leaks.[52] Shruti Haasan began dubbing her portions in mid-August 2023, and did so in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi. She completed her dubbing work by early September.[53] Prithviraj Sukumaran would do likewise by 10 December.[54]

Approximately 600 VFX shots were still pending in mid-September which, along with the reshoots, caused the postponement of the original 28 September release date.[49]

Soundtrack

The music and background score is composed by Ravi Basrur, in his fourth collaboration with Neel after Ugramm, KGF: Chapter 1 and KGF: Chapter 2. The audio rights were acquired by Divo.[55] The first single titled "Sooreede" was released on 13 December 2023.[56] Three more singles—"Prathi Gaadhalo", "Sound of Salaar" and "Vinaraa"—followed on 21, 22 and 26 December respectively.[57][58][59] The entire soundtrack album was released on 31 December 2023.[60]

Marketing

When the teaser of Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire was released on 6 July 2023, it had more than 83 million views in 24 hours, breaking the record for an Indian film.[61] The first trailer of the film was released on 1 December 2023.[62] The second trailer was released on 18 December 2023.[63]

Release

Theatrical

Salaar Part 1 – Ceasefire was theatrically released on 22 December 2023 in standard and IMAX formats.[64] It was released in Telugu along with dubbed versions of Kannada, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam languages.[65][66][67] The film received an A (adults only) certification from the Central Board of Film Certification on the account of intense action sequences and violence. The makers expected a U/A (parental guidance) classification, but were unwilling to make cuts, and since the board had updated their rules, the makers accepted the adult classification.[68]

Earlier in August 2021, it was announced that the film was going to release on 14 April 2022.[69] The film was later postponed due to Neel and Hombale's film, KGF: Chapter 2 which was scheduled to release on that date.[70] In March 2022, producer Vijay Kiragandur in an interview with Pinkvilla stated that the film was postponed to the second quarter (April–June) of 2023 due to production delays owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.[71] In August 2022, the release date was announced as 28 September 2023 but postponed to 22 December 2023.[64][72]

Distribution

It was released by the production house Hombale Films in Karnataka.[73] The film was distributed in North America by Moksha Movies and Prathyangira Cinemas jointly.[74] Prithviraj Productions distributed the film in Kerala.[75] The Tamil Nadu distribution rights were acquired by Red Giant Movies.[76] AA Films distributed Salaar in North India.[77] It was distributed across Andhra Pradesh by Sree Siri Sai Cinemas, Lakshmi Narasimha Sri Manikantha Films, Geeta Films Distributor, KSN Tele Films, Sri Vengamamba Cinemas and Shilpakala Entertainments while Mythri Movie Makers distributed the film in the Nizam region.[78]

Home media

Salaar earned 350 crore (US$44 million) from non-theatrical distribution rights including satellite, digital and audio before release.[79] Disney Star acquired the satellite rights of Telugu and other dubbed versions. The digital streaming rights were acquired by Netflix for all five languages.[80] The film was premiered on Netflix from 20 January 2024 in Telugu and dubbed versions of Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam languages.[81] An English dubbed version began streaming from 5 February 2024.[82] The Hindi dubbed version was premiered on Disney+ Hotstar from 16 February 2024.[83]

Reception

Critical response

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire received generally mixed to positive reviews from critics praising Neel's direction, performances, action sequences, cinematography and technical aspects of the film.[84][85][86] On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 73% of 22 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.9/10. The website's consensus reads: "Salaar: Part 1 - Ceasefire leavens its non-stop action with well-written characters who keep things engaging even as the set pieces threaten to overwhelm."[87]

Paul Nicodemus of The Times of India gave the film 3.5/5 and wrote "It is a riveting watch for those with a taste for grand and epic narratives. Fans of Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran will find much to admire in this intense and captivating film. It's a film that will entertain and impress with its scale, but might require some patience in the initial stages."[88] Janany K of India Today gave the film 3.5/5 and wrote "Salaar: Part 1 - Ceasefire is a mass masala action entertainer that celebrates Prabhas's stardom. Now, get ready for Salaar: Part 2 - Shouryaanga Parvam".[89] S. Devasankar of Pinkvilla gave the film 3/5 and wrote "Prashanth Neel’s Telugu debut is nothing short of a masterpiece, a visual spectacle. The film engages fans with brilliantly choreographed action sequences without losing track of the underlying story and drama. Prithviraj Sukumaran was right when he said that Salaar at its core is a drama. The drama definitely works out, and the filmmaker has hit it out of the park, with the help of his star-studded cast."[90]

Bollywood Hungama gave the film 3/5 and wrote "On the whole, Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire boasts of whistle-worthy moments that will be loved by the masses. However, the excessive violence, a needlessly complicated second half and a limited showcasing due to Dunki will affect its box office prospects to an extent."[91] Mayur Sanap of Rediff gave the film 3/5 and wrote "[Prashanth] Neel ups the ante on all of the formulaic elements from KGF by instilling them with more ambition and technical dazzle that sustain his bonkers vision."[92] Sangeetha Deva Dundoo of The Hindu wrote "Salaar is tailored to cater to lovers of mass action entertainers. There is a lot of indulgent ‘build up’ with nearly every character — the mother, Obulamma, Rama, the businessman who fears for his daughter Aadya, the children, and several aides — talks in exalted terms about Deva at regular intervals. At one point, I wanted the film to cut the chase and tell us what makes him a fiery warlord."[93]

Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV gave the film 2.5/5 and wrote "Solid star turns from Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran are the main draws of Salaar: Part 1 - Ceasefire. The rest of the film's appeal lies in the lure of unbridled excess."[94] Sonil Dedhia of News18 gave the film 2.5/5 and wrote "Overall, Salaar is only for Prabhas fans and for those who feel an assault on the senses is a form of cinema. But if you love your eardrums and have had your fill of the super-heroic exploits of an underdog-turned-top dog hero, you can give this film a probable miss."[95] Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express gave the film 2/5 and wrote "Salaar Part 2 promises more, more, more. Are we ready for it? Most of part one is eye-glazing enough, making you numb to the murder and mayhem: all noise, meaning very little."[96]

Monika Rawal Kukreja of Hindustan Times wrote "Prabhas makes a stellar comeback, film snatches Animal's 'most violent movie of the year' crown."[97]

Box office

Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire earned 95 crore (US$12 million) domestically on the first day while it collected a total of 178.7 crore (US$22 million) worldwide.[98][99] It received generally mixed to positive reviews from critics and emerged as the highest-grossing Telugu film of 2023, third highest-grossing Telugu film of all time, fourth highest-grossing Indian film of 2023 and 11th highest-grossing Indian film of all time.[84] It has grossed 705–715 crore worldwide.[100][101]

Sequel

The sequel of the film, titled Salaar: Part 2 – Shouryaanga Parvam, is in development.[102] In January 2024, Kiragandur confirmed that the script is ready and that the sequel will release in the second half of 2025.[103]

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