There are movies that you brag about on your social media posts, there are movies that make you question your mental faculties, and then there is this kind of movie. The one you watch with your loneliness for company and you do not talk about at parties: you savour that movie. Balakrishna's Legend is one such movie. Legend confidently strides into the recesses beyond the straitjackets of low art and high art, alienated from the now fashionable woke universe. To appreciate the work of art called Legend there is only ground rule one needs to keep in mind: Balakrishna is a superstar but Balayya is an emotion.
Legend follows the masala entertainer trope and then takes it a notch higher with not one but two Balakrishnas. The first half of Legend introduces Jaidev (Balakrishna) as true global do-gooder, saving girls and families from Dubai to Dharmavaram. He stops to smell the roses in between the crusade by romancing to peppy tunes. The titular character Legend (again, Balakrishna) arrives at the interval point to fuel a hackathon. On screen Balayya might be addressing the villain but the tirade is intended towards Balayya's real life competitor. That is some layered messaging, but you do not need an understanding of the context to enjoy this scene. The 'punch' dialogues per minute and blood spurts per frame are fodder enough to satiate those reptilian instincts of dominance and aggression. The 'okka pitta katha cheppana' (shall I narrate a small tale) monologue by Balayya also doubles up as a crash course in the political history of Andhra Pradesh dating back to the 1980s.
Legend ticks all the boxes of a Tollywood blockbuster – headlined by a superstar whose onscreen and offscreen personas coalesce intermittently, dialogues peppered with 'honesty is the best policy' kind of messaging and an action blood fest. Legend has pre-stereotyped Jagapathi Babu in his first turn as the bad guy. Also appearing in an out-of-place role is a pre-Netflix Radhika Apte. There are other minor and major characters who exist on the fringe of a frame that at all times has Balakrishna at the centre.
On dark days when one feels beat down by life and is not in the mental state to appreciate crafty conceits and deceptive deceits in the screenplay, Legend provides an un-Shawshank-like redemption. It is best, then, to give in to the guilty pleasure and live vicariously through the onscreen victories of Legend. Or to put it in the dialogue template of the movie's universe, "do not fight the guilt, if you fight the guilt then the guilt will fight you." This is not just guilt; it is also pleasure.