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'Mahanati' Review: Epic Biopic

Movie: Mahanati
Rating: 4/5
Banner:
Swapna Cinema and Vyjayanthi Movies
Cast: Keerthy Suresh, Dulquer Salmaan, Samantha Akkineni, Vijay Deverakonda, Tanikella Bharan, Mohan Babu,  Rajendar Prasad, Malavika Nair, Bhanu Priya, Shalini Pandey, Divya Vani, Srinivas Avasarala, Naga Chaitanya and others
Dialogues: Sai Madhav Burra
Music: Mickey J Meyer
Cinematography: Dani
Editor: Kotagiri Venkateshwara Rao
Production Design: Shivam, Avinash
Producer: Priyanka Dutt
Written and directed by: Nag Ashwin
Release date: May 9, 2018

Never before was a biopic made in Telugu on a movie star. Hence, ‘Mahanati’ raised curiosity ever since it was announced. Finally, the biopic on Savitri is here. Amidst huge expectations, the film was released today.

Find out if the film has lived up to high expectations it set... 

Story:
In 1980, Madhuravani (Samantha), a journalist working for Prajavani newspaper, begins research on Savitri, the actress who is admitted to hospital in penury condition. Intrigued by her situation, she decides to write about what really happened to this great actress. Thus the story of Savitri who rose to becoming a top actress in 1955 is revealed in flashback.

How Savitri (Keerthy Suresh) became an actress, how she fell in love with Gemini Ganeshan (Dulquer Salmaan), how all her money was lost and how she got addicted to alcohol is narrated slowly.

Artistes’ Performances:
Since this is biopic of Savitri, the role of Savitri is there from the beginning to the end and naturally Keerthy Suresh hogs all the limelight. She gives solid performance in the role of Savitri. Except that she is not overweight, Keerthy has got everything right -- expressions, acting, gait and emotions. She has lived in the role of Savitri. It is a tough role for any actress to live in the character of Savitri who is considered as the epitome of great acting, yet Keerthy steals the show.

The film also belongs to Dulquer Salmaan who is exceptionally terrific as Gemini Ganeshan. He’s charming. He’s also egoistic. He gets the part perfectly well. The film mainly belongs to Keerthy and Dulquer and they hold our attention.

Among other roles, Samantha as journalist, Vijay Deverakonda as Samantha’s lover, Rajendra Prasad as Savitri’s uncle, Divyavani as Savitri’s mother and Shalini Pandey as Savitri’s friend are impressive.

Naga Chaitanya as ANR is passable. NTR’s role has been done digitally. Mohan Babu as SVR is also just okay. Prakash Raj as Chakrapani has acted like any regular character. Other actors who reprised the legendary characters of movie world are okay.

Technical Excellence:
A period movie like this shines only when the production design and cinematography is excellent. The art directors have brought in believable sets of bygone era. The trams, Mount Road in Madras have been recreated well. However, some sets look gaudy.

Cinematography is top class. The Hollywood cinematographer Dani has used black & white, technicolor and color tones to tell various periods perfectly well.

Mickey J Meyer’s music is a huge plus point. Though some songs are dull, his background score has elevated the mood and brought out the right emotions. Two duets on Keerthy and Dulquer are lilting and shot brilliantly. Editing is neat, but the pace is slow. Dialogues are melodramatic.

Highlights:
Story and narration
Keerthy Suresh
Music
Direction

Drawback:
Slow pace

Analysis:
“Mahanati” deals with the biography of Savitri, known as the greatest actress Telugu cinema has ever produced. The life of Savitri is known to many, but in this film, the director has revealed the unknown facets of her life and her character.

To those who have read the biography of Savitri, there are no surprises in this story that is narrated by Nag Ashwin. However, he holds interest by adding a mystery angle in the beginning.

He begins the story when Savitri falls ill and she is brought to hospital in pathetic condition. Then he introduces the journalist Madhuravani who comes to know that Savitri wrote a letter to Sankarayya.

Who is this mystery man? Nobody who knows Savitri well is aware of the identity of Sankarayya. As she probes to know the mystery person, we come to know the life of Savitri.

It is revealed that Savitri’s father died when she was just six months’ baby and she saw a father figure in her uncle Chowdhary (played by Rajendra Prasad), but she continued to miss her father throughout her life.

Slowly, the director unveils the story of how Savitri is trained by her uncle to become an actress, how she got rejected initially by LV Prasad and how she met Gemini Ganeshan who played an instrumental role in her becoming an actress.

Further most, the director moves to establish the love story between Savitri and Gemini Ganeshan, her successes, her films and later how her success makes Gemini Ganeshan jealous. Everyone knows this story mostly.

What is sparsely talked about is her alcoholism. This is where Nag Ashwin is very truthful and reveals another facet of Savitri. Why she got addicted to alcohol, what drove her to lose all her money and her husband and how she ended up being a loner. This is narrated in a most emotional and convincing way by the director.

While the scenes of Savitri becoming actress and KV Reddy and other actors praising that she would be remembered for years to come is full of drama and unnatural, the director’s strength comes out in the sequences involving Savitri’s off-screen personality and her life with her husband.

The love story between Savitri and Gemini Ganeshan is the highlight of the movie. The director shows his brilliance even more in Savitri’s humane side of helping other people, her nature of trusting all and her loneliness.

Nag Ashwin also brings out little known side of Savitri, her flamboyant lifestyle of playing tennis, participating in car races too.

The director also ends the movie in an emotional way. Despite slow pace and some over melodrama, it ends as a terrific portrayal of a great actress.

“Mahanati” is a perfect ode to a great actress that is told in a touching manner with spellbinding performance from Keerthy Suresh. Movie lovers will definitely connect with this story, but normal audiences may find it as a bit of documentary. But definitely, this is a story of an illustrious actress that every movie lover should watch.

Bottom-line: An Ode to Savitri

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