Rating: 7.5/10 (Ode to Savitri garu)
Cast: Keerthy Suresh, Dulquer Salman, Samantha Akkineni, Vijay Deverakonda, Rajendra Prasad, Tharun Bhascker, Krish, Sandeep Reddy Vanga, Naga Chaitanya as ANR, Bhanupriya, Prakash Raj, Malavika Nair, Shalini Pandey, Tanikella Bharani, Tulasi, Naresh, Mohan Babu as SV Ranga Rao, and Srinivas Avasarala as NV Prasad
Director: Nag Ashwin
Producer: Swapna Dutt and Priyanka Dutt
Banner: Vijayanthi Movies
One of the most talked about biopics since it went on floors was Mahanati, the biopic of the late great actress Savitri Ganesan. Opening to glowing reviews and word of mouth, I decided to check the film out and see if it was worth all the hype. It was to an extent and let's find out what makes Mahanati a captivating film
Plot: Mahanati tells the life story of actress Savitri (Keerthy Suresh) from her childhood to her rise to stardom and rapid downfall. The film also focuses on her marriage to Gemini Ganesan (Dulquer Salmaan) and how it impacted her personal life.
Performances: This is one film where casting is perfect. Keerthy Suresh is outstanding the role of Savitri. In my opinion, she was not a good fit for the role but she does such a good job of performing the role that it essentially erases any doubts that anyone had of her casting. I mean when you do that well in a role and own the role like you were born to play it, there's not much you can argue about. She goes through the motions of Savitri's life and she is incredible in the emotional scenes throughout the film. Her performance in the crucial sequences in the 2nd half are iconic. This film will surely garner her the Best Actress award for 2018 and watch all the trophies come pouring in next year during the film awards. Keerthy Suresh owns the film from start to finish and makes a statement.
Dulquer Salmaan is equally as competent in the role of Gemini Ganesan. He is absolutely charming in the beginning and he plays his character so well and convincingly that you end up hating him by the end. Dulquer is a revelation altogether and he aptly supoorts Keerthy in the romantic track which is crucial to the films narrative. His first time dubbing in Telugu is flawless and his voice sounds identical to Aadi Pinisetty.
Samantha plays the role of a journalist who is investigating Savitri's life for a newspaper and she is excellent in the climax sequence with an emotional set of dialogues. Vijay Deverakonda as Anthony is adequate in his role but his Telanaga accent seems out of the place in the film.
Rajendra Prasad as Savitri's uncle does a fantastic job once again and he is very good. Shalini Pandey as her friend is superb as well.
All of the actors who portray the iconic legends of Telugu cinema such as Mohan Babu as SVR and Naga Chaitanya portraying his grandfather ANR on screen are all fabulous. They do justice the stalwarts of cinema they are portraying.
Direction: Director Nag Ashwin in his 2nd film delivers what might be termed as classic for portraying the life of soemone so emtionally and brought a lot of realism to the narrative. Biopics are not an easy task. The fact that you have to choose what to include and what to leave out either means you'll be making a riveting film that is factual or a film that completely distorts facts and glorify an otherwise controversial person. It's safe to say that Mahanati falls into the first category. Ashwin did not distort facts and showed the flaws of Savitri equally as well. Most biopics only focus on the good of one's life and try to glorify even their bad decisions, but the director makes sure that there is the good and bad shown about this person's life. And that is where the film has an edge compared to other biopics. While the film has it's share of flaws, the research and aesthetic production design that is incorporated throughput the film is just incredible. The attention to detail is flawless. Nag Ashwin has covered almost every aspect of Savitri's life and told it very convincingly. But that does not mean Mahanati is a perfect film. Most the first half is quite slow in my opinion. These portions definitely needed some editing as the film was painstakingly slow at times. Despite this problem, Ashwin extracts superb performances from his cast and an fantastic output from his technical team and Mahanati is a not only a film with a gripping story, but also checks the boxes for being a well made film. Overall, Nag Ashwin does a very good job and delivers a good biopic for the most part in the end.
Technicalities: Music and BGM by Mickey J Meyer is fabulous. All of the songs are shot well and the background score is well composed. Cinematography by Dani-Sanzhez Lopez is excellent. He effectively captures the atmosphere of the olden days with his color palettes and the film is visually rich and appealing to the eye. Editing by Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao is questionable. The film clocks in at 173 minutes and is a bit too long for today's standards despite the content of the movie. Production Design is outstanding with the sets and cars and everything being perfect to take the viewer back to the olden days of Telugu cinema. The attention to detail is just fantastic. Makeup and costume department is also fabulous. Production Values by Vijayanthi Movies are extravagant. The film is made on a grand scale and the quality of the film reflects that
+ Realism and Set Design
- Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha's track
Analysis and Final Take: Making a biopic is a essentially a double edged sword. This is because there are only two options. One, only shine the light on the good they did and neglect the bad and vice versa.
Mahanati has the rare distinction of breaking that mold and equally showcasing both sides of the person that was Savitri Ganesan. Nag Ashwin does a brilliant job in making a masterful biopic that effectively captures the good and bad parts of Savitri's life and the effort he has put in is commendable.
The first half progresses at it's own pace and does seem a bit slow at times. But it's the second half where the film really shines. The conflicts that Savitri faces, her marriage falling apart, her financial burdens, and her rise and fall from stardom are all exceptionally captured and it is what in my opinion saves the movie. Instead of glorifying Savitri and showing everything she only did right or wrong, he decides to show both types of incidents and situations to show that this person was indeed flawed and not the perfect human being some people thought her to be.
The way that Nag Ashwin decides to start the film from the point of view of journalists in 3rd person is quite an unorthodox way. Perhaps he was trying to give a different twist of the routine narrative style of first person. Mahanati is a film that rests on brilliant performances and excellent direction. Keerthy Suresh is outstanding the lead role and delivers a knockout perfomance along with Dulquer Salman who is just too good as Gemini Ganesan. The birlliance of the film is that you look for the who the villain is in the end and you want to blame Gemini Ganesan but in reality Savitri's biggest villain was herself. She caused her own downfall and the sequences that showcase this is aptly handled and executed.
This isn't to say Mahanati is a perfect film. The problems that lie within the film are the pace and the love track in the present day between Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha. While the first half is filled with content and incidents related to Savitri, the pace does move quite slowly and in my opinion, I couldn't wait for the interval bang. On the other hand, the love track was quite useless and a hidnrance to the overall narrative. Add Vijay Deverakonda's funny looks to the mix and it's nothing more than a huge waste of time in the overall narrative of things. Another thing that could be a problem is the connectivity factor. Unless you've watched the old films of Savitri, NTR, and ANR, it might be quite difficult to connect with the film because you don't really know the actress. As much as a biopic is supposedly to be informative, it also helps that you care about and are aware of some facts of the individuals life prior to viewing a biopic. Again this was my personal feeling. But this biopic is one that stands out from the rest and makes for an arresting watch.
Overall, Mahanati is a fantastic ode to Savitri garu's life and showcases the good and bad of the legendary Savitri's life. If you can excuse the length and pace at times, watch the film for the outstanding performances and overall film-making quality that makes it an informative and highly engaging watch.