Savithri is the one prominent lady who ruled the roost in Tamil and Telugu film industries as a leading actress in the 1950s and 60s. She acted in over 263 films and the list includes many classics such as Missamma, Patala Bhaiaravi, Paasamalar, Mayabazar and many others. Audiences are curious enough to know about unknown facts and personal life of Savitri who had seen many ups and downs in career too. Let us see, whether one film old director Nag Ashwin did right homework to make this a perfect biopic on Savitri.
A budding journalist Madhuravani (Samantha) is assigned to prepare story on legendary actress Savitri (Keerthy Suresh) who is in coma now. Aided by close friend Antony (Vijay Deverakonda), here begins the journey of Madhuravani to meet various sources associated with Savitri to collect the complete information. Savitri’s life from her childhood days to her initial days in film industry to her love, marriage with Gamini Ganesan (played by Dulquer Salmaan) and then to her troubled married life to last days in death bed, everything is presented on screen with authenticity.
Director Nag Ashwin did a broad study on Savitri’s life to narrate the complete life of an actress to the current generation. He did not simply narrate Savitri’s professional life; in fact the film also recited her personal life. Major incidents in Savitri’s life are included to give a pitch perfect picture on her real, inner character. Her naughtiness, stubbornness from childhood episodes to benevolence, warm heartedness to love, admiration and a sacrificial character in the end, Nag touched every shade and phase of Savitri. Nag Ashwin presented his self character and research done through Madhuravani played by Samantha. There are many episodes to prove how a good person and how great actress Savitri was?
Audiences instantly connect with this biopic because Savitri’s life is more or less an open book with plenty of cinematic dramatics. Basically, Nag Ashwin’s handling of romance, drama and emotions made Mahanati to stand on altogether a new level. Honesty, straightforwardness in narrative and authentic simplicity in presentation enumerated the skill of Nag Ashwin.
Camera work by Dani Sanchez-Lopez is commendable. A different tint is used to capture Savitri’s professional life. And the technology used to film Samantha and Vijay Deverakonda’s track is inimitable. Kotagiri’s editing was engaging in first half whereas narrative turned a bit slow in second half. Mickey J Meyer’s BGM is pacifying, while songs are mediocre though the title track and Mooga Manasulu are pleasing to ears. Production design by Shivam Rao is too good as minute details made a part of artistic set work, definitely a commendable job by the entire team. Production values from Swapna Cinema, Vyjayanathi are top notch.
Onto artists, Keerthy Suresh lived in the character of Savitri and has delivered a reverting act that will be remembered for long. This role offered lots of scope for Keerthy Suresh to be at her usual self and played the part effortlessly without any particular imitations. Subtle changes can be witnessed in Savitri’s character from struggling days in industry to again struggling days in her last days.
Dulque Salmaan gives a career-best performance as Gemini Ganesan. We love this character when he’s in love with Savitri and hate him when he starts loathing his darling wife. If he hadn’t performed well, one would develop other extra opinions on Gemini Ganesan who has his own reasons for disquieting Savitri.
Samantha showed what kind of actor she is in single episode where she says, “Nee Gurinchi Thelusukundam Anukoni… Naa Gurinchi Thelusukunnanu… Nuv Nee Cinemala Roopamlo Abhimanulni Navvisthuntav… Edpisthuntav…”
Vijay Deverakonda is decent as Samantha’s friend. Rajendra Prasad is apt as Savitri’s uncle. Prakash Raj impresses whenever he’s seen on screen. Tanikella Bharani, Bhanupriya, Malavika Nair, Shalini Pandey, Tulasi and Divyavani are good in their respective roles whereas Krish and Srinivas Avasarala made their present felt in cameos. Rest all fine.
Keerthy Suresh, Rest Of Casting
After making an impressive debut with Yevade Subrahmanyam, director Nag Ashwin adventured on an impossible task to make a biopic on Savitri. He gathered loads of information from various sources and his sincerity can be felt in story-telling. Nag Ashwin passes in distinction as director and his fondness, deep admiration towards Savitri is witnessed throughout.
Mahanati starts with a young journo Samanatha accepting the challenge to investigate life of Savitri to pen a gripping story. Soon after father’s death, Savitri and her mother takes shelter at uncle’s house. After becoming famous as stage artist, her uncle decides to make Savitri a film heroine and move to Chennai where they meet legends NTR, ANR, LV Prasad and KV Reddy etc where Gemini Ganesan enters into her life to blossom the romance on one side and her professional growth to stardom on other side.
The moment we see Mayabazaar, Devadas shooting episodes, our eyes turn wet in ecstasy. We accept the fact on why and how Savitri convinced herself to become second wife of Gemini Ganesan. Post marriage episodes are also so touching that we feel pity for Savitri who finds it difficult to face outer world. Every moment of film in these portions of 1st half stay true to ambience and mood of black and white period.
In second half, real struggles of Savitri are demonstrated. How Gemini Ganesan developed jealousy on growing popularity of his wife and how Savitri lost her assets because of generous donations and bad investments believing in wrong persons.
Many blame Savitri as alcohol addict. But, director Nag Ashwin gave perfect reason. Savitri’s second innings as character artist are also presented persuasively. Meanwhile, Samantha and Vijay Deverakonda’s love track emerges disruptive as audience being in mood to know only about Savitri and nothing else.
All in all, Mahanati is a perfect tribute for lady Super Star Savitri who enthralled South audience for ages. Director Nag Ashwin succeeded to narrate the story that has many emotions very engagingly with full support from artists and technicians. As a critic part, CJ rates Mahanati with 3.25 stars because the film has enough to please multiplex movie lovers but how far this story connects with audience in lower order centers will decide the final Box Office result.