The rise and fall of what one can say as probably the "First Female Superstar" of South Indian cinema, forms the crux of the movie "Mahanati". Every frame is laced with history and legacy of the Southern Industry, which is mesmerizing to say the least ...
The thing about biopics is that you struggle with pacing, because you are not weaving an interesting two hour plot, but you are showcasing someone's life story and not every time the story goes good. It is the same with "Mahanati", which is the biopic of legendary female superstar of the south "Savitri". But fortunately for director Nag Ashwin (Yevade Subramanyam, 2015), this is not a problem, since we are taken to an age, which was the golden era of superstars, and every actor from that era is a legend in their own way. Every time, when you think that the story is going awry, you are given a peek at the behind the scenes interaction of all these legendary actors, which is a treat to watch and which balances the pacing of the original plot.
Coming back to the plot, the story starts off, with Samantha Akkineni and Vijay Devarakonda's characters in the 80's, who work for a telugu news paper, and they have to find the story about the life of Savitri, as she is in coma in a hospital. Their only source is a letter that she wrote to a film photographer, and they keep on digging information about her life. The story of Savitri and Samantha, run on a parallel.
Then one day, Samantha sneaks into Savitri's home, where her peddamma (Bhanupriya), is narrating the story to Savitri's son, Sathish.
The flashback then takes us back to Vijaywada in 1945, where we are shown a glimpse of her childhood, how she starts off as a theatre artist, how she becomes fond of ANR, then how she falls in love with Gemini Ganeshan (played brilliantly by Dulquer Salmaan).The first half, shows her rise and then the second half shows how she attains the "Mahanati"status and then the fall of a diva.
Keerthi Suresh, ironically resembles Savitri, in many close up shots and scenes. Even though there is make-up (not prosthetic, yes that's true), you find a stark resemblance, and she has done an outstanding job. This is one role, that will definitely become a landmark in her career. To be present in almost the entire movie, and carrying out the role, is what Keerthi Suresh does and she does it with aplomb. Many scenes, where we see the initial days of Savitri, and how she takes on people who doubt her abilities, have been brilliantly portrayed by her. It is truly mesmerizing to watch her perform. She steals the show.
Though you have Samantha and Vijay's characters going on a parallel, you will feel that they have been given a little too much of time and you will see that these things eat into the movie, because you won't enjoy them being on screen. Their love story was truly unnecessary. You have many cameos, but the best ones would be the one of ANR and SV. Ranga Rao. ANR played by Naga Chaitanya, is a frequent in many scenes and he does a great job in playing his grand father. SVRR, on the other hand is played by Dr. Mohan Babu, and is spectacularly surprising. He was the apt choice.
You will however, walk out with a heavy heart at the end, but none the less, you also feel like you have been taken back into the good old days, when people were good and respectful. They had real love and affection not only to their family, but also to society in general. For that, we should congratulate the director Nag Ashwin, for being so true ,to a generation that is bygone, and a diva never bygone.