Gautamiputra Satakarni review: Nandamuri Balakrishna, Krish Jagarlamudi excel

H Kumar

Jan,12 2017 17:18:01 IST

3.5/5

Nandamuri Balakrishna is not just an actor. To his fans, he's an emotion. And to see him in a film that gives him enough bandwidth to squeeze every ounce of fervour that he's got is almost like spotting a unicorn. Gautamiputra Satakarni, a historical drama directed by Krish Jagarlamudi, is Balakrishna's 100th film and narrates the story of an emperor of the same name, who ruled India in 1st Century AD. In other words, this is the closest we have come to spotting a unicorn in his career in recent times.

Is Gautamiputra Satakarni fiction or fact? Does Krish follow the exact line up of events to narrate the story? Questions like these are bound to pop up after watching the film, but none of them matters in the larger picture. It's Krish's version of what could have happened 2000 years ago and thus, this derived product, which is inspired by paintings, sculptures and rare manuscripts, turns into an interesting set up where it becomes to separate fact from fiction. That, in itself, is an achievement.

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Gautamiputra Satakarni. Image credit: Facebook page

Set in 1st century AD, the film begins with a voiceover of a 5-year-old boy who talks about unifying and ruling the country, and slowly, his dream turns into an obsession. Satakarni turns into a war machine and goes on to conquer the entire South India. When he sets his eyes on the North, Satakarni comes face to face with his biggest nemesis including the Greeks. The rest of the story is about how Gautamiputra Satakarni went on to win every major war in his lifetime and how he heralded a new era.

For Balakrishna, a film like Gautamiputra Satakarni is a match made in heaven. He's on top of his game and completely in control of what he's doing when he's angry or delivering profound dialogues. In one scene, Balakrishna threatens his enemies with a 'sweet warning' and asks them to not force him to wage a war on them. His voice is enough to drive the point home that no one should ever mess with Gautamiputra Satakarni. The battle sequences are well-shot and Balakrishna is right in the middle of all the action most of the times. You could argue that the battle sequences could have been choreographed in a better way, but that's not the point of the film. Gautamiputra Satakarni, the film, is our introduction to a (largely) forgotten legend and to see him through Krish's perspective throws light on how rich Telugu culture was 2000 years ago.

The casting is spot on and besides Balakrishna, it's Shriya Saran who steals the show with her performance as Vashisti Devi. It's been a long time since Shriya has pulled off an emotional role like this and her conversations with Balakrishna are brilliantly written. Both the actors are in sync with their characterisations and they make you empathise with whatever might have happened in real back then. Hema Malini, on the other hand, is all grace and the voice of reason in a film where emotions run high.

In 2015, when Krish made Kanche, it felt like he was simply wandering into the past to bring an untold story to the big screen. But with Gautamiputra Satakarni, he has made his intention loud and clear that he'll continue to dig deep into the past, which has thousands of stories to tell, and that one will never run out of inspiration. It's an audacious film that focuses on one warrior's obsession with unifying all the kingdoms and the reasons behind it.

Cinematographer Gnanasekhar turns the film into a riveting experience and Chirantan Bhatt's background score invokes the spirit of a Hans Zimmer and Ramin Djawadi to add a layer to Krish's storytelling. Perhaps, Krish's secret weapon is Sai Madhav Burra, the dialogue writer. Each dialogue in the film is as important as the scene itself and there's no a single dialogue which feels odd or unnecessary.

Gautamiputra Satakarni is part inspirational, part patriotic that implores Telugu-speaking populace across the world to be proud of their roots. And in doing so, Krish has once again proved himself to be a fascinating storyteller who isn't afraid to walk a less travelled path. Watch Gautamiputra Satakarni, they don't make films like these so often.

Updated Date: Sep 21, 2017 13:04 PM