Maharshi movie review: Mahesh Babu's conviction holds this partly underwritten film together
The best part of Maharshi is that it gives us a lot of solid moments to root for the protagonist and that is what matters in the end.
Mahesh Babu, Allari Naresh and Pooja Hegde starrer Maharshi sounds almost like a clarion call that one must never forget their roots, no matter how successful they are in their lives. And in doing so, it focuses on the very idea of India, which despite tilting towards a capitalistic economy is still a socialist country. It emphasises on the need for working towards the greater good of the society rather than focusing on personal success.
At its core, Maharshi is a well-intentioned drama and has some beautifully written sequences; however, it holds back on a lot of things it wants to say for so long that it makes you feel restless at times. It’s treated like a biopic of a fictional character, who goes back to his roots to mend some fences and in the process, his life undergoes a major transformation. And the film too gets better as its lead character progresses towards realising his true sense of purpose.
The film has Mahesh Babu playing Rishi, who’s extremely ambitious in life. His father (played by Prakash Raj) is a simple man, who struggles to make ends meet. The duo hardly talk and Rishi kind of develops a grudge against his father for being a failure. His ambition in life is to not be like his father. When he goes to college, he befriends Ravi (Allari Naresh) and Pooja (Pooja Hegde); however, he moves on in life to pursue his ambition to become successful and rich. Much later, he gets promoted as the CEO of one of the leading tech companies in the world, and one day, when he meets his college friends, his life changes dramatically when he finds out what had happened to his close friends from college. The rest of the story is about how his journey back home changes Rishi as a person.
First things first; Maharshi flourishes when it hits the emotional chords. The best scene in the film has Mahesh Babu reading a letter written by his father. The way Mahesh Babu emotes in that particular sequence is more than enough to show his acting prowess, and how much emotion Maharshi packs within its three hour long narrative.
Then, there’s another beautiful segment set in a village where an old man talks about how nature takes care of us once we step into the soil. It’s a wonderful metaphor for the protagonist’s journey too since he feels alive when he gets his hands dirty. The mud under his feet and the scorching sun above him give him a lot more joy than the skyscrapers of Manhattan. It’s this progression of a man who starts from being too self-centred to a reformer that works quite well in Maharshi.
Yet, the film’s narrative is riddled with quite a few issues.
In the initial portions of the film, Rishi comes across as someone who’s too egotistical, albeit smart and intelligent. He wants to run as fast as he can in his life because the world remembers only names of champions like Usain Bolt. He pushes away people from his life because he thinks that they might be a burden for him later on. There’s hardly anything likeable about him as a person, even though you can’t help but admire his relentless pursuit to be the best. The film shows us a glimpse of all these traits in Rishi and makes it really hard for us to root for him. It’s only much later that we begin to understand the exact reason why Rishi has been running as far away as he can from his home and people who knew him. In the absence of an emotional high, especially in the first half, there’s very little to cling on to before the film changes gears. Except for Allari Naresh, Rao Ramesh and Kamal Kamaraju, the rest of the supporting cast doesn’t get enough to work with. The romantic track between Mahesh Babu and Pooja Hegde too isn’t well-etched to root for their relationship.
Thankfully, things change dramatically once Rishi comes back to mend fences with Ravi and Pooja. Right from the moment Mahesh Babu decides to revisit his past, the film finds its rhythm and it also focuses on several key issues plaguing the country side, especially in terms of their right to live a dignified life. The concept of home, success and the importance of farming is handled quite well. Even though the film moves on predictable lines, the writing is good in the second half of the film and it makes its point loud and clear.
The film owes a lot to Mahesh Babu’s conviction to pull off his role and he makes you believe in his characterisation so much that it doesn’t feel like fiction. His flamboyance in the college sequences and the maturity with which he pulled off the village segments is noteworthy. Allari Naresh shines in his role, although he gets sidelined towards the latter portions of the film. Pooja Hegde gets lost in the proceedings, and others like Vennela Kishore and Jagapathi Babu hardly have any role.
KU Mohanan’s cinematography is a huge asset and he is instrumental in making Maharshi larger-than-life through his frames. Devi Sri Prasad makes his mark in some of the emotional sequences with his background score. It’s quite clear that Vamshi Paidipally has invested a lot of time in building the life of Maharshi, and perhaps, he feels quite attached to the issues that he tries to address through the film.
One of the most memorable lines in the film goes something like this - “There are no full stops in success, only commas.” There are no full stops in Maharshi either, but there are a tad too many commas.
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