In the third act of Maharshi , an elderly farmer who until then hasn’t paused to gawk at Rishi Kumar (Mahesh Babu) like many others in his village, takes a new look at him. This Rishi is a changed man, who has understood that his billionaire stature and powerful position alone cannot solve a crisis. What happens in the last 45 minutes or so is the crux of the film and has the potential to leave viewers moved.
If Mahesh’s previous film Bharat Ane Nenu discussed local governance and other ideas, this one looks at agrarian crisis and stresses on the need to respect our farmers. Also, how about getting millennials to do some #weekendfarming? Rishi is the agent of change.
At the heart of Maharshi is a story that could have been leveraged to make a compelling social drama that also traces the transformative journey of an ambitious man. But there’s a huge gap between what it could have been and what it is.
It takes a really long time for Maharshi to look beyond the starry aura of its lead actor and get to the crux of the story. Considerable time is spent in establishing Rishi’s jet setting lifestyle. He’s just been anointed the CEO of a big firm in New York. He travels in chartered flights, choppers are at his disposal, and he zips around in a fleet of cars. When he speaks, there are many throwaway quotes on success. His backstory unravels slowly to show what pushes him to succeed and what’s his idea of success.
- Cast: Mahesh Babu, Allari Naresh and Pooja Hegde
- Direction: Vamshi Paidipally
Rishi is portrayed as a genius but he can come across as arrogant. In college, no problem is too tough for him to solve. If he doesn’t take credit for it, it is because he believes he’s made for larger things! The monotony of watching Rishi’s supposedly flawless persona is broken when the focus shifts to his college friends Ravi (Allari Naresh) and Pooja (Pooja Hegde). In his brief role, Allari Naresh is pitch perfect as the student who is conscious of his humble moorings and the pressures that come with it. The bond between the three friends is established well and moves the story forward. However, Naresh’s role is cut short like that of many other characters. Cinematographer K U Mohanan and composer Devi Sri Prasad do their best for the narrative.
Rarely does the portrayal step away from the star aura of Rishi, or rather, Mahesh Babu. It does get indulgent. Mahesh shines in the emotional moments, like when he reads his father’s letter; but these segments are too few to keep us invested in his character’s journey. And barring an occasion or two, we never feel that he’s in a spot.
Jayasudha and Jagapathi Babu make an impression in their small roles but seasoned actors like Prakash Raj, Tanikella Bharani and Rao Ramesh are wasted.
The story of a man in a privileged position doing his bit at the grassroot level is an oft-repeated one. If a similar idea is to be revisited, it requires more emotional gravitas and less of the starry frills. By the time we see the ‘padara padara’ song where Rishi’s crusade grows from strength to strength, it seems too little and too late.
Want to see a transformative journey? Swades still remains one of the best films in that segment.