Reviews

Srimanthudu: Back to the roots

Mahesh in a still from 'Srimanthudu'  

If a leading star has had two box office turkeys, one would expect his next film to have all that’s considered necessary for a blockbuster. While trying to get this recipe for success right, often, a director plays around with an apology of a plot.

The trailer of Srimanthudu had the glimpse of a promising story line, of a well-heeled youngster adopting a village. But the promotional campaign laid stress on the entertainment factor; the team didn’t want to make the huge fan base believe they are in for a ‘message-oriented’ drama. Does the promise of a strong core get drowned in the masala? Pleasantly, it doesn’t. Director Koratala Siva gives the fan base enough to cheer and at the same time, has a firm grip over the plot.

Harsha (Mahesh) is the scion of his father’s (Jagapati Babu) business empire. He isn’t keen on taking over the reigns of the empire. Rather, he takes up a course on rural development after he meets Charusheela (Shruti Haasan), who wants to use technology to the benefit of her village.

Harsha doles out wads of notes to an elderly woman begging at the traffic signal, donates lakhs of rupees to an employee for his daughter’s wedding and generally, remains aloof from the ostentatious setting that surrounds him. Like the father and son in K. Balachander’s excellent Rudraveena, here too, the father and son differ in their ideological outlook. The father-son clashes here are more subtle. There is a certain respect with which Harsha puts forth his points of view and bides time to, like he says, earn his respect.

Giving away money is the first step, but will Harsha risk his life when he is up against a local hoodlum, Sashi (Sampath) and a minister (Mukesh Rishi)? A liquor network, a water bottling unit eating into the drinking water source of the village, and agriculture land at the brink of being taken over for political gains, all find a place in Harsha’s journey.

As the hurdles get tougher, the film glorifies Harsha as the hamlet’s saviour. But that’s expected of a commercial entertainer.

There are nice little touches in the narrative, like the small-time vendor keeping a count of the families remaining in the village as many leave to the city for better prospects. Then, there’s the portion where Rajendra Prasad (the do-gooder witnessing the slow decay of his village over the years and is yet optimistic of future) is unable to say anything when his own brother’s family wants to leave.

The stylishly mounted dance numbers punctuate the proceedings, along with laughter in the form of Vennela Kishore. Srimanthudu has a huge supporting cast, with most of them not having anything substantial to do. Sukanya as the doting mother, the spiritually-inclined Subbaraju, Rahul Ravindran as the cousin, Thulasi as the woman frustrated with the village, and Tejaswi Madiwada in a guest appearance… the list is long.

A couple of songs stand out in Devi Sri Prasad’s music. The cinematography and technical finesse are an asset.

Shruti Haasan seems to be getting better with each film and does her part with grace and earnestness, managing to hold her own in a film that worships the hero. Mahesh carries the film on his shoulders, working his charm throughout. And yeah, as with some of his previous films, there are enough references made to his good looks. Beyond looking stylish, the actor comes up with an understated, mature performance.

This isn’t Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades, where Shah Rukh Khan finds his true calling in a much more realistic manner. The social consciousness comes coated with commercially viable ingredients and still, makes for an engaging watch.

Srimanthudu

Cast: Mahesh, Shruti Haasan, Jagapati Babu

Direction: Koratala Siva

Music: Devi Sri Prasad

Story line: A rich guy wants to give back to society but has to face stumbling blocks.

Bottom line: A star-driven film with a strong plot that’s worth a watch.

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 5:56:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/mahesh-babu-srimanthudu-review/article7512037.ece

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