Maharshi, starring Mahesh Babu, Pooja Hegde, Prakash Raj, Jagapathi Babu and Allari Naresh, is predictable, slow and full of familiar tropes. Which is another way is saying it’s predictable.
BUT, here’s why it works.
THE MAHESH BABU FORMULA
There’s a particular type of story that Mahesh Babu is drawn to. It’s not necessarily a rags to riches story, and the villain (or villains) are incidental. But the journey is one where the hero edges towards some sort of momentous achievement; both material and epiphanic.
Like Businessman (2012), where he sets out to conquer Mumbai (“Mumbai ko pishaab karane aaya hoon”), he sets out to rule the world in this one. There are dialogues that will make WhatsApp forward addicts sit up and take notice; about what defines success, How failure is not an option, faith in oneself, etc.
My feeling of disillusionment isn’t because the dialogues are tacky or that he’s wrong. The writing is crisp and is backed by decades of the whole state of AP focusing on script writing to the exclusion of all of the other arts.
THE CAST : PAST MASTERS
Pooja Hegde, has been given a woefully 2D role. She proved her acting chops in Telugu cinema with Aravinda Sametha Veeraraghava. Yet, she’s been relegated to a few dialogues and duet dance sequences.
The rest of the supporting cast though drew whistles from the crowds when they made their entry. Familiar faces shining brilliantly within a few minutes of allotted screentime. What’s not to like?
MUSIC AND THE ENDING
DSP (Devi Sri Prasad) is a dinosaur who’s been in the industry and in Tamil cinema for decades. While the audiences have warmed up to his excesses in thump, bass and the disco-like ‘umph’, it’s his background scores that take the cake. The love songs are groovy but forgettable. The last two songs; one on the farmers and the other right at the climax induce goosebumps.
WHY IT WORKS
Despite being an overlong (157mins!) saga of predictable aphorisms, (in places) banal dialogues, and forgettable songs, Maharshi has heart.
Like Vamshi Paidipalli’s previous film Oopiri, Maharshi oozes with the intense desire to share something of value with the audience. The message that farmers need to be valued. And that youngsters can achieve anything they set their mind to.
It is one among a dozen other films where the hero sets out to change the ‘system’, critiques the politicians and prescribes an outrageous single-fix solution for a major economic/societal issue. Nevertheless, you’ll walk out of the theatre with a smile, albeit a little tired.