Being in the first-day-first-show of Maharathi for someone not completely clued in to Telugu cinema can be the equivalent of reading a local newspaper in a new city of a new country - the most important things as featured on the front page hardly seem important or conforming to your idea of what deserves front-page coverage.
Indeed, Maharathi is like a private party between Balakrishna and his fans rather than a thoughtfully-made movie - the mannerisms, dialogues, jokes and references are all for internal consumption, for people who belong. The reaction of someone new to Telugu films or with high standards for the films he watches, will be described best by adjectives that we reserve our right to use, but will not.
At a broad theoretical level, Maharathi is a movie. It has a story and all. Which goes something like this. Balakrishna (Balakrishna) joins 2 vituperatively rival schools as teacher - in one place belonging to Choudary (Naresh), he is a stereotypically traditional classical singing teacher, and in another belonging to Chamundeshwari (Jayaprada), he is a flamboyant Western dance trainer.
He portrays these as two different persons, and using his closeness to Kalyani (Meera Jasmine), the daughter of Choudary, he abets her falling in love with the dance teacher of the rival institute and makes her actually join there.
Now Chamundeshwari is so arrogant, it is almost conceptual. And Choudary hates her so much in a feeling that's synergistically mutual, when he discovers that his daughter is in love with even an employee of hers, he blows several arteries in a ballast of ionospheric rage. Kalyani however is more practical - she just threatens suicide and breaks everything at home that's in working condition.
Nothing works like negotiation when all other options are closed - i. e. your daughter is unwilling to negotiate. And so Choudary does the unthinkable - he goes over to Chamundeshwari's place.
If you want to take Maharathi's story seriously enough to try to point out holes in it, well, feel free - we won't judge you. The film, more so the second half, reminds you of movies made in the 1980s. It has all the standard ingredients - a rich arrogant mother of a girl who falls in love with a poor working-class hero, management vs. "labour" scenes, extremely expressive love of the hero for his mother… the works.
Balakrishna is, well, loud. The attempts to be "mass" and play to the fans make him appear clownish here most of the time, doing no justice to his talent. There are too many things that are in the either-you-like-it-or-you-hate-it category depending on whether you are a fan or not. The second half is a complete throwback to the '80s, with all its cliché-ridden "labour" dialogues - whatever the makers' intentions might be, they almost manage to make labour look like a bad word by overdoing it.
Jayaprada makes a comeback in a role that makes you wish she waited for something good. This one is too much out of the Vanisri-Lakshmi-Ramyakrishna palette, with all those references by the hero to the looks of a woman who is almost his mother by relation - Balakrishna makes like he's about to kiss her once, comments on her choice of blouse, and says a lot more things that would make it appear to the more impressionable viewers that it's okay to think of your mother-in-law that way.
Sneha is quite elegant (her role is completely in the second half), and Meera Jasmine does what she needs to. There are some pretty irrelevant villians and fights added purely for the formula. The music does have some good numbers, especially Mangamma Mangamma.
Watching Maharathi is a decision that depends on which side of the curtain you belong to - fan or not. And the movie will only serve to make it more of an iron curtain.