Imagine having a good meal. You are happy and your taste buds are tingling in anticipation of the dessert. You see a beautifully decorated cheesecake come your way. The slight dusting of cocoa ups your anticipation and the delicate tangy smell of lemon wafts to you making your mouth water. And then you try to cut into it and find it hard. You still think it'll taste okay. You bite into it and you realise it is stale. There goes the entire experience of your meal.
Srimanthudu is somewhat like that. It starts off well enough. We are introduced to an heir apparent Harsha (Mahesh Babu) who's not really interested in his billions, and his dad Ravikanth (Jagapathi Babu) who does not really understand his son's world. In comes Charuseela (Sruthi Hassan), a girl pursuing a rural development course in NIRD, Hyderabad. Harsha meets Charu and tells her that he loves the course she's doing, and joins her college.
The two get close but when Charu finds out who Harsha is, she distances him telling him that he does not even know his roots and she's a rooted girl and that their worlds will not collide. This statement leads Harsha to discover his roots in a village called Devarakota. How Harsha adopts the village of Devarakota and rids it of the ills plaguing it forms the plot of Srimanthudu.
So the appetizer, the first half, is nice. The first song, Harsha's and Charu's meetcutes, and Mahesh's acting - all of these make for a good takeoff. There are nicely composed fights and the thrills flow organically. The main course, most of the second half, works well. There are no punch dialogues or fights for the sake of fights. The comedy and Sruthi Hassan spice things up well enough, and you begin to relax thinking your meal is well set. A mass song comes in like slightly sour curd, and you still don't mind. And then the pre-climax / climax sets in, and goes about ruining everything that worked well so far. Sigh.
Director Koratala Siva does a good job with most of the film. He makes sure the script is adhered to, pulls off good masala moments without heavy dialogues or counters, and paces the narrative well - while the film does proceed in a leisurely fashion, at no point does Srimanthudu have you feeling bored. Mahesh supports his director ably and puts in a splendid performance. He also pulls off the rich guy look effortlessly with elegant and understated costumes and styling. The sighing of the women in the theatre was audible every time he made an appearance.
Sruthi Hassan does her usual thing, and the rest of the supporting cast do a decent job, too. Sampath and Mukesh Rishi are way too typecast - it is getting boring watching them do these "I'm so badass" villain characters that get beaten to pulp in the climax.
Technically, Srimathudu is impressive. The songs are so much better on screen, and the background score elevates several core moments. The art director could've really gone easy on the bling, though - rich does not necessarily mean gaudy. The dialogues are sharp and not punchlines, which is a relief.
Srimanthudu is a good ride all the way until the final cricket match that Mahesh plays with a rod and the heads of a dozen goons. It is good to see Mahesh give first place to the story, and try and make a strong comeback after the tripe that was Aagadu
. Go watch this one - it's been a while since the script was the hero in a big-budget film.