Even God has his share of cynics to deal with, for which He deploys helping hands that sometimes go higher on the popularity scales than the employer Himself.
Jagadguru Sri Shiridi Sai Baba, the movie, is an enactment of the life and times of one such guru - Sai Baba (1835-1918). Beginning with a narrative of his unidentified origins, it moves on to how he entered Shirdi at the age of 16, and holds forth on some well-known episodes of his life.
So while Baba (B V Reddy) thwarts the onset of plague, cures deadly illnesses, shares the pain of untouchables, and demonstrates an incredible capacity for love towards all living beings, he wins over several ardent devotees, becoming an indispensable part of their religious and spiritual make-up. A few of his devotees, including Das Ganu, Mhasalapathi and Shama Rao, kept him constant company, and were witness to several of his miracles.
His anecdotes speak on issues of caste, religion and non-violence, among others. Celebrity followers Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Meher Baba feature in the film, and the movie even tries to fit in Baba's take on the Indian independence movement, and on British imperialism as well. In all, it has the potential to engage any curious devotee keen on seeing the Life & Times Of Sai Baba book at home come to life.
Only, the film uses devotion to cloak its ineptness in every department. Unfortunately, this is a full-fledged devotional about the life of the spiritual guru - it is not, for example, a movie on a domestic drama that needed divine intervention to get sorted out. Creating something in this territory with zero thought and effort speaks of carelessness of unmatched proportions - a disregard for any goals, spiritual or commercial, that the makers may have had.
The project doesn't look like it used any budget, and will probably anyway make enough money from the sparse audience that it is likely to get. The visuals are what you'd get when you make a movie with your lowest-end mobile phone, and it's not just the tacky graphics, the shadows and the poor lighting that are under question here. The actors seem to have walked in impromptu, and the costumes look like they were borrowed from a school play (and by borrowed, we mean borrowed - some of the clothes didn't fit the actors).
Naga Babu and Suman are flashed all over the posters, but they each have roles of a few minutes each. There are a few decent actors who manage a few lines, who look like they were brought in en masse for free, using the devotion sentiment as a bribe. The rest of the cast looks absolutely directionless, as pretty much everything else in this shoddy undertaking does. The soundtrack is pretty low-grade, but some of the songs are pretty all right to listen to.
On the whole, this one can be watched not for being a movie, but purely for being related to any purposes of a higher level that you may have.