At the end of the day, what undo Mahanandi are the fights. Merry in its immaturity, the film shows, again and again, one man single-handedly taking down a platoon of lethally armed Seema warriors. The movie might still do well, but that’s perhaps in interior Andhra, where its dose of family sentiment might make up for all its other sins.
Swaminayudu (Srihari) is a rich man with a heart of gold, and is worshipped in his native Seema. But due to longstanding and bitter enemies continuously trying to kill him, he lives in Hyderabad, and his sister Nandini (Anushka) is studying in Dehradun. Shankar (Sumanth) is his trusted lieutenant, more like a brother, and protects him like Nandi does Shiva (whence the name).
An attack on Swaminayudu brings Nandini home, and she slowly falls in love with Shankar. However Shankar is too loyal to Swami to encourage in himself any such feelings for her, and so, when Swami fixes Nandini’s marriage to the son of Nair (Kota Srinivasa Rao), she cons Shankar into running away with her claiming she wants his protection to marry someone else she loves.
She slowly manages to win his heart while they are on the run, but the whole episode creates an unbridgeable rift between Shankar and Swami, who, not knowing what happened, hates Shankar for betraying him. And then Nair teams up with Swami’s enemies to wipe them all out.
The good things about Mahanandi are the performances – while Srihari is Srihari, Sumanth is a surprisingly underrated actor, bringing life into every dialogue and scene, and completely looking the part. Anushka has an important role, and does complete justice to it, apart from providing the requisite glamor. All other actors are competent, though Telugu film writers seem to have run out of ideas for Venu Madhav. After Radhagopalam, he’s done very few interesting roles.
The music (Kamalakar) is perfunctory. There’s too much Seema gore – chopping off limbs with sickles, armies of men in white, and all the rest of the factionist syllabus. The fights are archaically unrealistic. Some of the visuals in hill stations are quite romantic, and Anushka makes you wish you had a girl like that courting you in a place like that. The problem is, the romance isn’t the Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin kind, even if the setting is the same – it doesn’t have enough footage or depth, and doesn’t make you wish for it all over again.
So is Mahanadi worth your 3 hours and 35 bucks? Maybe if you have a Seema background, or really enjoy some senti.