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Maharshi Review

Maharshi
T J Reddy / fullhyd.com
EDITOR RATING
5.0
Performances
Script
Music/Soundtrack
Visuals
7.0
3.0
4.0
7.0
Suggestions
Can watch again
No
Good for kids
Yes
Good for dates
No
Wait to rent it
No
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," goes the old adage. Over a career spanning 25 films, Mahesh Babu has adhered to this principle more often than not. His career began with him being a fresh-faced flowerchild that was the apple of every red-blooded woman's eye. That phase commenced with Raja Kumarudu and met its demise with Bobby. The formula had run its course.

Then began the action hero phase that was meant to invigorate the testosterone-fuelled men in the audience. This image originated with Okkadu, peaked with Pokiri, and slipped into oblivion post Businessman. With every villain known to Tollywood beaten to pulp, the freshly minted Super Star needed a new template.

Even though the actor sampled well-worn avenues such as family films, comedies and thrillers, the biggest of hits came with Srimanthudu and Bharat Ane Nenu. A new money-making recipe had been generated - rich Mahesh Babu renounces his riches to empower the impoverished.

But the problem with a recipe is that once it is set, it can be replicated hundreds of times with ease, and familiarity breeds contempt. One way of avoiding the dreaded familiarity is by introducing fresh elements to an accustomed storyline. A simple example of this can be found in every one of our houses. The vegetables we add to our sambar change from one day to the next while the salt and sambar powder remain the same.

The salt and sambar powder for Maharshi come in the form of Mahesh Babu's uber-wealthy Rishi. A man who has scaled the heights of the business world and owes his success to nothing but his mettle - or so he thinks. A few revelations later, he returns to India to thank a friend. He quickly comes to the realization that his verbal appreciations might not be what his friend requires at the present moment as the latter is set on saving his village from being mowed down by a corporate entity. And Rishi sets his sights on rescuing the village from its predicament by means of the vast number of resources he has at his disposal.

Now, for those vegetables. On one corner of the chopping board we have the namesake love interest Pooja, played by Pooja Hegde (no brain cells wasted there), who is in it for the songs. On the other corner we have suit-clad Vivek Mittal (Jagapathi Babu), who is in it for the money. And right in between them are the hordes of farmers led by the resolute Ravi (Allari Naresh). As you can glean, we weren't fans of everything on our plate. But unlike in the days from our childhood where we could willfully ignore those vegetables we didn't like, Maharshi guilts us into consuming every single item on the plate.

It does this by extensively reminding us of the pains one had to go through to obtain these ingredients. Scenes upon scenes and monologues upon monologues of characters telling us the differences between success and "real" success and winning and "real" winning make sure that the audience as well as Rishi learn their lessons and never forget them. But little do the makers know that preachiness and repetition grounds one into accepting a message only for a moment. That moment, though, wanes as soon as it waxes. At its worst, Maharshi behaves like a stereotypical parent who tells but never shows.

In an ironic twist of fate, the only aspect of its storytelling where the opposite is true comes when illustrating Rishi's motivation which is a by-product of his relationship with his father Satyanarayana (Prakash Raj). The tension between the two characters is palpable, and the clever usage of a simple newspaper as the visual link between Rishi's father and Ravi is an admittedly inspired choice.

Co-writer/director Vamsi Paidipally's movie comes into its own when the man behind the camera allows his actors to interact with each other instead of forcing them to interact with his inanimate device. Mahesh Babu is at his best when playing off highly talented actors such as Allari Naresh, Sai Kumar, Prakash Raj and Jayasudha. The warmth the latter duo bring to the screen and the unkempt emotion Naresh manages to wring out of every single one of his supporting performances elevate the film from being forgettable trite.

The shot structure of these deeply personal sequences deserves a special mention as well. The cleverly masked statue of Gandhiji adjacent to Naresh, gentle cuts to empty objects which eloquently emphasise loss, and wide shots that indicate growth and change without insisting upon themselves all showcase the flair hidden within a film that cripples itself with mass-y sequences that insult your intelligence and time-consuming songs that are so clichéd that every Telugu newborn knows about them and is fed up with them already.

Therein lies Maharshi's fatal flaw. The movie fails to realise that noble messages will only be accepted when presented in novel ways. Images of our heroes being appreciated by white guys and gals, scenes of them travelling in motorcades and helicopters, and slow-mo glory shots of them walking around the US in suits don't qualify as cool anymore. What is cool is watching our heroes exercising their brains. What is relatable is watching them have genuine human interactions with other characters. And a good cinematic experience comes together when an audience feels like every frame presented to them was vital to the enjoyment of the film.

Like a mediocre wedding feast, Maharshi serves up two dozen items on an innocuous plantain leaf and hopes its hungry audience is wowed by the variety. Sadly, the end result of all this pomp and show doesn't veer very far from the usual muffled complaining almost every wedding guest indulges in. The makers planned a banquet to satisfy every demographic, but in an attempt to play it safe, made their meal indistinguishable from the hundreds of others an average person eats in their lifetime.
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TOP COMMENT
TJ Reddy on 10th May 2019, 3:32pm | Permalink
Well, Bhogi.

To be honest, before I began writing for fullhyd, I used to live under the assumption that regional film industries lacked talented artists. But through the course of nearly 2 years, I’ve come to recognise the talent of many an individual. I have observed character artists like Brahmaji carry a film, I’ve seen Ajay steal scenes even when paired alongside big name actors, I’ve marvelled at Sai Kumar as he delivered a Bachchan-esque performance and to your point, Naresh has brought tears to my eyes with his performances in Gamyam and Shambho Shiva Shambho. This is not to say that there aren’t actors who are in over their heads in the industry, rest assured – there are. But I would like to ask you to observe these artists and their performances. I’ll be the first to admit that our filmmaking standards need a huge amount of improvement (example: our camera blocking needs a lot of work) but the actors we have in our employ are top tier. We just don’t have good scripts and roles for them to sink their teeth into.
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The Common Movie Goer on 9th May 2019, 11:42pm | Permalink
Hey, TJ, have I mentioned that you have a gift for writing? If scriptwriters invested half the time in their scripts as you do into penning allegories and metaphors, we would have some amazing movies served on our plate for our consumption. Unfortunately, a lot of big-hero movies seem to be high-calorie junk with added masala and no salt.

That piece about Mahesh's formulaic career really struck a chord with me. I never realized he played it safe for several films at a stretch even at the beginning of his career. The pattern only became obvious to me after Brahmotsavam, Sri Manthadu, and BAN. From what I hear, this movie might as well be titled Sri Ane Nenu.

I used to be a huge fan of Mahesh. I've mentioned this multiple times on this very website, but I've seen Pokiri 400+ times. That's pretty much all I did for a year. I thought Mahesh would evolve to become one of the best actors of Tollywood. Unfortunately, he seems to be devolving as an actor, sticking to standard monotonous expressions with an added temple scratch thrown in for good measure.

I will definitely check this movie out and bitch about it, but I will keep waiting for the day that Mahesh explores interesting character studies. I feel his in-law, Sudheer, is selecting vastly superior scripts which can keep the audience engaged. Maybe inspiration can start at home?

On an unrelated note, I loved your Peter Thiel comment on Endgame, but personally felt you were harsh on the movie. That movie was a 11.0/10.0 for me. It was perfect payoff for fans who had invested considerable time into the Marvel universe, and had a ton of pop-comic culture references as well (Hail Hydra!). I thought it was the best Marvel movie. Mind you, this is coming from a person who hates his fair share of Marvel movies, and absolutely despises Infinity War. Review aside, what was your feeling walking out of the movie? I would be really interested to know if the reviewer side of you took over the fan side of you.
TJ Reddy on 10th May 2019, 1:32am | Permalink
Well, TCMG...I'm not even sure I deserve all the praise you send my way sometimes. But I will gladly accept your support.

Mahesh's career trajectory is a curious case study because every time he sheds an image he attempts a handful of offbeat films and then settles on the tried and tested. I want to see him in more films like Nani, Nijam, 1-Nennokadine and SVSC even (the chemistry he has with Venky always gets me, especially the scenes on the train) but large scale movies are usually lowest common denominator affairs. He's a decent actor who is bound by his image.

As for Endgame, there was a lot more I wanted to get to in the review that I couldn't obviously get to because of constraints. As a fan, the emotional payoffs are the biggest strengths of Endgame even though the logical plotting makes little to no sense. I will maintain that the final shot of Cap dancing quietly with his wife is one of the most satisfying endings to any movie ever. It is as perfect a bow out as it gets. That shot made me realize how much all those characters and actors had grown over the years. It didn't break me down (only one superhero film has and no prizes for guessing which one) but it really made me appreciate the personal stamp the original cast left throughout the franchise.

And when they signed off on the movie with the end credits sequence I was genuinely caught off guard because of how cool the moment was. It is a movie full of fan service but the best kind of fan service. If any group of filmmakers have understood their fans well, it's Marvel. Even GoT is struggling to satisfy but Marvel satisfied and then some.
Siva on 10th May 2019, 9:13pm | Permalink
Broke you down - was it Dark Knight?
TJ Reddy on 11th May 2019, 2:25am | Permalink
Damn it, man! I said no prizes for guessing.

Haha. You got it right.
The Common Movie Goer on 11th May 2019, 12:58pm | Permalink
TJ, your email ID is visible.
Fanofnone on 12th May 2019, 1:48pm | Permalink
Pokiri 400 times... what did you like so much....just out of curiosity
Sarathi on 10th May 2019, 6:41am | Permalink
Need to have a lot patience to watch this movie. Copy of movies like 3 idiots, srimanthudu and Swades. The movie started somewhere and ended somewhere else. Except Naresh, nothing was genuine in the movie. Bad love track, stale comedy, poorly written sequences, hero gets demotivated with one incident after showing such a powerful will. Everything is bad. No logic at all. Better to avoid.
TJ Reddy on 10th May 2019, 3:24pm | Permalink
Maharshi's plot is inherently illogical. That begins from scene 1 to be honest. While the plot's logical loopholes create an issue in themselves, the primary problem is with its structure. It attempts to follow both The Hero's Journey and the traditional 3 act structure.

The issues arise when it tries to adhere to these writing techniques but fails to develop characters and sequences to match the pacing and flow. With the villain being introduced so late into the game and having him introduce only one plan of action against Rishi, the film effectively neuters his attempts as it has to wind itself down and has no more time left to devote to any semblance of character development.

We never get to see more than a fleeting second of Rishi at his lowest and hence his highs are not relishable. If this were a neater script with a lower number of deviations from the main plot, we could have a decent film which would have ran a maximum of 2 hours.
Sarathi on 10th May 2019, 4:18pm | Permalink
I Completely agree with you. I watched Swades many times as I it is of the best film in the recent past. The director would have sticked to one point rather than expanding and exploring many thing. You are right TJR..fantastic analysis.
TJ Reddy on 10th May 2019, 5:26pm | Permalink
I agree with you completely Sarathi. That's exactly why I stated that he's at his best when sharing his scenes with other actors. He's somehow more measured around them. When left to his own devices he tends to overact. Those punch scenes where he has to be the "hero" are some of his weakest ones.
Sarathi on 10th May 2019, 4:22pm | Permalink
Don't you think Mahesh has overacted in many scenes? Somehow, I strongly feel that. What do you say?
Bhogi on 10th May 2019, 12:35pm | Permalink
Allari Naresh is one of the most talented actors around???????????????... You are out of your mind. In fact, there is no talent whatsoever in Telugu movie industry. Or, better will, it doesn't need any talent with the kind of 'videos' they make.
TJ Reddy on 10th May 2019, 3:32pm | Permalink
Well, Bhogi.

To be honest, before I began writing for fullhyd, I used to live under the assumption that regional film industries lacked talented artists. But through the course of nearly 2 years, I’ve come to recognise the talent of many an individual. I have observed character artists like Brahmaji carry a film, I’ve seen Ajay steal scenes even when paired alongside big name actors, I’ve marvelled at Sai Kumar as he delivered a Bachchan-esque performance and to your point, Naresh has brought tears to my eyes with his performances in Gamyam and Shambho Shiva Shambho. This is not to say that there aren’t actors who are in over their heads in the industry, rest assured – there are. But I would like to ask you to observe these artists and their performances. I’ll be the first to admit that our filmmaking standards need a huge amount of improvement (example: our camera blocking needs a lot of work) but the actors we have in our employ are top tier. We just don’t have good scripts and roles for them to sink their teeth into.
Portuguese Man-of-War on 11th May 2019, 4:14pm | Permalink
+1
The Common Movie Goer on 13th May 2019, 3:42am | Permalink
Unstructured rant ahead.

Completely, agree, TJ! We do have some of the best actors around. It's just some sycophants in the industry who are ruining it for everyone. Case in point, Rangasthalam! Personally, I don't think it was very well scripted in the second half, but the audience showered praise and money over the film. That should have been treated as a sign of encouragement and prompted RC to opt for another author-backed role. But what does he do? He opts for VVR.

When you look at actors like Naresh (Sammohanam), Allari Naresh, Brahmaji, Ajay, Rahul Ramakrishna, Priyadarshi, etc.aka small-budget heros / "comedians" / character artists, you can see that they are able to make hay even when the sun doesn't shine. Within the limited scope that they are offered, they still manage to stand out and shine. When you look at actors like SVR and NTR, I doubt many actors across the world achieved the god-like (and in the case of SVR, demon-like for Gatotgacha and Hiranya Kasyapa) status that they did. We've always had stellar actors, but pseudo "movie -economics" is prompting the industry to resort to washed out templates.

I feel that the reason we feel that talent is waning is a combination of two things: 1. Poor templates, and 2. Comparison with Hollywood. The former has been discussed enough already. It's the latter that we need to learn lessons from. Just like our engineering educational systems in India, the approach taken by a lot of new age heros, if any, is focusing on all the unimportant things. While the engineers focus on scoring high on end-semester exams without respect for the process, the heros seem to be focusing on the end box office collections and working backwards to the skill set that would get them there (namely, fights, dances, and looks). I saw somewhere that Allari Naresh watches a movie or two a day and takes notes. Clearly, it shows when he is acting. This movie gave him a pretty much nothing role, and he was still my favorite part of the movie. The rest of the movie was just abysmal, with way too much preaching going on. MB seriously needs to go back to underplaying characters. I was just completely thrown off by his acting here, especially when he told the board of directors off. Seriously buddy, do your research, you try to pull those shenanigans off, and you'll find your ass fired in a day or two.

Anyway, I would like to end my rant stating that Tollywood still has hope. If we have more movies like Sammohanam breaking out and making money, I am sure Telugu audiences will eventually end up being the catalyst for ushering in a new age and ending the mass age.
The Common Movie GOer on 13th May 2019, 3:46am | Permalink
Aslo, this movie was so bad, I saw SOTY 2 right after this movie, and thought it was far superior. SOTY2 didn't have much going for it, but I was never actively bored or repulsed by any of it. It was the story of an OP underdog who kind of overcomes some odds. The fights and dances are good, the romance is superficial but believable, and the acting was not bad. In fact, I thought Ananya Pandey acted really well and I actually liked her performance. Tiger was Tiger with great dancing and fighting skills, with believable acting. I felt the movie is receiving too much hate. Please don't judge me.
Sriram B on 11th May 2019, 2:17pm | Permalink
Hi TJ,

If you remember, I was the one who commented on your earlier reviews comparing with Josh, but that does not deter me from coming back again here often and after reading many of your reviews and I must say I am now getting used to your style of writing and presentation :-) keep it up!!

I did not see the movie as I am far away from India and US where the mania happens. I can’t agree more with your observation of template/pattern of rich out of riches. But to extend that a bit, it’s not limited to MB, add PK in attarintiki daredi. I saw an interview of MB with Anupama Chopra of FC probably for spyder and in that I felt MB felt totally insecure or trying too hard to protect his fandom/stardom saying stakes are too high rather than exploring totally new characters which are more grounded. It baffles me that after 20 years still writers/directors like to write scenes about milky white handsome MB which is nauseating after a point - though it may be a good selling point for starters.

I would like to see MB more as an actor , which he totally gifted is, than a star as I am literally bored of his star projections and commercial “elevations” ????????
TJ Reddy on 12th May 2019, 10:54am | Permalink
Josh is the guy I really did want to emulate when I began. But, as you've so rightly observed, mimicking his wit is near impossible. I had to do things my way. Also, thanks for your support.

Every single big name actor is stuck with this template problem. Be it, allu Arjun, Mahesh Babu or Pawan Kalyan. All of them are capable of more but don't foray into experimental cinema. Allu Arjun's best work was in Vedam, Pawan Kalyan's ambition was in Jonny and these are just a few examples. Even if they fail, they are noble failures. This rush to sustain their market hurts them in the long run.

I feel really bad when I think about the fact that Tollywood doesn't have a star in the ilk of Dhanush or Vijay Sethupati, who are open to both experimental and mass cinema without ever compromising their market value or quality. I haven't seen top Telugu heroes act in something like a Vada Chennai or 96 or Super Deluxe or so many other spellbinding films that came out of Tamil cinema in recent memory simply because they'll have to play second fiddle to someone else or because their characters aren't masculine enough. I do hope these actors work in smaller films once in a while and explore what they are good at. When one Mr Bachchan does it so often, I don't see why these gentlemen can't.

It saves producers and distributors a huge amount of money and keeps us audiences from watching the same recycled films.
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