Films are powerful. So are the people associated with them; people who, in the minds of the blindly adoring audiences, are at least as big as the films they are associated with. What else explains the fact that politicians who want to publicly ridicule the sway of a film-star's charisma have to resort to films to do so?
Palakollu (Dasari Narayana Rao) is a silently enterprising coolie whose aims are far-reaching. In the beginning, he is busy intellectualizing coolies at the Vizag port, where he uses brains rather than brawn to teach his comrades to stand up for their rights. As a result, the labourers sing his paeans and unanimously declare him as their union leader, the Mestri. The current task at hand is to fight with the authorities who are trying to cheat the workers of their land.
Now, Subbaraju (Pradeep Rawat), Apparaju (Sayaji Shinde) and others repeatedly prove to be pains in all the wrong places, and use some pawns to do so. Mestri starts clearing up some of the filth in the system - and his murder of Subbaraju lands him in jail.
From behind bars, Mestri narrates his flashback, in which he tells us that he was originally Major Narsimham for a long long time. During that time, there was a resounding victory for Dalits and Telugus alike, in the form of a medal from the President to the first Telugu Dalit army officer (Mohan Babu). Major Narsimham is now fighting for certain causes that got Mohan Babu killed.
The rest of the story jumps right out of hand, and is a mishmash of various themes that the makers found very necessary to tackle, out of which one tops - stay away from power-hungry celebrities who have just one aim, which is to become the CM, but have no clue what to do when they get there.
In the beginning, there is this air of general hope and optimism when Mestri is smartly empowering the workers; when you know the film is clichÃ©-ridden but will still be a good watch because it all feels sensible. This is something that starts melting once the first signs of the army-officer-cheated-by-the-system formula are palpable. At that point, it seems like just another B-grade social issue flick centering round callous politicians and their henchmen.
Soon, very soon, the not-so-subtle hints that were playfully dropped somewhere in the first half (before a song that warns us of the dangers of the path of aakarshana) rupture, when the film reduces to focusing on the one person Dasari doesn't want us to vote for. This kind of focus lends itself through generous amounts of lampooning and diatribe. Not that his arguments aren't articulate, nor even that his mockery is not entertaining, though.
Performances are expectedly skillful, given the star-cast of premium character artistes. Dasari sneers his way through, and Mohan Babu benevolently lends himself to a cameo that requires very, very little of him, except to show how fit he is at this age.
Srihari plays an angry, frustrated, suspended police officer. He delivers a good performance, but frankly, this film doesn't need his role - and what is with those preposterous fight sequences that involve flying people? Speaking of fights, Mohan Babu and Dasari also get their share of the action.
It is only the first half that contains the cerebral and aesthetic components of Mestri, even if all the characters are caricatures used to drive home certain points. Cerebral because of the witty, satiric, well-timed dialogues that Dasari keeps spewing. And aesthetic because the music truly astounds. Vandemataram Srinivas comes up some brilliant folk tunes, which, as is the case with other such themes accessorized by his music, cause something deep inside to stir.
You could wait to rent this, but if you're curious about the political banter, this might be a better time than later.