Mahanati Review – Keerthy Suresh captures the magic of Savitri

I have been anticipating Mahanati for a year, since Dulquer Salmaan posted a picture of himself on twitter as Gemini Ganesan, announcing that he was debuting in his first Telugu film, a period piece.

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I didn’t know anything about the legendary actress Savitri until I posted my trailer reaction to the Mahanati teaser trailer.  I asked for people to send me links and clips, and my Youtube viewers sent me songs and scene clips, but universally, they all told me I HAD to see Maya Bazar.  Boy, am I glad I watched the 1957 classic film before I watched Mahanati.  Because the very first glimpse of Keerthy Suresh in the film is a filming of a famous scene from Maya Bazar, and I recognized it immediately.  Watching Maya Bazar meant I could judge whether Keerthy was nailing it as Savitri — and boy did she ever!

Here’s my full review of the film:

 

Nadigaiyar_Thilagam_Stills__7__0Dulquer Salmaan had to walk a fine line.  He played the actor Gemini Ganesan, who married Savitri even though he was already married, and also had a mistress (with whom he fathered Rekha!).  He has to be so charming and compelling that you believe that Savitri would fall for him, and you also don’t like him very much at many points in the film.  He did an exceptional job.

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Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha Akkineni play newspaper reporters compiling a story about the mystery of Savitri’s last days.  They have a wonderful chemistry together.  Samantha Akkineni has a career best speech in the final 15 minutes of the film.

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Hats off to director Nag Ashwin, for an incredible film, only his second full length feature film.  This film covers the 50’s through the 80’s and the period details seem to be perfect.  Many, many scenes from classic films are recreated, including actor Naga Chaitanya playing his grandfather ANR.  It’s an amazing scope for a film, and so ambitious a project.

But the key is that Keerthy Suresh really captures the charm and spirit of the legendary actress Savitri.  It’s a career best performance for her. The soundtrack is also exceptional, and I’m playing Mooga Manasulu (Muted Hearts) on repeat.

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Arjun Reddy – An Amazing Telugu Film

Arjun-Reddy-1Many of my commenters on my Pardesi Youtube channel encouraged me to do a trailer reaction for Arjun Reddy, and then the drumbeat started, “When are you going to review Arjun Reddy?  It’s a sensation here!”

I am SO glad these people let me know about this film.  I’m not sure I would have gone to see it in the theater otherwise, and I’ve now seen it twice in one week.  It’s that amazing.

This video review is spoiler free.  I recorded it right after I came out of the screening.

 

I was gobsmacked by the film.  It is unlike any other Telugu film I’ve ever seen.  This is no Masala film.  It is raw and real, both in the story and the dialogues.  It’s a debut director Sandeep Reddy Vanga, and was made on a shoestring budget.   It’s more like an indie film in many ways, and it is a sensation.

There is an intense romance between two medical students played by Vijay Deverakonda and Shalini.  I have never seen a romance with a seduction by pulling the girl out of anatomy class to draw the muscles and bones on her hand.

arjunreddy250717_002Because they are of different castes, here family is adamantly against them.  And then the film becomes very much like a modern Devdas, but it goes places I wasn’t expecting.

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Arjun is a complete hot head, and it’s a cautionary tale on how because he cannot control his rage, he loses everything in his life.

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The actor, Vijay Deverakonda is amazing in the role.  He was willing to show himself wetting his pants during an overdose, something I can’t imagine pretty much any other Indian actor doing (well, maybe Rajkummar or Nawaz).

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The film has intense romantic kissing just as a matter of course.  The freakin’ poster is the kiss.  A politician ripped the poster off buses, and Vijay at the press conference said, “Granpa, chill.”  There’s a real attitude around the film.  It’s not trying to be a film festival art film.  It’s out there, and proud about it.

This is a five star film for me.  It’s that good. It felt realistic in the way that Malayalam films often do.  I felt like the characters were real people and I was seeing inside their lives.  I love a film like Mirchi, too, but there are no machetes or goondas or Masala elements in Arjun Reddy.  Arjun Reddy is intense about his calling as a doctor, about his romance and his friendships.

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Rahul Ramakrishna, who plays Arjun’s best friend, was my favorite secondary character of the film.  He gets some of the best comedic lines, too.  He says at one point something like “People don’t understand what it’s like to be your friend.  It’s like I’m pissing all over myself and only I can enjoy the warmth.”  Amazing!

This is a film that is going to stay with me.  I cannot recommend enough that you try to see this film in the theater with a crowd.  I know I wasn’t getting all the wordplay, but people around me were laughing a lot at the dialogues.

Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I saw the film together my second time, and then we had an on camera spoiler filled discussion.  ONLY if you’ve seen the film already, should you watch this video.  Seriously, watch the film first, so you experience for yourself.

 

Margaret has on her blog a spoiler free review here, and a spoiler review here.

 

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