In today’s time and age it is fashionable to be working in the development sector, not that there aren’t some genuinely interested people as well there. It is even more prestigious and worthy of talking about if you are trying to do things that can directly impact the lives of many other people. Politicians have been doing it for ages, a lot of other celebrities indulge in it as well, and of course there are the social activists as well. But how many of them are into it on a genuine basis? Well we don’t know, but let’s just say that they would form the minority here.  Film stars with an eye for the political arena certainly try to do work in the social space; it’s a sure shot way of catching the attention of the public. Of course not everyone has succeeded in this endeavour but people continue to try this route from time to time. Similarly doing films with a portrayal of being a do gooder for the society isn’t something new. Right from the time of MGR and NTR we have been seeing such films. A good recent example would be A.R. Murugadoss’s Kaththi where the message comes across loud and clear. So why am I rambling about all this when it comes to the review of Srimanthudu? Don’t worry you will find out soon.

Srimanthudu Poster 5Mahesh Babu is a superstar who has been enjoying a phenomenal fan following for a long time now. He has always managed to swing between fortunes, has bounced back successfully after failures. Following the back to back success of films like Dookudu (2011), Businessman (2012) and Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (2013), Mahesh faced commercial failures in the form of 1-Nenokkadine and Aagadu, both in 2014. This time around there was a lot of talk of how a star like him is making projects unviable with his high remuneration etc. Hence Mahesh went on to adopt a smart move of turning producer himself, thus making his projects more viable. The first of the 2 films which he is producing, Srimanthudu finally released today after a couple of postponements. Srimanthudu is directed by Koratala Siva, popular dialogue writer who made a successful transition to film direction with Mirchi (2013). So has Srimanthudu turned out to be the successful film that Mahesh Babu was looking for? And has Koratala Siva managed to get it right the second time around as well? Well let’s look into all that in a while.

Srimanthudu is a tale revolving around Harsha (Mahesh Babu), the son of a billionaire businessman, Ravikanth (Jagapati Babu). Harsha prefers to remain a little aloof from all his family members, something which disturbs Ravikanth. Ravikanth wants Harsha to succeed in him in his business but Harsha has no such interests and wants to do something else in life. He comes across Charuseela (Shruti Haasan) and impressed by her, ends up enrolling in a rural development course that she is into as well. Harsha falls in love with Charu but that is when he gets to know from her of a village called Devarakota where the people there have been suffering for a long time under the tyranny of Sashi (Sampath Raj) and his men. That’s when Harsha decides to go to Devarakota and takes upon the task of helping the village in his own way. How does he go about managing the same, what is his personal connection with Devarakota and the people living there are what we get to know from the rest of the film.

Srimanthudu Poster 4Director Siva keeps the proceedings quite light in the first half; there isn’t much which actually happens in terms of the plot. But still the goings on are fairly interesting courtesy the wonderful chemistry between Shruti Haasan and Mahesh Babu. The first half sort of serves as a base for the heavier, more meatier part lying ahead. The interval block has been smartly utilized by the director, building up the expectation for a good second half. And as expected things take a serious turn in the second half as the plot shifts from Hyderabad to Devarakota and Harsha starts his mission earnestly. Srimanthudu is a film which has a basic theme of getting back to one’s roots and giving back to society, now this isn’t something that you haven’t seen before.  The premise as such isn’t novel as such, but then what makes the film work to a large extent is the way Koratala Siva has presented the tale, making sure it is engaging all the way.

Be rest assured Srimanthudu is indeed a commercial entertainer in a way as seen in Telugu Cinema regularly. It has a handful of villains, a hero who can vanquish all the baddies with ease and a romance which takes a backseat after a while.  The proceedings are quite predictable and there are no surprise elements at play as well. The film even appears preachy at a point but that thankfully it isn’t overdone. But to deliver a full on commercial vehicle which doesn’t boast of an outstanding plot and yet remaining engaging all the way isn’t an easy task. And that’s exactly why the writing by Koratala Siva has emerged triumphant. The screenplay ensures that the spotlight is almost always on the protagonist Harsha and the peak points come in at the right time as well. Dialogues have always been a forte of Koratala Siva, here again he does well without resorting to the usage of unnecessary punch dialogues and over the top exchange of words.Despite its run time of 163 minutes the film certainly never gets boring, Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao’s editing ensuring that the film doesn’t suffer in terms of pacing.

Srimanthudu Poster 3Devi Sri Prasad’s music is a positive element in the film and the songs are catchy (lyrics by Ramajogayya  Sastry). So on the one hand while we have songs like ‘Jathakalise’ (sung by Sagar and Suchitra) and ‘Charuseela’ (sung by Yazin Nazar and Devi Sri Prasad) which are fun numbers, we also have songs like ‘Srimanthuda’ (sung by M.L.R.Karthikeyan) and ‘Jaago’ (sung by Raghu Dixit and Rita) which are high on energy and suiting the mood of Harsha’s mission. Anal Arasu’s action sequences are a highlight, be it the fight during the wedding reception or the one in the mango orchard, the fights appear fresh and carry appeal. And it’s good to see the director Siva placing fights only wherever it’s needed. R.Madhi’s cinematography is adequate but some visuals appear a little fake thanks to the VFX work which is clearly visible, look at the portion where Harsha is cycling out from home and on the flyover for example.

The film has a heavy ensemble cast but not all of them get importance. Veterans Rajendra Prasad and Jagapati Babu are quite good, while Sampath Raj and Mukesh Rishi play the standard villains. Harish Uthaman makes an impact; Rahul Ravindran in a limited screen time gets noticed while Ali and Vennela Kishore hardly get any scope. Shruti Haasan plays her part well and her pairing with Mahesh Babu appears fresh and comes out well. But the main reason for Srimanthudu turning out to be an engaging film is Mahesh Babu who is at his charming best over here. This is a role that is tailor made for him and Koratala Siva has utilized him very effectively. It is wonderful to see Mahesh Babu underplaying the emotional scenes, making them a treat to watch and he conveys quite a bit with his body language. Here is an actor who seems to have had faith in his director and played the role in great style. Despite its share of problems ultimately Srimanthudu works to a considerable extent thanks to the leading man. Srimanthudu eventually sees Mahesh Babu bounce back in style, and Koratala Siva manages to prove that the success of his first film as a director was no flash in the pan.

Note-Srimanthudu is playing with English subtitles in many multiplexes of cities like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi/NCR, Bangalore etc (though the quality of the subtitling isn’t really great, it’s still a good move).