The collosal emotional punch of End Game is still fresh in our memories. The effort that must have gone into creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is something one cannot begin to imagine. Cinephiles are often called out for being biased towards world cinema and being unfairly demeaning towards Indian cinema but consider this; Mahesh Babu’s last three Blockbusters are Srimanthudu, Bharat Ane Nenu and the latest, Maharshi. These three back to back movies share so much in common that one cannot help but wonder if this is our own MCU – Mahesh Cinematic Universe, albiet these films do not boast of either good writing, good acting or decent filmmaking on the whole. The creative effort that must have gone into creating this MCU must be nil. Originality is sacrificed for convenience, depth is sacrificed for heroic moments.
Maharshi is yet another attempt at glorifying an already glowing star, meanwhile minting millions by throwing in a random Farmer Suicide angle into the climax; coning the average cinema goer into believing that this is a good film because it endorses Farmer welfare. Creative lethargy is a crime but Maharshi thrives on it. Starting with the name of its protagonist and the title. Rishi Kumar is Mahesh Babu’s character and the title of the film is, Maharshi, the originality kills me. The creative lethargy of course creeps into the storytelling. The first time we see Rishi Kumar, a character introduces him, anointing him with overwhelmingly positive adjectives. The audience is not given a chance to discover the greatness of Rishi, we are rather told about his greatness by several characters through the film; after all who would want to write a proper scene to establish the greatness of Mahesh Babu, rather have a character speak great things of him and we, of course, have the slow motion walks to elevate the character further. Mahesh Babu delivers or rather announces his dialogue in his peculiarly painful delivery style and walksaway in slowmotion at least 10 times in the film. This peculiarly painful delivery style is something he has developed in the last few years and his ‘ fans ‘ seem to respond to it positively, which is why his character in Srimanthudu, Bharat Ane Nenu and Maharshi all have the same vocal and character tone and it brings great applause from the fans, why not!
One would imagine, in a film with multiple helicopter shots, Bentley’s roaming around, they could afford proper cameras, colour grading and editing, Alas, they could not. There are shots in the film where the subject is walking and the focus is all over the place. The drone shots have become a pain to watch in Telugu cinema. Several frames look like many Advertisements that Mahesh has been a part of. When your ‘ film ‘ does not even look like a ‘ film ‘ one can safely say that the makers and the star have taken the audience for granted. The fight choreography in the film is extremely stylish and most of it is in slowmotion. There are two major fights. One fight happens in a college, the purpose is to establish his heroism, this is more style than emotion. The second fight, happens when one of Rishi’s best friend is dying and here too the fight is stylish, completely executed in slow-motion, which is completely devoid of emotion but is good to look at. Even in a fight to save his friend, Mahesh Babu is a star, he is not a desparate friend trying to save him. For some reason the director believes that it is important for us to see how far the goon flies when hit by Mahesh. This is exactly where someone like an S.S. Rajamouli scores. He imbues his fight sequences with more emotion than style. He builds the scene and fight is only the end of the scene but here, the goon flying off is a more important shot than capturing the agony in Mahesh’s eyes.
A rich man realising the destitute of the poor and resolving all their problems using his might and a newly discovered humanity, is a story that has been told, by the same actor numerous times. All Maharshi does is, it has got more characters to sing laurels of the hero, than the previous films. It is extremely problematic to see a huge commercial film belittle an issue like Farmer Suicide by providing oversimplified resolution and making a mockery of the issue. Superstar Mahesh Babu’s Maharshi is a pedestrian fan service film. It manipulates you shamelessly by exploiting issues like Farmer suicide in a commercial film, whose only purpose is to stage its flawless protagonist as a ‘ Maharshi ‘.
Telugu cinema stoops to a new low with yet another Mahesh Babu film that is a disgrace to the art of filmmaking. It is infuriating because I have been an admirer of Mahesh Babu’s performances and choices in the past. Lately, his insecurity eats away at his discretion, it is evident that his script choices are based on what will give him a blockbuster and not what will make a good film. One can only hope for a decent turn of events in the future.