Rishi (Mahesh Babu) is a superman, his pursuit of success his kryptonite. Rishi solves impossible sums in a jiffy. He is crazy about being successful, although it is a little annoying for a stickler for grammar rules that they use the word ‘success’ as a verb rather than a noun.
Rishi joins IIET to do an M.Tech – he is there for the degree, he says, which he needs for success in life. He wants to create something that rivals Facebook and Google (when will our movie-makers get the details of the education industry, right? M.Tech really? Crore-rupee jobs?). In his campus selection interview, Rishi gives the interviewers a counter-offer, having created an operating system driven by artificial intelligence.
Engineers would raise their eyebrows a bit at the fact that the degree discussed is M.Tech, not MS, which feels weird for someone of Rishi’s persona and goals. Our filmmakers don’t exactly understand how education works, how colleges work and what exactly happens in campus recruitment interviews. Get over 3 Idiots already, please! This may seem like quibbling, but the lack of research is annoying.
When it comes to the corporate world, our films are decades behind, still trying to figure out how boardrooms work. Sample this – when Rishi announces in a meeting, as the CEO of a company called Origin, that he is taking a personal leave, the whole room, full of white people (what’s with the white people fetish?) erupts and spirals into chaos, everyone protesting what he's just said. No, sir, no matter what Telugu filmmakers think about their heroes, that’s not how a CEO’s leave is discussed in a boardroom (#justsaying).
The first half of the movie is about Rishi chasing success, with his father (Prakash Raj) as his role model for what he shouldn’t be, a failure. At college, he befriends Ravi (Naresh) and Pooja (Pooja Hegde). Pooja Hegde’s role in this movie would have been a downright winner if award shows had a category called Let’s-do-nothing. She basically chases Rishi because he is the topper, falls in love with him. She orchestrates the genius strategy of introducing the guy she loves to her family of 50 people, who ask him all sorts of uncomfortable questions, and then when he, absolutely clueless, asks her what’s going on, tells him about her love for him. Most bizarrely creepy relationship-proposal ever.
While the first half is decently entertaining – if you are a Mahesh Babu fan – it is the second half where the story picks up steam. Somewhat. Rishi, a successful CEO and the darling of the media, learns about Ravi’s whereabouts, years later (thanks to a surprise party organised by one of Rishi’s subordinates, who gets all his classmates flown to US. Why? Who knows? Did they forget to address that she had a crush because the movie already got too long?).
Ravi is fighting a lone ideological battle in his village that’ll soon be demolished to lay an oil pipeline for a grand-project. (Pooja as the Tech lead of a gaming company is still doing nothing in the movie) What starts as trying to make up to his estranged best friend, turns into a revolution, pitting Rishi, Ravi and entire villages against Mittal (Jagapati Babu), who is helming the oil pipeline project, that would adversely affect innumerable lives. Rishi runs his office in the village under a peepul tree, meetings under a tree as press and the villagers watch on.
He wouldn’t be fired only in a Telugu movie, you know (at least, he could have been the owner of the company, so he could run the show the way he wanted. CEOs can’t get away with this, wake up already!). Imagine the CEO taking unplanned leave for months, conducting office meetings in a village, where other company officials have to fly down in choppers (which company would be fine with their CEO embroiled in controversies on national news, day after day, I know not!).
That’s Maharshi for you, a movie for the fans.
Anyway, the cat and mouse game between Rishi and Mittal allows Jayasudha, who plays Rishi’s mom, her two moments under the sun (in between Pooja Hegde comes and goes again without doing much). Exactly why she has to wait for so long to have a heart to heart with her son is left to anyone's guess. It feels tiresome by now when she repeats that her husband was a success and so was her son (too preachy, I say, if you try repeating what’s success so many times).
Maharshi talks about a journey, a transformation, but that transformation is rarely felt – because the movie is so busy making love with Mahesh Babu’s image to allow audiences to see the character flaws. The idolization of Rishi even as a college student doesn’t let us believe he is going down the wrong path, which makes his newfound love for the country, his best friend, and the farmers, a little outlandish.
Right through the movie, Rishi is Odin Allfather, omniscient and omnipotent, who, makes sure his best friend wins in life (Pooja is still not doing much, mind you). Maharshi’s climax takes an eternity to arrive and the clarion call to respect farmers and to save them, although well-received, almost makes you wonder if the makers accidentally mixed up two different movie stories.
And after preaching and educating India and its countrymen about the importance of farmers, the movie comes to a very swift and convenient end. While the music by Devi Sri Prasad is pedestrian, the styling in the movie deserves applause. Mahesh Babu really looks sharp and crisp in whatever he dons. If only they paid as much attention to building a deeper storyline (make Pooja do something worthwhile, for example), it could have been a much better product. But hey, thanks for talking about the farmers. Those 15 minutes, plot and plot-holes aside, deserve appreciation.
Prakash Raj, Rao Ramesh and Tanikella Bharani - we have almost lost the art of making our character artists important in giving more and more space to the hero. I mean, come on, even Iron Man concedes space to others. Mahesh does these roles effortlessly and one wonders if there is a pattern behind three successive social-message-based, larger-than-life movies. A change, maybe? One for the actor in him, and not just to please the fans!
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.