Nandamuri Balakrishna's hundredth film, Gautamiputra Satakarni, lives up to its hype. He has finally found a way to escape his tag of superstardom which involves him beating up a hundred men to pulp for no good reason. He does it here as well, but the character he plays in this historical film demands such things from the leading man.
The 21st century has mostly seen Balayya star in one mediocre film after another. Gautamiputra Satakarni pours life into the actor in him in a palatable manner. Krish’s re-imagination of the emperor’s tale is probably larger in his head than what is shown in his epic.
Every Indian war film will inevitably be compared to Rajamouli’s Baahubali. Gunasekhar’s Rudhramadevi which released in the same year as Baahubali: The Beginning did, lost out in the awe-inspiring race due to its second-rate output. Rajamouli’s creation was miles ahead of Rudhramadevi in terms of visual brilliance. If Balayya’s latest film is taken into consideration by weighing its merits on the same scale, it’ll fall below Baahubali, but rank higher than Rudhramadevi.
Balayya as Gautamiputra Satakarni is hell-bent on unifying several small kingdoms into one prominent territory so that there’ll be only one rule in all the areas. Right from the first scene, we see Balayya wielding many swords. The action choreography is neatly done. Every now and then, he punches his enemies with his bare hands, too, which thankfully looks convincing here.
However, the romance between him and his on-screen wife, played by Shriya Saran, comes off looking weird - the major issue being their age-difference. They seem like an odd couple even otherwise. There’s absolutely no room for a love story to blossom between the two. Had Ram Charan or Rana Daggubati played the title role, this would have been a starkly different film.
In the same breath, I’d like to say that none could have matched NBK’s majesty while delivering those powerful dialogues. Almost every line is a gem. Sai Madhav Burra’s dialogues convincingly take us to a bygone era. NBK’s narration of a story revolving around a lion and an ant, towards the end of the movie, to prepare his soldiers for a big clash the next day is first-class. It’s a story worth remembering. There are other numerous little jewels packed in the form of conversations.
Does Krish love stories set in the past? His 2015 film, Kanche, brought out a new shade of the actor in Varun Tej and his new film, now, rebrands Balayya’s image. Balakrishna’s century in Indian cinema couldn’t have been better.