Cast: Mahesh Babu, Shruti Haasan, Jagapati Babu, Rajendra Prasad, Vennela Kishore, Mukesh Rishi, Sampath Raj, Ali.
Director: Koratala Siva.
Like Albert Camus’s protagonist in ‘The Outsider’, Harsha (Mahesh Babu) doesn’t quite understand himself in ‘Srimanthudu’. Forthrightly he tells his father that he’d like to earn some respect which means he’s not interested in what his family has earned in terms of wealth / stature.
In wanting to capture the role of an outsider, Mahesh stands with his hands hanging in the air most of the time, and unbeknownst to himself, wears a smile. He’s also a true Superstar when it comes to the way he carries himself; be it a suit or a lungi, he knows what works. A chance meeting with Charuseela (Shruti Haasan) makes him accept himself and urges him to go to Devarakota, a village ruled by a bunch of goons. One of the bosses happens to be a khadi-clad politician ordering his men from New Delhi to look after the burgeoning empire.
Just before the appearance of the interval board on the screen, everything falls into place. I knew what Harsha would achieve by the end of the film, I knew the fate of Mukesh Rishi and Sampath Raj (the money-eyed brothers who unhesitatingly bury whistleblowers); still I was sure that Koratala Siva wouldn’t allow mediocrity seep into the narrative. But the film unnecessarily eats up around fifteen minutes in the climax.
Harsha is a rich man alright. His family is rich. The woman his father wants him to marry is rich. Heck, the only game Jagapati Babu is shown playing is golf. Isn’t golf known as the rich man’s game? From Sr. Babu’s beard to Jr. Babu’s cycle, the makers have steered clear of things that smell middle class. Yet Harsha is not a srimanthudu because of his buying power; he’s a srimanthudu because of his giving power. He’s the epitome of goodness. Well, most of the Telugu film heroes fall into this category, unfortunately many fail to carry the weight of Koratala Siva’s writing. And that is what makes Harsha a character worthy of remembrance. On a scale of 1 to 10, how cool is the name Charuseela? 10! Shruti’s role isn’t as brilliant as her character’s name, hence the songs and the dances, I guess. Time and again Rajendra Prasad emerges as the best actor from the supporting cast. He makes his tiniest of the tears heavy for the audience. Wow.
All in all, ‘Srimanthudu’ is a notch above the so-so model of commercial films. It’d have been neater had the gap between the intent and the content of the film narrowed down further.