'Gayatri', starring Mohan Babu in the lead role, hits the screens today. Here is our review.
Shivaji (Mohan Babu) is a stage artiste par excellence. By the night, he disguises as this or that VIP for the sake of money. His unending search for his missing daughter (Nikhila Vimal as Gayatri) is the film's sentimental anchor.
By a divine co-incidence, Shivaji finally does discover the whereabouts of Gayatri, who is now a doctor. But before he can go and shed copious fatherly tears in her presence, he finds out that Gayatri hates him to the core as she believes that it's because of his cruelty that she was orphaned. To make the matters worse, fate has other plans for Shivaji. Enter another Gayatri (Mohan Babu again, as Gayatri Patel), who now can do everything to prevent the father-daughter duo from living a happy life for his own selfish ends.
What is the backstory? What does Gayatri Patel seek from Shivaji? Will the father-daughter duo ever have a happy ending? That's the second half for you.
Admittedly a remake, 'Gayatri' comes with a meaty storyline for sure. Life conspires against this one humble stage artiste Shivaji and it's heart-wrenching. When he was young, he was living in disguise when his soulmate was snatched away from him. When he is middle-aged, he is once again living in disguise and another catastrophe is on the verge of happening. This is a melancholic storyline in itself. There may also be an allegorical meaning to the fact that Gayatri Patel looks just like Shivaji.
And Mohan Babu's studied portrayal lends excellent heft to the story. Watch him when he finds his long-lost daughter. The song at this moment (the quick sand art could have been avoided) may not have the right choreography, but the lyrics and the strength of acting are surely admirable. Watch him as Gayatri Patel, a ruthless villain who does an alternative reading of Ramayana to suit his convenience. His old-fashioned dialogues here are not novel, but when Mohan Babu laughs menacingly, you want to put your monies on him.
The mind game in the climax is another high point, at least writing-wise. The theatre backdrop is not overdone and that's welcome. The production values, especially Thaman's background music, Sarvesh Murari's neat shots and MR Varma's editing, are good.
While the storyline has the potential to make the proceedings highly aesthetic and even nail-biting, the over-indulgence of Mohan Babu the celebrity (as against Mohan Babu the brilliant actor) is unwelcome. Just look at the range of Babu-isms out there. Jeeva says that Shivaji teaches lessons to, well, discipline itself (nothing less!). Shivaji seems to become a moral police for his sidekick (Raja Ravindra) and others at the first opportunity. When Mohan Babu the celebrity is around, (anti-) caste matters, repartees on politicians, pro-women/pro-voter dialogues, and traces of social commentary have to be there. 'Voter ammudu povali, aada pilla adhupulo undali', says a character, leaving Vishnu Manchu (the young Mohan Babu) fuming.
Sanskrit slokas and occasional idioms/proverbs are there (yes, they are organic to the story and so these are plus points).
Where the film also fails to make the cut is in the way Gayatri Patel's crime angle is narrated. The earth-shattering massacre and the conspiracy GP mounts later is too sketchy. Or, at least, it's not updated to suit the standards of the times. Also, what was the item song with him on the lines of Baahubali's 'Manohari'? Sathyam Rajesh's character, Posani's extended cameo, and Sridhar Rao's sub-plot seem to overstay their welcome.
The flashback involving Vishnu Manchu and Shriya Saran comes undone. 'Oka nuvvu oka nenu' is clearly inspired by 'Itu ra ra krishnayya' song from 'Ra Ra Krishnayya'. Shriya's 'Tarvata sangathi tarvata' sounds much like Rakul Preet Singh's ultimatum-sounding dialogue from 'Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam'.
If Anasuya Bharadwaj is OK in the role of an investigative journalism, Brahmanandam is once again wasted in the lame flashback.
Mohan Babu's two shades in the two different roles are splendid. He is enjoyable for old-timers. His dialogue-delivery style (helped by Parachuri Brothers) is convincing. Nikhila Vimal is convincing as a damsel in distress. Shriya Saran may not make much impact. Vishnu shines here and there and his 'Yemantivi Yemantivi' monologue is nothing home to write about.
An engaging storyline is told in a fairly decent manner, barring some leaps of faith and a flashback that is hardly meaty. The climax could have been better. Mohan Babu breathes life into the proceedings to the extent he can.