Gayatri Review: Tailor-made for Mohan Babu
A classic Telugu commercial film, that may be a tad too clichéd, but is worth a watch for the performances
Versatile actor Mohan Babu who has not been seen often on screen in recent times plays a dual role – a hero and a villain in Gayatri. The film, directed by Madan Ramigani, is a testament to how a high-voltage commercial entertainer stuffed with family emotions is what makes Telugu cinema. Madan knows his target audience well and delivers what they want.
Cast: Mohan Babu, Vishnu Manchu, Shriya Saran, Nikhila Vimal
Direction: Madan Ramigani
Mohan Babu is a stage artiste Dasari Shivaji, who runs an orphanage in memory of his wife – Sarada Sadanam’ and also serves a jail sentence as a stand-in to criminals or politicians for money. He also has a second dimension to his character which his close aides often blurt out – “This (stage artiste) is page 1 and let him stay on it. If he goes to his little-known page 2, his original character will come out and you will never know what will happen.” Surprisingly, the first hour doesn’t give Shivaji enough space to unleash his powerful ‘page 2’ and we get to see his original self only during the penultimate scenes.
The generous man that he is, Shivaji is tormented inside by the choices he has made in his life and is on a quest to reunite with his missing daughter Gayatri (Nikhila Vimal). He gets trapped by a dreaded mafia lord Gayatri Patel (also essayed by Mohan Babu), who wants to frame Shivaji for a crime and eliminate his daughter, a witness in that case. The rest may sound cliche as the penultimate episodes show Shivaji facing up to the challenge and finding his way to come out unscathed.
At 67, Mohan Babu gets to show the world that he can make you cry, dance at ease and rough up the goons convincingly. It’s nostalgic to watch him when he’s in his elements -- delivering trademark punch dialogues and some wisecracks. But, when the film takes a turn for the serious, you see a different dimension of his.
One minor complaint is that if the story was a little more evenly distributed throughout the film, it would have been much more engaging than it actually is. The film gets tiresome after a point and some aspects appear out of place. However, the narration benefits from performances from Shriya Saran and Vishnu Manchu (playing the younger Shivaji), who provide emotional vulnerability and add real meat to the story. The flashback involving them is engrossing and their chemistry is striking, rspecially, in the romantic number Oka nuvvu, oka nenu.
Nikhila Vimal is earnest and consistent in his role. Mohan Babu shows off his acting prowess in a role that was tailor-made for him. Anasuya as journalist Sreshta has a good body language and passes muster.
Dialogues by Diamond Ratna Babu gel with the narrative and reflect today’s political scene in the Telugu States. On the flip side, Ratna Babu should have done extensive research before penning a counter-factual dialogue like Badminton player PV Sindhu winning a gold medal in Olympics (she, in fact, settled for the silver).
SS Thaman’s background score and songs are riveting.
Overall, Gayatri is one of those films that’s emotional in parts with some stretches that appear cliched at times. Otherwise, the film packs a punch with the commendable performance from Mohan Babu and makes for a decent (weekend) watch.