Regardless of how well Gautamiputra Satakarni does, the audience will remember the dialogue 'Samayamu Ledu Mithrama' for a long, long time. It won't be long before the dialogue is set as ringtones or callertunes and makes its way into Internet memes. It's also one of the several punch dialogues that Nandamuri Balakrishna delivers in a way only he can. Afterall, what's a Balakrishna movie without punch dialogues? Having said that, Gautamiputra Satakarni is more than just good dialogues. Considering this is Balakrishna's 100th film and is being directed by Krish, who just received a national award, expectations had reached a crescendo. And the director does deliver with some style. While the war scenes are a bit far-fetched at times, Gautamiputra Satakarni is a visual spectacle that is thoroughly enjoyable.
The film tells the story of a young boy who dreams of ruling over a borderless society, and ensure unity and peace. The boy Satakarni (Nandamuri Balakrishna) soon turns into a ruthless ruler and begins conquering his neighbouring kingdoms with his hunger and might. Each kingdom he conquers, Satakarni annexes to his Satavahana empire and nothing stops him from trying to achieve his childhood dream, not even taking his own child to the battlefield. He does so despite strong objection from his wife Vasishti (Shriya Saran).
In a critical moment, Satakarni defies patriarchal customs in the society and performs an agra puja to his mother (Hema Malini) before taking the throne, and calls himself Gautamiputra Satakarni.
With people constantly questioning his thirst for war, Satakarni justifies it saying 'margalu veraina, gamyam okkate' (Our paths maybe different but the destination is the same). But the path is long for Satakarni, who has to fight both internal and external enemies to become the ultimate ruler and achieve his dream of unity.
There's unabashed grandeur on display in Gautamiputra Satakarni, with excellent cinematography (by Gnana Sekhar), powerful dialogues (by Sai Madhav Burra) and splendid costumes (by Neeta Lulla). There's an emotional connect with each other, which ensures that the viewer isn't just watching a history lesson. However, the language is very chaste, so you might need subtitles to help you understand the dialogues.
The film also has a few glaring gaps. As always, Balakrishna does the impossible. In the middle of an intense battle, he manages to leap into the enemy fort and single-handedly kills dozens of men with a strike of his sword. He also gets poisoned but magically wakes up and rushes to the battle field (where he once again slays people with effortless ease).
The battles are also quite lengthy and drawn out, and loses its intensity after a point. At one stage, you end up waiting for the battle to get over so that they can get on with the story.
Balakrishna couldn't have chosen a better film for his 100th film. The role of Satakarni was tailor-made for him and the actor delivers one of his most powerful performances. At times, it does seem like age has caught up with him as he clumsily huffs and puffs through the battle scenes, but he makes up for it with his commanding presence and dialogue-delivery.
The film also has given Shriya Saran her best role till date, and the actress laps it up with glee. She shows her fierceness when it comes to protecting her children, even if it means standing up to her husband, a powerful ruler. She displays her range of emotions as she performs the duty of a wife, a queen and a mother, and she does it with immaculate poise. Hema Malini too shines in a small, but powerful role.
But make no mistake, Gautamiputra Satakarni belongs to Krish Jagarlamudi. His greatest success is not letting brand Balakrishna take over the storyline of the film. Yes, there are elements that are tailor-made to suit Balakrishna's image (especially with dialogues like 'Desam Meesam Tippudam'), but it doesn't deviate too much from the storyline. Till the end, Gautamiputra Satakarni remains a Krish film -- and that's his greatest achievement.
|Cast||Nandamuri Balakrishna, Shriya Saran, Hema Malini|