Gautamiputra Satakarni is what Baahubali could have been, if SS Rajamouli had paid a little more attention to the substance, and little less on the style.
Much of this is due to director Krish Jagarlamudi’s single-minded dedication to portraying Gautamiputra Satakarni as a real man, torn between love for his people, and the love of his family. It is an age-old battle, and yet, Krish manages to infuse some depth into this conceit, beefing up the screen-time of actress Hemamalini and Shriya Saran; to allow a more intimate look at the life of the king.
And so, we get fleshed out characters, real men and women from a time history forgot.
Technically, this film is not at par with Baahubali. There’s some CGI that the director could have done away with. Particularly the ones that have no other purpose than to glorify Balakrishna.
For a long time now, Balakrishna’s films have provided fodder for memes. And only that. They’re usually fantastical movies – in terms of content. The actor has grown used to films that have him stopping trains, climbing tall mountains with no harness and shooting the wheels of an airplane.
It has diminished Balakrishna’s stature in the industry.
For his 100th film, director Krish Jagarlamudi gives Balakrishna the film that a star like him deserves.
Trouble is, Gautamiputra Satakarni – the role, needed an actor. An actor who could convincingly pull off a middle aged Emperor who sought to bring peace to his people.
Balakrishna, the star, with his fondness for masala moments and that commercial cinema baggage just does not cut it. Gautamiputra Satakarni is the film Balakrishna deserved. But, this epic story and its storied king needed a much-better actor.
The film has fiery dialogues, war sequences, and fine performances from Hemamalini (as Gautami) and Shriya Saran (Queen Vashisthi).
Krish’s stamp as a director is visible in the way the film’s rhetoric lends itself to issues such as women empowerment and the need to protect Indian/Telugu culture.
Balakrishna’s stamp, on the other hand, is visible in the bizarre war sequences and the death-defying (and logic defying) stunts that he does.
Krish wants Balakrishna to play Gautamiputra Satakarni as he was – regal and larger than life. Balakrishna wants to play the king as he usually plays all his roles – wooden acting supplemented by unbelievable stunts.
Throughout the film, there is a clash between these two distinct approaches.
And in the process, much of the film’s essence is lost. There are flashes of what the film could be. Especially in scenes where Balakrishna uses his sonorous voice to good use, and trumpets the many values of the Telugu speaking people.
The scenes where Shriya Saran as Satakarni’s wife firmly establishes the point that for her, he is her husband first. And king, much later. And the scene where Satakarni pays homage to his strong mother, a surprising act for the time he lived in.
Patriarchal thoughts seep into the film, mostly because of the age the film is set in. To Krish’s credit, there are not that many scenes that explore this line of thought.
The film and its director attempt to rise above these faults, by showcasing the grandeur of Satakarni’s times. And the largesse that he so often distributed to his people. This was a good, just King; who pursued a somewhat flawed approach to get what he want.
Similarly, Krish and the film he made, is a fine attempt, overall. The sometimes gimmicky approach/dialogues that tag along for these star-driven vehicles do not make Gautamiputra Satakarni any lesser than Baahubali.
Instead, this film is what one gets when the director knows what he wants, and does all he can (including curbing an over-enthusiastic Balakrishna) to make that vision real.
Take notes, Pa Ranjith.
The Gautamiputra Satakarni review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.