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Raghavendra Rao should have stopped with Annamayya. But then, he thought that he had already mastered the art of making period films and made a couple more - Sri Ramadasu and Shirdi Sai. The former was merely watchable while the latter isn't.
The life and times of Shirdi Sai Baba of Nashik is not an easy subject to make a movie on, I will give you that. Apart from getting a solid cast & crew together, the director has to deal with the complexity of bringing the characters to life as well as depicting a credible picture of the world at that time in history. Raghavendra Rao succeeded on both counts with Annamayya, but with this one it looks like he has made an amalgamation of sub-plots & side-characters which do not piece together to make it whole.
And credibility is of utmost importance. Most of the scenes were clichéd, painfully in-the-face and lacking in conviction. Looked like the actors were merely playing a part for which they were being given a paycheck for rather than actually portraying the characters' true selves. For a long time I have admired Nagarjuna's boldness and screen presence, but over the past few years one only sees a fading star still struggling to keep his name among the movies piling on at the box- office. Sharath Babu, Srikanth and others have some rare moments that bring back memories of some of their previous roles, but again nobody succeeds in making an impression.
The original - 'Shirdi Sai Baba Mahatyam' was much more convincing and inspiring than this haphazardly put together rehash. Its my belief that when you try and depict characters like Shirdi Sai, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda (people who have inspired generations) on-screen, you have to make a supreme effort overall to merely make the film seem appealing. With all due respect to Raghavendra Rao, the effort does not show, if there ever was one in the first place. A disappointing film for all Shirdi Baba lovers.
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