Art & Culture

How Keerthy Suresh brings Savitri alive in Mahanati

Mona Ramavat
Mona RamavatMay 13, 2018 | 15:01

How Keerthy Suresh brings Savitri alive in Mahanati

Savitri could shed precisely two tears from one eye in one take without glycerin.

The biopic of legendary southern actress Savitri, Mahanati, directed by Nag Ashwin, is a memoir, resplendent with colour from a black and white era. Bringing her alive in every signature dance move, iconic performance and endearing quality, the movie unfolds Savitri's life, spanning over four decades. 

From the little playful girl, yearning to know what her father looked like, to a pained woman, doused in alcoholism; with the many spirited years of her youth in between, watching Mahanati is like turning over a picture album at leisure, brushing the dust off moments. And the process is sheer poetry.


Actor Keerthy Suresh who plays Savitri grew up watching her films and when the role was offered to her, it was both a huge challenge and “the most extraordinary experience”. She loses herself as thoroughly in narrating the story of Savitri as Savitri did in the characters she played. From being able to shed precisely two tears from one eye in one take without glycerin to gracefully dancing her way into hearts, Savitri was the kind of a star that even big male leads across the Telugu and Tamil film industries deferred to.

Legendary southern actress Savitri 


One of them was Tamil superstar and her husband, Gemini Ganesan. His character has been essayed by Dulquer Salmaan with utter finesse. Their relationship is portrayed in an array of emotions, involving their careers as superstars and insecurities as individuals. The interplay between these weaves a complex and nuanced tale of passionate love, sublime art and the deep pain of being left alone in the end.

Savitri died at the age of 45 in 1981. No age to go, and yet she left behind a legacy. Landmark films like Devadasu (1953), Mayabazar (1957) and Mooga Manasulu (1964) had her indelible stamp. Bits of some of these films from the 1950s and ’60s, when Savitri was at the peak of her career, have been recreated in beautiful detail in Mahanati. The makeup, costumes and camera angles painstakingly match with the originals. The effect is such that it creates an interest to revisit these classics for those of us born decades after, and spins much nostalgia for those who fell in love with Savitri on screen at that time.


The makeup, costumes and camera angles painstakingly match with the originals. 

Keerthy Suresh’s brilliant performance completes the picture rather beautifully. A wide-eyed 14-year-old stage performer with big dreams; the promising actor and finally the star placed high up on a pedestal, the mother, the car racer, the alcoholic - Keerthy plays each of these with remarkable dexterity. The expressions she wears and how she emotes with the eyes would gladden Savitri’s fans.

Though a bit long-drawn and dragging at places, the film does linger on till much after the time machine grinds reluctantly to a stop back in the present.

Last updated: May 13, 2018 | 15:01
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