The Savitri biopic Mahanati, about the rise and fall of the legendary southern actress, successfully completed a 50-day theatrical run last week and continues to run in select screens across Telugu-speaking states and Tamil Nadu.
Released in Tamil and Telugu, the film featured Keerthy Suresh in a career-best performance as Savitri, and she won audiences and critics over with her flawless acting. Directed by Nag Ashwin, the film also stars Samantha Akkineni, Dulquer Salmaan and Vijay Deverakonda among others in pivotal roles. The phenomenal success of Mahanati needs to be taken seriously because it has emerged as the highest grossing female-led film with over Rs 75 crore gross and counting, surpassing films such as Rudhramadevi and Bhaagamathie.
Made on a budget of Rs 23 crore, the film did exceptionally well domestically and in overseas. In the US, the film, with over $2.5 million gross, became the sixth highest grosser after films such as SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali series, Ram Charan-starrer Rangasthalam, and Mahesh Babu-starrerBharat Ane Nenu and Srimanthudu. In an earlier chat with Firstpost, Sandeep of Nirvana Cinemas, the overseas distributor of the film said, “We were confident the film will do well. Lately, if you look at films that have done well in the US, they’ve all been good content-wise. Even Rangasthalam worked because of content. Be it Pellichoopulu, Arjun Reddy or Awe!, well made content-rich films are being welcomed big time in the US. Mahanati is the latest addition to that list.”
Being a biopic, a genre so rare in Tollywood, it is an accomplishment that Mahanati stirred up a box office storm. In its opening weekend, the film grossed over Rs 20 crore worldwide, leaving the trade in awe. Buoyed by the response for the film and her performance, Keerthy told Firstpost that the success has made her more responsible. “I’m thrilled with the overall response. However, I also feel I have an added responsibility to my future projects. The fact that this a woman-centric film and it has been doing so well at the box-office has made me really proud.”
With the film on the brink of its run in cinemas, trade pundits predict that the film will take home final share of Rs 42 crore, out of which approximately Rs 28 crore has been earned from Telugu states, Rs. 3.45 crore from rest of India and around 10.5 crore from overseas. Anushka Shetty’s 2015 Telugu historic drama Rudhramadevi was the previous best woman-led film business-wise with distributor share of Rs 41.5 crore.
A leading distributor, on the condition of anonymity, said the film ended with over 100 percent profits for all the parties involved. “This kind of success is unprecedented. Even films of many big heroes haven’t earned this kind of profits. Mahanati is an exception and it being a heroine-centric film makes it even more special.”
In May, the entire team of Mahanati was felicitated by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu who was moved by the film. The makers of the film were offered tax exemption which they apparently declined. Explaining the reason behind not accepting tax exemption from the state government, Mahanati producer Priyanka Dutt had told Firstpost that it was a decision taken by her father. Priyanka is the daughter of well-known Telugu producer Aswini Dutt who has produced several popular films over the years.
“We were so honoured to be invited by the Chief Minister. He had decorated his party office with our film posters and invited people over and spoke so well. He told us he hardly watches movies. But he watched and loved Mahanati, and that meant a lot to us. The kind of love he showered upon us was unprecedented. He even organised a special screening of the film for the members of his cabinet. He offered us tax exemption but my father was against the idea as he felt the tax could be used for development in the state.”