Mahanati / Nadaigaiyar Thilagam depicts the life and career of one of South Indian cinema’s greatest and most iconic starlets, the first Indian female super star, Savitri.

In Bangalore, popular yesteryear actress Savitri is discovered unconscious by her young son. After being admitted into a hospital she goes into coma. Many papers report the incident, but the reasons and the story of her life remain a mystery.Until a young investigative journalist, Madhuravani seizes the opportunity to dig into the life of Savitri. Accompanied by smitten photographer Anthony, she pieces together the life of Savitri, from her meager beginnings, to the dazzling heights that Savitri attained, before losing it all to poor health, bad decisions, bad luck and failed relationships.

Even as a child, Savitri’s jubilant personality is on display right from the start. Despite being the daughter of a widow and living with her uncle, she is magnanimous in speech, thought and action. Her uncle decides to teach her to dance,by enrolling her in a dance school, to make a profit off of her, but Savitri isnt interested.Yet when the dance teacher dismisses her as incapable of learning dance, she makes up her mind to prove him wrong.She moves on to theater and proves to be a natural stage actress, with her expressive face and eyes that speak volumes.

Savitri’s uncle gets her to enter the world of cinema, as that’s where all the money is. Despite  many attempts, Savitri’s young age and her inability to speak tamil hinder her prospects. In a chance encounter, she meets Gemini Ganeshan who works in the casting department. They are mutually attracted to each other and he helps her catch a break. Their stars rise together and Savitri despite knowing that Gemini Ganeshan is a married man, cannot help fall in love with him, and they eventually get married. Their marriage causes a fallout between her and her family but Savitri holds on to her dream of withdrawing from the limelight and being a home maker to the man she loves. Yet fate has other plans for her. This forms the rest of the plot of the movie.