There are Good Movies, Bad Movies and Potentially Great Movies. The experience of watching a Good movie lies in the ability of the Director in telling an exciting and Gripping Story. But what separates a Good Movie from a potentially Great one lies in something more than the story. It lies in the sheer depth of it. My Experience while walking from the movie hall after the screening of Bharat Ane Nenu reminded me and haunted me with the sheer depth the movie had.
After trying to organize my thoughts for quite some time (Frankly Speaking I still think I need to watch it a few more times to get my thoughts organized completely), I can now discuss about the depth and multiple layers of Bharat Ane Nenu. I can now describe three layers that I observed upon my first watch.
1. The Story
At his heart Koratala Siva has always been a story teller – albeit a smart one. Every Genre has a certain set of Templates/Tropes to narrate a story. Be it the Bildungsroman theme in Fantasy or the “One Man/Team saved the Day” in Action. Finding a new template in a particular Genre is one of the toughest things out there. When was the last time we saw a movie or read a novel that did something absolutely new with a Genre? There are only a certain ways that things can be done. A recent trend among many writers (both for movies and novels) is to bend the Genre. Take a particular template and do unexpected things with it while vaguely sticking to the Path. ‘House of Cards’ is a good example for the same in the Political Genre.
While this makes for a great story telling experience, I don’t think the Telugu audience would accept a movie along the line of House of Lies. (One of the best examples I can remember of a Genre Bending Political Thriller in Telugu is Prasthanam. The result of that movie showcases how forgiving the Telugu audience would be on such a movie.) This is where Koratala Siva’s smartness as a writer comes in. He knows he can’t bend the Genre much because of the audience he is making the movie for. So what he does is take the Genre’s Tropes and execute it really well and infuse it with so much depth that it makes you think, question and get completely involved in it. So much more so, that you actually come out of the Movie Hall awed and refreshed. That’s where the Beauty of Bharat Ane Nenu lies. He executes the Tropes and Commercial Elements so well that a major part of the Audience is satisfied. At the same time he fills it with so much depth, that a thinking viewer too has something (actually a lot of somethings) to take home.
2. The Social Commentary
Where do I start with this? This movie has enough subtext to fill entire seasons of a TV Show. I’ve tried to list down the topics that Bharat Ane Nenu has tried to tackle in this movie through its subtext:
a.Lack of Accountability: For Citizens who have loads to say about Governments and their Ruling abilities, people are mostly hypocritical about their own actions. When called upon to be accountable for our actions, do we look for the easy way out? While tackling the Traffic Issue, Bharat says that we need Fear. Healthy Fear is necessary for any kind of system to work. The fear of breaking the law. No matter how much freedom the Government is supposed to provide its citizens, the people need to stick within a certain line. This point is repeatedly brought up throughout the movie. How accountable are we? What freedom do we have to talk about the lack of accountability of leaders, when we ourselves are prime examples of it? Are we at the end of the Day – Hypocrites?
b.Micromanagement: When Bharat brings up the issue of problems to be solved in the Villages, he points out the biggest flaw in the system – Micromanagement. Too few people to solve too many problems. With such a Wide spectrum of problems, its statistically impossible for a selected bunch of leaders to solve every issue. How many problems will they need to keep looking into? The Solution? Distribution of Responsibility. Empower people to solve their own problems while supporting them with resources and probably even monitoring the use of these resources. What a simple solution!
c.Equality: There is a certain beauty in observing how Bharath views the people around him versus how most other Politicians view those around them in the movie. In a restaurant, Bharath asks his PA to sit down and have breakfast with him. There is no air about him when he asks it. No show of benevolence. Just a simple request asked more out of reflex. This simple instance shows us how he thinks about those around him. This is seen in many more scenes throughout the movies. It’s seen when he shows a child-like curiosity while watching a villager weaving baskets. It’s seen when he enjoys sitting on the floor and eating with people. It’s seen when he greets and makes it a point to know the names of all of Vasumathi’s Friends, even while he is actually interested in talking only to Vasumathi. It’s seen when he treats his security officer as an equal rather than as a subordinate. It’s seen when he talks to his PA like a friend rather than lord over him with authority. In contrast, the Politician Sripathi always has people standing before him. His son sits down arrogantly when he is talking to a police officer. This lets us know what equality actually means. It doesn’t mean trying to sound Good and Benevolent and trying to act kind before people. It means looking at everybody as equals. It’s got more to do with how you think rather than how you act.
d.Requirement of a Clean Conscience: I once read that every government at its core is made up of three parts: the ability to establish laws, the ability to enforce it and the ability to punish the non-compliant. How can a leader be expected to uphold the law when he himself has broken or bent it to get there? If a leader has bent or broken the law once, what’s going to stop him from doing it again to get his way? True Leadership is possible only when the leader has a Clean Conscience. Bharat’s Character was a prime example of what a Leader with a Clean Conscience would be like.
3. The Allegory of Parenting
When Bharat compares his actions to that of a Parent, the entire allegory in the subtext of the movie comes to Fore. This movie can also be seen as a guideline about what type of Parents we ought to be. Is complete Freedom to Children the Right way? No! As Bharat showed, complete freedom, takes away accountability for your actions. A certain measure of Steel (Not in the literal sense) is required in a parent. Is being completely strict the right way? No again! As Bharat showed while dealing with his step brother and the Villagers in Rachakonda, spending time with them, talking to them is important. We need to communicate. Is telling them what to do and what not to do the right way? Again No! Bharat showed in the movie that he was first ready to do it himself before asking people to do it. He followed Traffic Rules before asking people to do it. He was on time to his work despite personal issues, and then he asked his employees to be on time. This showed the requirement of Parents to set an example first before asking their children to follow it. Bharat also showed that Parents need to teach children to work out their own problems while being of assistance to them in the process. This is observed in the entire sequence of how Bharat handles that youngster from Rayalaseema when he asks him for assistance. The entire line in the end which stated “The Mark of a True Leader is to create a Society which doesn’t need one” can also be seen as a one-line allegory to parents. I can probably state it as “The Mark of a True Parent is to assist Children to come into their own. Without making them depend upon the Parent as a Crutch during issues”. Once again the depth of the movie shines through as it acts like a manual for Parenting.
These just outline a few things that were brought to the fore in Bharat Ane Nenu. Upon repeat viewing I’m sure there is much more to be observed. But all this is just the art of writing. Executing it on screen is a whole different thing.
Before I go ahead to the execution of the entire movie, I’d first like to thank Koratala Siva for Vasumathi. I loved that her character was treated with respect. In an age, where we stand for Women and their rights, and understand the requirement of public platforms to be increasingly responsible about how they portray female characters (Seriously! The dumb-but-cute Female Leads who always need men to save them are starting to get on my nerves.) Vasumathi was handled with lots of Respect and Care. Granted, that this is a Hero-Centric Movie and frankly speaking the content of the movie did not allow much wiggle room for her Character, she was still her own person. She did not fall head over heels the moment she looked at Bharat. She liked him and respected him and eventually grew to love him. The Camera angles treated her like a person, rather than treat her like an object for men to whistle at. It focused more on her feelings and relationship with Bharat rather than on her looks. She held her own respect and had her own abilities that contributed to what Bharat was doing. To handle her Character with such care despite her less screen time was exemplary. Way to Go Mr Koratala Siva!
So coming back to the execution of the movie. What Koratala Siva needed to pull of the multiple layers woven into the story was a layered performer. Most Actors can express an emotion in a scene. May be even two to three motions on screen. It’s been proven time and again that Mahesh is one of the only actors who can convey so much more while still being believable in the character. The Slightly empty expression upon hearing the News of his father’s death speaks of so much more than shock or sadness. It tells that he is a person who can keep his emotions under check. He is a person who while in shock somehow is not overly affected by the Death of his father. That in itself speaks volumes about the relationship he had with his father – a respectful but distant one. So much was said in those eyes. The Press Meet was a stellar example of his class of Acting. He was seething with Rage at the hypocrisy of the Media. He was fighting tears for his loss of Vasumathi. He was disappointed with the way the Citizens of the State behaved. He was angry about the problems Vasumathi was facing because of this. And all that came to the fore in that scene which was literally screaming out about the acting capabilities of Mahesh Babu. That’s what Koratala Siva needed for this Role. Not an actor on the surface, but an actor in the truest sense. An actor who can bring out the multiple layers, who can be natural and believable. Mahesh Babu was what this story needed and that’s why it made for such an engrossing watch. The Movie was Tailor Made for Mahesh Babu and Mahesh Babu is tailor made for this Movie. The Star and the Actor both come to fore in a perfect combination.
So if you’ve not seen this movie as yet, change your plans, make adjustments and go watch it. It’s worth much more than every penny you spend for it.
To all other directors out there, if you are reading this please consider what I write next. I don’t know Mahesh personally, but I’ve seen enough of his movies, enough number of times and have been close with his fandom long enough to understand some things. When you make a movie with Mahesh you basically get 2 People onto the sets. One is Mahesh – the Superstar. It’s the Star people want to see. Second is Mahesh – the Actor. It’s what he is. It’s seen time and again. He loves to enter deep into the shoes of his character. Movies that focus only on one of these 2 parts to the Person have always turned out to be failures. While movies like Nijam, Nani, 1 – Nenokkadine and Khaleja concentrated on the Actor, movies like Aagadu concentrated only on the Star. To satisfy the Star, the fans need to see the hero. They want to see him elevated and placed on a pedestal. To satisfy the Actor though you need author backed roles – Roles with Strong Characterizations. Not Cardboard Characters whose entire characterization can be fit into one word. But Characters with well-defined motivations, history and characteristics. You need to create an entire person for him not a Cardboard Cut-Out. Just look at Nandagopal from Athadu, Pandu from Pokiri, Ajay from Okkadu, Harsha from Srimanthudu and lastly Bharat from Bharat Ane Nenu. Each and every one of them – Author Backed Roles.
Dear Mr Mahesh Babu,
We love that you are an Actor at heart. We love the Star that you are. Bharat Ane Nenu reminded many of us as to why we were so attracted your movies in the first place. Don’t Change! We love you as you are!
An Article by MAK