Mahesh Babu's forthright CM Bharath tucks his shirt in, sports shades and looks like a corporate hotshot. "What does 'poddugaale' mean?" he asks one of his subordinates as he listens to an old farmer's woes. This admittedly novice politician stumbles with his grasp of Telugu and Telugus.
And his jaw drops when he drives around Hyderabad and witnesses the Olympic-level stunts people pull off on roads just to get a few feet ahead of others. However, he quickly figures out how to domesticate these "animals of the jungle". Risking being perceived as a smug, condescending NRI that has the audacity to lecture our people to look at the Westerners and learn civilization, he levies penalties of the order of 25,000 rupees on traffic offenders, and somehow it doesn't dawn upon the police to collect higher bribes, and they end up being sincere.
Bharath Ane Nenu's plot is too uncomfortably similar to Kammula's Leader
, a film with a bigger heart - and possibly more verisimilitude. And a CM film cannot just escape comparison with Shankar's landmark movie Oke Okkadu
- again, not too flattering for BAN. Fortunately, the things it has going for it just about help it across the line.
Bharath (Mahesh Babu), the son of the Chief Minister (Sarath Kumar), resides in London, and lands in India after hearing of his father's demise. Varadarajulu (Prakash Raj), his father's best friend and the president of Navodaya Party, persuades Bharath to take the reigns and follow in his father's footsteps. Though initially reluctant, he caves in and wants just one thing: to set things straight. He starts with his nameplate in the office and goes as far as the CM flicks allow one to go. And that would be too far to take the film seriously.
Early on in the movie, we see his mother (Amani) teaching him the importance of keeping a promise, which the director builds his entire film on. However, the dramatic potential of a promise can be tapped into only with a strong conflict where a sacrifice is necessary. Here the script hammers on and on about the sacredness of the oath, but nowhere does it place the protagonist at a crossroads.
Indeed, the flawless hero's ideology is unparalleled and absolute, and the sanctimonious verve finds no challenging parallel, not even the practical compulsions of staying in power. Bharath addresses the subtle duress of Vardarajulu with sanguine élan, and often comes off as sanctimonious. What prevents his character from being a complete bore is how well Mahesh Babu brings a magnetism to it with his performance.
All its dramatic potential sliced off by its poor writing choices, the film plays off as a borderline fantasy that chronicles the triumphs of a perfect leader. This however has a lot of entertainment value, and that's where Koratala's core skills kick in. The movie does a pretty skillful job at masquerading as a realistic political drama, when it is nothing but a star-studded potboiler. This is achieved by dialogues devoid of rhyming and with simplicity in framing.
However, Koratala goes all Zack Snyder whenever Mahesh walks or steps down a helicopter or delivers a punch on a goon and switches to slo-mo. We see women going gaga over the CM's looks, and his bodyguards being constantly awestruck, and the script intends them to be audience's proxies. And they are. Mahesh's debonair looks and his suave attitude are the lifeblood of the film, and its principal selling point.
The duets are atrocious but the background score and theme song match the intensity of the film. Ravi K Chandran's cinematography is neat and effective. Kiara Advani's Vasumathi doesn't get many lines, but manages to emote well. The "love track" is perfunctory and silly initially, but is tied well to the story and leads to a very intense scene where Mahesh professes his love for her and laments the voyeuristic tactics of the media for defaming her. The audiences cheer for Mahesh as he vehemently bashes the media for their hypocrisy and poor morals. This becomes the defining scene of the movie, reflecting the current controversies the media is ensnared in.
Bharath Ane Nenu surely satisfies the fans of the star and reasonably entertains general audiences, but is not the explosive material which we have been awaiting from Mahesh. He proves again that he can take a film to the next level, but we still await one where he doesn't need to.