The chief minister that Mahesh Babu plays in Bharat Ane Nenu is incredible, unthinkable, adorable.
The Telugu blockbuster was released a week ago and is playing to full houses over several shows. Reminiscent of Nayak: The Real Hero (2001) in which Anil Kapoor plays chief minister for a day and in parts like Mahesh's own Srimanthudu (2015), Bharat Ane Nenu, directed by Koratala Siva, is a film about a man's deep conviction in himself and invincibility against the system.
Bharat played by Mahesh Babu is a 20-something university graduate, promising and full of fresh ideas and youth. When his father, who was the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, dies, Bharat reluctantly agrees to take over. Principled and brimming with sincerity, the oath to office for him is not merely a string of words uttered mechanically at the swearing-in ceremony, but a sacred commitment to his post. What follows is the execution of that promise.
Perturbed by the "disastrous" condition of traffic on roads, he hikes up fines to Rs 10,000 for driving on the wrong side and increasing steadily for every violation more serious than that. The education system is radicalised, inefficient government health care officials are dismissed and disproportionate assets cases of members from the opposition, fearlessly probed into.
You will not believe such things were possible, yet for the three hours across which the story unfolds, it is difficult not to root for Bharat and let yourself become a part of the fantasy. To know that a driver who jumped lanes without indicating, recklessly zipped past you to take a shortcut on the wrong side, while talking on his mobile phone, would pay too hefty a fine to ever repeat these offences, and the traffic of Hyderabad would turn as systematic as that of London, where Bharat came from, is pure fun.
It is tough to think of him as a politician given his CEO-like approach to governance and grounded attitude, yet superhero ways. He inspires, motivates, charges people up around him, shakes hands with his staff and takes the legislative Assembly by storm with his strong oratory and sharp rebuttals.
Plus the charm, always the charm. When last did a chief minister make a formal shirt look like such a style statement and walked into office sporting aviators. Hotter stuff than Hyderabad's sizzling summer, we would say.
No wonder, then, that the girls swoon over the new CM on TV like he were a rock star and village folks think of him as nothing short of a demigod. Especially, when he ditches designer trousers for the traditional veshti, breaking into a dance spontaneously and eating off a plantain leaf, cross-legged on the ground.
He bashes up the baddies without a scratch or a crease. He can be ruthless, he can be selfless. He stands up for his love and gives in his resignation.
The contrast to reality is too stark, yet you come away feeling somewhat brushed by that magical optimism.