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Republic Is Not A Film, It’s A Movement





Starring Sai Dharam Tej, Aishwarya Rajesh, Jagapathi Babu and Ramya Krishna

Written & Directed by   Deva Katta

Rating: ****

Republic: Very few  films  have the power to change the slothful Indian mindset.Rakeysh  Omprakash Mehra’s  Rang De Basanti had it. Now the clarion call for cleansing  the Indian socio-political system  of  corruption in Republic is so strongly put across, it seems like  a sledgehammer  is being used to  crush a fly.

 But that’s where we are  mistaken. The scourge of  corruption has seeped so deep into our  mindset that we  no longer think of it as  corruption.The bureaucratic  and political firmament , the  twin towers  of democracy,are  defined by  kind of ineradicable political and moral corruption that no  amount of pulpit-top  sermons and candlelight vigils  can shake, let alone  eradicate.

This is where Republic  scores. It offers  us  no false hope. Its messianic hero  Abhiram(Sai Dharam  Tej) fights against all odds from the beginning to end. Rather than propagate  the magicwand variety  of  anti-corruption, Republic  ruminates on  the sheer  futility of  trying to bring about a change  in the  decadent decaying socio-political system.

At  the  end  of  his long hard struggle against the fetid forces, Abhiram is defeated. There is  no  sense  of  takeaway  triumph   for  the  audience. This explains why the  film failed  at the boxoffice when   it  was  released in October this year.It’s now on  Zee5 and I strongly recommend it for its  razor-sharp  commentary on  the state  of  a nation that  has  rapidly plunged  into damnation.

The  writer-director spares no  political party(although none is named,you can look out for the  relevant colour   of the  politics in the flags  that wave so menacingly in  the air). Deva Katta is  very angry at  what has been done to the body-politic  of the nation.We are a sick dying civilization Katta doesn’t think it can be nursed  back to health. He thinks we are a  doomed nation.And  he is probably right.

This , in a way, makes  his  sledgehammer of a film an exercise in futility.  If you are saying the anti-establishment  voice  will be stifled  by the powerful corruption  lobby , then what  is the  point of a film like Republic?

I would say there is a point to it. A  very  significant relevant and undeniable  point:  the hero Abhiram’s voice  as  it rises  to a climactic  crescendo , jolts us awake. Nothing is  right.  So don’t  lull  yourself  into a false sense  of  bonhomie. The crimes  against mankind are not happening to “them”. It is now within all of.

Republic  portrays  a grim landscape of what  V S Naipaul described  a “wounded civilization”. Sadly  . though wounded we are way too pacifistic to  let our voices rise in protest. Abhiram in Republic  knows he is  fighting  a losing battle  against  corruption. In one of  the film’s many powerful sequences  an incurably corrupt minister(Ramya Krishan) explains to  Abhiram, the  district collector of a  seaside town where the fishery is being systematically poisoned , why he would never  win against  corrupt forces.

 While Sai  Dharam  Tej’s  Abhiram is a ball of fire, there are other vital  performances  notably the ever-reliable Jagpathi Babu as Abhiram’s compromised father and Aishwarya Rajesh as the woman who fight  back and pays  heavily for it.

Abhiram goes down fighting  . He is one  of the truest heroes I’ve seen  in any film in any language in recent times.  True, the  voice that writer-director Deva Katta adopts  in Republic  is shrill and  insistent.  This is  not an arthouse anti-establishment film in the  league of Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh and Ardh Satya. The  need  of the hour is much more  urgent . We are staring in the face of a civil war.  Republic gets it.

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