Starring Sai Dharam Tej, Aishwarya Rajesh, Jagapathi Babu and Ramya Krishna
Written & Directed by Deva Katta
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.