Very rarely we get to see political dramas in Telugu Cinema. Even if we have a few political dramas, they are very far away from reality. Bharat Ane Nenu and Leader are two of the most popular political dramas ever made in Telugu Cinema. While both of them were successful at the box office in their own range, they are equally good with their content as well. However, if we observe clearly, there is a clear winner here. Let’s find out which one.
Bharat Ane Nenu:
Bharat Ane Nenu had a lot riding on it. The film was bankrolled by one of the leading producers. Mahesh and Koratala Siva have delivered their career biggest hit and one of the top-grossing films of Telugu Cinema with Srimanthudu before this film. And there’s Bollywood beauty, Kiara Advani, making her Tollywood debut. All these factors helped the film to score big at the box office. But, was the film a perfect political drama? Certainly No.
Irrespective of its box office result, Bharat Ane Nenu has gained a cult fan following like many other Koratala Siva films. The film had more than enough commercial elements and the treatment by Siva is unique with a subtle performance from Mahesh Babu (once again). As far as the story goes, it is good only in bits and pieces and follows the same path as Leader (2010). However, Mahesh’s experience and the fine technical aspects made Bharat Ane Nenu successful.
There is not enough drama in Bharat Ane Nenu to make it a compelling watch. Except for a couple of well-written scenes in the first half and a press meet scene in the second half, everything looks hurried and incomplete. The romantic track is slow and sluggish with songs only adding as speed breakers to the narration. Good looks and performances cannot make up for bad writing as many talented actors like Prakash Raj, Rao Ramesh, etc. were treated as mere caricatures in stereotyped roles of villain, heroine’s father, etc.
Had Koratala Siva invested more time to create more drama, to build bigger conflicts and solutions, BAN would’ve been a bigger success. Instead, he tries to play it safe by following a regular commercial template with the backdrop of a political drama. He has failed big time once again with the way he handles his films’ climaxes. The major reason why a Chief Minister resigns looks outright silly and he could’ve chosen a better point there (instead of a scandal).
Leader is a near-perfect political drama from a director known for rom-coms before this film. Sekhar Kammula has changed his path with this film and also took the responsibility of launching Rana Daggubati, the grandson of legendary producer - Dr. D. Ramanaidu. Sekhar was partially successful in making this film a hit at the box office, but he gave a dream launch to any debutant.
Leader stars Rana Daggubati in the lead role, where he plays the son of a Chief Minister (Suman) who is assassinated at the very beginning of the film. Arjun comes to India to perform the last rites but he fulfills his father’s last wish by becoming the Chief Minister. Though he becomes CM by following the path of corruption, he has a big mission ahead. To eradicate corruption. To stop caste-based politics.
Sekhar Kammula is a sensible, self-aware director and knows how to build drama. There are many well-written one-liners that reflect today’s state of politics, even after more than a decade since this film’s release. In one of his interviews, Sekhar has said that one-liners from mass masala films get outdated but a meaningful line from a dramatic scene will work every single time. This was in reference to a powerful scene in Leader. The film is filled with many such scenes. They are not just there to elevate heroism, they are honestly written by a sensible human being who wishes to see a change in Indian Politics.
His ideas and ideology can be seen in many scenes of Leader where he writes about casteism, corruption, etc. It is not that Leader is a perfect movie. It does have its flaws with technical aspects. But, the story, performances, and the writing make up for it and made Leader a cult classic political drama of Tollywood.
Leader is by far the best political film from Telugu Cinema and one of the best in Indian Cinema. Bharat Ane Nenu might be a money-spinner and a better commercial package in this genre, but in almost every other aspect, Leader is a better movie. But, the Telugu audience have accepted both the films for what they are and loved both the films. As an industry, Tollywood needs both kinds of films and more importantly both becoming successful at the box office.