A movie of men, for men and by men yet you come out inspired and positive.
BAN is the story by and large of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal albeit with a noticeable distinction: Kejriwal shot up the hard way making politics a tool to bring justice to common man, whereas the protagonist in this movie is given power through patriarchal heredity. Resemblance, hence, is more in policy making: Ideas such as power to people (self-governance), education revolution (Private vs Government schools), previously unforeseen budget allocation to health, education and traffic are directly taken from Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia’s successful implementation in Delhi.
Delightfully, this story is based on the notion of a united Andhra Pradesh and brought immense joy to my soul.
On and off, pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar loom at us as if reminding us of our responsibility toward minorities and dalits and with an eye candy like Mahesh Babu inspiring us to do the right thing it appears to be an easy enough task! It is also refreshing not to come across any picture or mention of either Congress or BJP leaders (good riddance except for Pandit Nehru) or any other local leader.
The story revolving around Mahesh Babu is about an obviously rich, high-caste, well-educated (Oxford no less) hero visiting India after a couple of decades at the death of his dedicated politician father. He meets his estranged stepmother and her two kids, his stepsiblings, who he tries to bond with.
Shocked and nauseated by the lack of fear, responsibility and accountability of both public and political leaders in the state of Andhra Pradesh, he soon prepares to go back to England. However, he gets bound by his father’s close friend Varadaraju’s (Prakash Raj) plea to take up the CM's chair in a move to soothe all disputing factions within the party. Of course, the director, through Prakash Raj, besides pushing nepotism to the forefront, also ignores the daughter of the politician and stepsister of Mahesh Babu, who seems old enough to take up the responsibility. She is not even viewed as an eligible alternative or even an auxiliary political leader, both by the director and the people in the movie. That she is sidelined completely even as an active thinking human being is immensely disconcerting. This is Telugu film industry’s subtle yet obvious way of thumping rooted sexist, patriarchal, preservative and prejudicial way of dealing with women: Treating them as imbeciles and tactless humans.
Coming back to the story, persuaded by the need and a drive to bring about a change, Mahesh Babu agrees to take up the chair. Like many youngsters born and brought up abroad, Bharat Ram (a very nationalistic name here by the way; a Tony, Aijhas or even a simpler dalit one like Ravidas won’t do) is also full of ideas, bubbling with eagerness to bring change. Unlike poor Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who is blocked by the center in all his progressive ventures which are pro poor and pro middle class, Mahesh Babu has full legislative powers and police under his control. He quickly, assuredly and calmly begins the laborious task of setting wrong to right.
The director takes his sweet time to unfold this three-hour drama yet you do feel indulged and involved because of the low tones of the characters that don’t yell and shout from the rooftops. The movie has a sense of calmness and both protagonists and antagonists maintain some degree of calm calculatedness.
Film begins with showcasing the sensitive and influential relationship between the mother (sweet Aamni - nostalgic of days when south Indian artists looked like South Indian and spoke like South Indian) and son, a strong and loving bond in the absence of a busy father. Here the director in an unusual yet deceptive comprehension of women’s needs depicts a very brief scene where the busy husband asks his wife, “Yes, I understand our son has you (in my absence), but whom do you have?” Aamni remains silent. Director could be saying two things: One, it is okay and ideal for the wives to remain alone and doing their “duty” suffering silently a la Sita, wife of Ram, or slyly indoctrinating viewers that women suffer too but “good” ones don’t complain.
While the movie is definitely engrossing, and I did enjoy the neat, educated and secular nature of the story, I am disappointed of the way women are relegated to the background as pieces of silent-yet-beautiful paintings with nothing much to do than facilitate the goals of our charming (extremely, I must say) hero. It is regrettable how this man who is a young, well educated, objective and secular, strangely and bizarrely falls back on orthodox modes while choosing his bride.
After years of education abroad Mahesh Babu comes to India and on the day of getting sworn in as CM, falls for a girl at a bus stand. Of course, it’s love at first sight! And of course she is the fairest of all her friends who in comparison are shorter, darker and curly haired (not that this is bad by itself, but the director’s choice is obvious). The heroine has hardly any role except to look fair and pretty (a North Indian looking daughter to an obviously so different looking South Indian father) surrounded by ‘dumb’ friends who drool and salivate over the ‘handsome and powerful’ hero and rationalize the heroine’s ‘luck’ to be liked by him. This way of undermining and minimizing a woman’s personal sensibilities, reducing them as unthinking and secondary objects who should decide their future on the hero’s so called power and looks, is vomitous to say the least. It’s kind of distasteful to see a horde of girl friends of the heroine dribbling sickly on the director’s hero. We never did this during my younger days and a couple of college girls in the audience tell me it kind of sickens them too to see such antics (of girls shown drooling over a man’s power or looks). Why these men directors insist on reducing women artists to such slobbering levels is beyond my conception. I seriously wish that this otherwise engaging film brought forth a strong heroine such as a co-politician or a bureaucrat that is equally motivated against social injustices and finds a twin cause in hero’s battles against injustices. A love story based on similar views and mutual respect would have done wonders to this otherwise good movie sending out the right message to our movie crazy audience. The director of BAN has reduced the girl to songs and copious tears, a modest maiden hiding behind her father when in dire need to come out and speak her mind! I truly wanted to shake some sense into her!
In addition, the maker’s insistence on showing a couple of women politicians in such low light, reeking to the extent of making one woman politician discredit another woman’s speech in assembly by taking a cheap shot at her fashion sense and reducing their dialogues to cheap banter, is disturbing. The director seem to be thinking that all wars of women must be fought by men and women need to sit at home educating future sons (which is good too but the responsibility should be shown as equal one between partners and not necessarily resting on mother’s shoulders alone) or go to colleges yet waste their education with frivolous way of life.
Apart form this obvious and unnecessary prejudice, Bharat Ane Nenu is a cool watch. Heroine looks good but soooo North Indian (I have nothing against North Indians and I see more Hindi flicks than I watch Telugu, no not because I am prejudiced but because of the variety Hindi industry offers) that you ache for some regional veracity in characters. Each region has its authentic markers and we need to celebrate this diversity than indulging in cheap diversions.
By the way, we south Indian women too maybe like to see some handsome FAIR faces (like say Fawad Khan) as well so why not import men from up in Kashmir into Telugu movies and say adios to darker looking heroes? Just asking.
Music by Devi Sri Prasad is descent. Lyrics are clean. However, like I mentioned in my Bahubali review writers need to cut down on patriarchy and hero/upper caste-worship-filled lyrics equating elected politicians or public servants to GODS. Vachadayya Sami reeks of such symbolic trash.
I loved the beats of this song though.
The first introductory song was a little overwhelming to me with so many young, Caucasian girls rallying around the hero and he simply shaking them off with a shy indulging smile! I mean come on!!! Don’t girl students in Oxford have better things to do???? Seriously?
Spoiler alert for men!
No item songs!!!! (Big sigh of relief from women)!
Spoiler alert ends.
It’s really amazing how a boy who lived almost his entire life abroad can just come to Hyderabad and start driving a car as if it’s his daily routine or speak, read and write Telugu so brilliantly, though haphazardly. He must be definitely going to one of those like Manabadi in England for sure.
His polished English and hesitant usage of big Telugu words is lapped up by my Bay Area co-viewers (98 percent young men fresh from Andhra and Telengana-the theatre is full of them) who are simply crazy of such misplaced heroism.
But I must say, I too was charmed by Mahesh Babu’s smile, his calm and calculatedly sweet modus operandi to complicated problems, and his shy way of approaching a girl, which in no way comes across as bullying or stalking. He seems to be actually taking permission from her and she in turn takes her time to gauge her feelings. Sweet.
In spite of minor irritants, BAN is definitely a one time inspiring watch. Devoid of screeching and ear shattering heroics, BAN offers some realistic (though hard) solutions to mass problems. You get charmed and uplifted by this young, dashing hero, who fines traffic rule offenders with exorbitant sums, stands up against his own party men who bleed the education system (by law education in India comes under non-profit and no private school should use education as means to earn profit), and in a careful and sensitive way deals with minority and dalit issues. His Telugu style pancha and shirt couldn’t have looked sexier in the song Vachadayya Sami.
Mahesh Babu, Aamani, Prakash Raj, Posani Krishna Murali, will stay with you as they bring depth to their characters. Posani Krishna, as a corrupt politician so innocently attached to his selfish causes, as always, is excellent and brings a smile!
Kiara Advani looked extremely cute and I guess that way she delivered what she was asked for.
The film gets an extra mark for clean clothing, zero item songs, zero double meaning dialogues and zero noise pollution.
As an ending note I want to mention the movie Bhagmati, which I enjoyed immensely. Did not review it but catch it if you can on Netflix. Anushka as heroine does what Mahesh Babu did in BAN. An extremely classy act and you don’t miss the lack of a strong hero at all.
My Rating of BAN
2.5/5 for the movie and PLUS 1/5 for clean scenes and dialogues: Total 3.5/5