Upon the death of his father, Arjun Prasad becomes the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. As the new leader, he struggles to fight the corruption plaguing the political system. He hopes to eradicate it from Indian Politics.
Leader is a 2010 Indian Telugu-language political drama film. It is written and directed by Sekhar Kammula, and produced by AVM Productions. The film stars Rana Daggubati alongside Richa Gangopadhyay, Priya Anand, Suhasini Maniratnam, Suman, Subbaraju, Tanikella Bharani, and Harsha Vardhan. The soundtrack was composed by Mickey J. Meyer.
The story revolves Arjun, who becomes the CM of Andhra Pradesh after his father’s assassination. However, as he strives to eliminate corruption from the country, he encounters resistance and life-threatening situations from his own party and family members. Will Arjun find success in his mission?
WHERE TO WATCH
THE STORY OF A LEADER
In this section, I will share with you how I understood the story with subtitles. Yes, there are going to be major spoilers, but I think it’s important to share this perspective because sometimes things can get lost in translation or cultural differences may have an impact on how one interprets the story. I think it’s unfair when this happens with critics that are very quick to judge. Especially with foreign cinema, audiences tend to rely on critics and influencers that sometimes have their own biases or even have no idea about what they are reviewing.
Eventually, I think it’s better to watch it and make your own assessment. Sometimes rewatching is necessary. Afterward, it’s fun to compare with these “critics and influencers” and see how much they got wrong. There is always something. Now, let’s get into the story…
The story starts with a car explosion and the commotion that happens transporting the victim to the hospital, Sanjeevayya, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, India. The incident of the attack to the CM’s convoy is all over the local news.
The Chief Minister’s wife is at the hospital with a few family members and political party members. Since the CM seems to be very popular many of his followers and the media are stationed outside the hospital. Later on, their son Arjun arrives at the hospital among all the comotion and stays with his mother. Arjun is approached by Ali who has given 10 crores to Sanjeevayya to resolve a land dispute in Ali’s favor. Ali is desperate and begs Arjun for help so he gives him his phone number.
Unfortunately, Sanjeevayya passes away right after he regains consciousness. His last wish is for Arjun to succeed him as the next Chief Minister. However, Arjun’s cousin Dhanunjay wants to become the Chief Minister instead.
Arjun finds out about his father’s corruption, and his mother Rajeswari Devi confirms it by showing him his father’s diary but she also tells him about Sanjeevayya’s dream for a casteless and corruption-less government but after 2 years of being in power he turn corrupted. It’s just that the circumstances and his own actions made him helpless into leaving his dream.
Arjun’s uncle Mahadevayya who is Sanjeevayya’s elder brother whom Arjun calls Peddaina is also a party member and tolerates corruption as long as it helps his family stay in power. His mother says that as his father’s son he has the ability to change the rules. His father had many plans that he documented in his diary along with everything he experienced. She wants him to take over, become Chief Minister and give people hope.
Arjun decides to fulfill his father’s dream and starts to secretly collect the cash for Ali to give it back to him. He enrolls Ali to quietly win the support of his party’s members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). He calls him right at the moment when Ali’s was trying to commit suicide. Later on, they recruit news reporter Ratna Prabha who is very enthusiastic to help them win. She directly offers him a marriage proposal without knowing him if he rejects he needs to pay her a large amount of money.
Arjun wants to make changes from within. While driving in the car Ratna comments how smooth his feet his and remarks how he probably never taken a bus or walked on foot. They start investigating the party and find stashes of (black) money hidden at the political party headquarters. Arjun scolds Ratna that she is not taking anything seriously and she asked him why she would as he would eventually be as corrupt as his father. He wants to CM to change everything and make the people forgive his father’s wrong doings.
Ratna tries to give Arjun options to win using the media but he doesn’t listen. Arjun bribes the MLAs and ministers to get their support before informing his uncle about his plans to become CM. He is then elected Chief Minister by them. His mother helps him prepare for his first day at work. There he meets with his staff and keeps everyone with the same position. He maintains Ali and Ratna as his personal assistants. One of his staff members tells him about the corruption situation.
The next day Arjun announces at a press conference the establishment of an anti-corruption bureau and his plans to execute it within the next year. Everyone is impressed with his presentation. After his presentation a chief police officer tells him that he would need to consider more security now that he will be going against the corrupted. He ignores the warnings.
Ratna is completely impressed and praises him. Then suddenly Arjun gets shot. At the hospital we see his mother crying while he tries to tell her that he is fine. The attack was something that he expected so he has a bulletproof vest on the whole time. Arjun tries to present is points during the Assembly. Later on, it is revealed that Dhanunjay attempted to assassinate Arjun and is asked to resign from his ministerial post.
Arjun continues his work to eliminate corruption within his government by executing his plans but encounters resistance from his own party during a presentation in front of all party members. That night his mother tries to console him. That night a girl called him for help as she was part of a group of protestors.
That night he did some research and found that she is Archana the daughter of Munnuswami’s, the Alliance Leader. He then plans to win the support of the Alliance Party leader Munnuswami’s daughter Archana by making her fall for him. He goes to the place of the protest and talks to her. In the meantime, Dhanunjay is trying to tarnish Arjun’s reputation with a terrorist attack where many people lost their lives. He realizes that he has to do more. Archana calls him and tries to cheer him up.
He succeeds getting Archana’s support, proposed to her and convince her father to support him. Arjun is asked to liberate an MLA’s son as a condition for Munnuswami’s support, even though the son was accused of raping and murdering a young village girl. By doing that he gets the support to save his government while Dhanunjay continues to try to take him down.
In the meantime, Archana realized that she has been used and gets away from him. He gets visited by Ramu, the MLAs son and his two friends who brought him flowers and came to brag of his power. Arjun slaps him and asked. At this point all his staff knows what he did and giving him the knowing look.
That night his mother expressed her disapproval of Arjun’s move and warns him that it will only lead to more corruption. The very thing he is trying to fight against. That same night, she passes away. His mother leaving him has a great effect on Arjun. He decides to talk with the family of the victim and after hearing their helplessness to obtain justice.
Arjun unable to give them justice legally gives the order to kill Ramu. The talk gives him the drive to go ahead with his goal to eliminate corruption at full force by taking action against all the cases he knows about. He then resigns from his position as Chief Minister as he was unable to protect the innocent and make the necessary changes in the system, ideologies and politics.
The police raids of prominent political figures and Arjun’s resignation creates a commotion in the media for exposing corruption. During that time, we also see Ramu getting shot. Arjun also officially leaves his uncle’s party. Arjun goes on a journey to establish a new political party by going to all the sectors in the city and the villages talking to everybody especially the poor to learn about their struggles. His effort wins back Archana’s support who symbolically takes care of him like his mother did.
Arjun works alongside the people learning about construction, farming, and fishing while Dhanunjay is shown bribing people to get their votes. Arjun gains popularity and the support of the people. He wins the ensuing election after leaving his uncle’s party and establishing a new party and is recognized by the media as a leader.
The story reminds me of Bharat Ane Nenu. The son of a diseased government official gets in the position and wants to change the system. While Bharat Ane Nenu has a great message is also focus on being entertaining. Leader takes a more serious take and concentrates on the character development of the lead and supporting characters.
The way Arjun consoles his mother and takes care of her at the hospital is an indication of his bond with her and I like that the film showcased that. You don’t see that portrayed sincerely in western media anymore.
Arjun is no Bharat. He is very practical at the beginning bribing everyone to achieve his goal. It is very challenging to support him when he doesn’t start with sound morals and principles.
He only changes his methods after life or karma gives him a blow by taking away his mother and continues the fight against corruption the right way like his mother wanted. His mother’s death adjusts his moral compass and drives him to fight for making changes and learning to endure difficult times. Further I thought Ratna had a better character arch than Archana to become a love interest but she completely disappeared in the end.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
I like the ending where he finally realizes that fighting corruption from within his father’s political party is not the solution. Trying to save a bag full of rotten potatoes is worthless. Instead he builds a new political party. A new generation of politicians driven by the youth of the nation.
GIVING IT A CHANCE
I’ve shared my opinion many times about critics especially when it comes to foreign cinema so I didn’t even bother to check anything other than IMDb as a first point of reference. Of course, watching foreign films is not for everyone, as you need to have a certain level of respect toward other cultures and be open-minded to see various styles of cinema.
At this point, the decision is based on the trailer which honestly doesn’t tell much, the premise of the story, the interviews with the talent, and the history of making the film. The anti-corruption message was strong enough to get me interested in watching the film.
Leader is a different type of Telegu cinema of what I’ve seen so far. The film lacks the traditional action scenes. The protagonist is very peculiar. Even though his goal of eradicate corruption is noble, the methods he used to achieve his goal are questionable and leads to more corruption. It is a character-driven story showcasing an issue that many communities are dealing with, corrupted government officials.
Many complain but don’t make their voices heard during voting season and still vote for the same people over and over again even when there are new options. In order to make real change we need a new breed of politicians that are not linked to the old guard’s principles, or lack thereof I should say. It takes a mentally strong and courageous person to fight corruption especially in this social media-driven era where character assassination is the first course of action against anyone who wants to fight the status quo.
There are many case studies such as the U.S. recent elections where social media influenced how people voted by suppressing information published by journalists. If you don’t pay attention like many people do, even you may fall into the trap of maligning someone that wants to do good and praising the one that is not working towards your interests.
My Rating: 7/10
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All images in this publication belong to the original creators and are used as references under fair use.