Republic tells the story of Abhiram Panja, an intelligent young man, who gets pulled into the Indian Administrative Services, the administrative arm of the All India Services of the Government of India.
After he realizes the hardships faced by the people of his hometown by corrupt politicians, he decides to clean the system and chose a career in civil services against his father’s wishes.
Republic is a 2021 Indian Telugu-language political drama film written and directed by Deva Katta. The film was produced by JB Entertainments and Zee Studios with music composed by Mani Sharma. The film stars Sai Tej, Aishwarya Rajesh, Ramya Krishna, and Jagapathi Babu.
WHERE TO WATCH
The film can be watched with English subtitles on Zee5. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it available on any other platform for the global audience. The distribution of the film seems limited. Even though it could be argued that the audience for the film is a niche group, it is up to the viewer to decide whether they will watch it or not. Republic was not made with the formula of the traditional South Indian entertaining film. Viewers should at least have the option to see it.
In the next section, I will share with you how I understood the film 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 OF REPUBLIC
The Telleru Lake was considered one of the biggest freshwater lakes in India in 1970. The lake has been very important for the fishing and farming industries. Fishing farms have been built on the lake over the last 40 years and are currently owned by Visakha (Vani), played by Ramya Krishna. It has been an open secret that the fishing farms have been polluting the lake.
Abhiram (Abhi) Panja, played by Sai Tej, is a smart young man from Eluru. He aspires his society to be truthful and honest after witnessing corruption within his own family. His father, Dashrath Panja, is a corrupt government official, which causes him to dislike his father. Abhi went to vote at the local election and talking with the people in line disclosed how many people are getting paid by politicians to vote for them.
When Abhi proceeds to vote he gets to know that his vote is already assigned to a political party on a tender ballot. He demands to see the polling officer in charge only to come face to face with his father, played by Jagapathi Babu. Things get out of hand at the voting place, Abhi gives a speech about the importance of rigged free elections in a democracy. However, one politician even reminds Abhi that the system is rigged and that even his father is part of it.
With his high scores in various exams, he gets a seat at MIT. His father wants him to leave the country because of his ideologies. However, to go against his father’s wishes he decides to stay and dive more into the political system to change it.
His niece comes home with a fractured nose and his sister starts to beat him. Abhi volunteers to go to school to understand what happened. Abhi then meets Myra Hansen, played by Aishwarya Rajesh. She is the aunt of the girl who beat Abhi’s niece because she liked him. They initially thought that the girl’s brother was the one responsible. Abhi gets to know Myra who is an NRI trying to search for her missing brother Dr. Varun Hansen, who is known to have had an interaction with a local goon named Guna.
Meanwhile, Vani makes her son Indukuri Vishnu Vardan the next Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, gaining the image of kingmaker by founding a new party and winning the election. Later, Abhi meets Mani, an auto driver, and his father who tries to fight for justice against Vani.
EXPERIMENTING SUPREME AUTHORITY
Abhi and Myra discover that Varun has been found dead, but they do not get any support from the police, leaving the case to a dead end. After passing the UPSC exam, Abhi heads to his interview, but after a PTSD episode on the train, he ends up seeing Mani being killed by Guna, who works for Vani. Abhi ends up not getting selected due to his state of mind.
However, a few days later, he ends up with the best score for the UPSC exam, which became condoned by everyone, including himself. Abhi then finds out that he was selected by the UPSC board as an experiment of implementing him as the supreme authority of the district to combat corruption and that he cannot be interfered with by any politician in the state.
After Abhi starts his job, he sets out to try and find Guna. Abhi gets attacked and manages to kill Guna. However, at the same spot, he finds Myra unconscious. Abhi rushes her to the hospital to find that she has been brutally raped and is close to being killed by Guna due to Varun’s research.
He then enquires about Myra’s nieces only to find out that they have died and have still not been found. Abhi, filled with rage, decides to address the media that the system is the reason why these horrible things are happening. He then gets the video evidence of Varun and finds out about how Varun is a neurological professor and doctor.
We learn that Varun’s wife Radhika died of a neurological disease that was caused by the fish from the Telleru Lake. Varun learns that more people were affected and plans to research what happened and concludes the disease is caused by the contamination of Vani’s fish farms. An enraged Abhi gets his father and the health officer both suspended for faking reports about the lake.
ADAPTING TO THE SYSTEM
With this new evidence, Abhi goes to talk to Vani to come to an understanding regarding removing her farms and all the construction on the lake. Vani tries to make him understand her by sharing her journey. Being the daughter of a socialist, she used to be like him, but during an emergency, she lost her father and husband.
She then understood that no matter how much somebody tries to change the system, it will not change, then she adapted to the system later. She tells him that he cannot change the system. To make sure she maintains power Vani convinces the fisherman that they all will be stakeholders in her farms and gets them to turn against Abhi.
Abhi, in an attempt to get both sides to go against Vani, calls upon a meeting but ends up being very violent where multiple lives were lost. This caused the UPSC board to suspend Abhi and start an inquiry into the issue. Later, Abhi learns that Vani decided to give her support to a central party who are in the government earlier which she used to oppose. He understands that he was used as a political tool by a central party to get Vani to come to their side.
Dashrath also gets into trouble with the villagers, causing him to get beaten up. Abhi saves his father. Through a flashback, it is known that Dashrath was a very honest government officer, but due to his honesty, he gets transferred to multiple states, which also causes his then-wife and daughter to be killed, which ultimately makes him adapt to the system and become corrupt.
LOOKING FOR JUSTICE
Abhi and Dashrath, tired of it all, decide to work together and appeal to the court with all the proper evidence. During the final session of the court proceedings, Abhi gave a strong speech on corruption, democracy, and justice as his closing argument. The High Court Justice Narasimham, inspired by the final hearing of Abhi, based his final verdict on the evidence provided. This despite having a lot of pressure from the state and central level politicians to adjust his verdict. Vani received a life sentence and all the government officials involved, including Dashrath, were removed from their posts and given life sentences as well.
The Supreme Court also orders for all construction on the lake to be demolished at once. Vani gets ill and is hospitalized. She tells Abhi that no matter how much he tries, the system will not change.
However, a few days later, Abhi finds out that there is new construction taking place on the lake and confronts the villagers on why they chose to do it. They state that it’s time for them to rule. Abhi tries to explain to them how wrong this is and ends up gaining support from Mani’s father, but he tells him to leave and gives him the chance to handle the situation.
At night, Abhi is walking at the edge of the forest when he encounters Mani’s father and some villagers. Mani’s father apologizes to Abhi for his betrayal. It is implied that Abhi was ultimately killed by them because they want the lake for themselves this is not shown but it is implied as Dashrath receives a package of dirty bloody clothes along with Abhi’s ID. Later, another package is shown at the police station with Myra entering the ACP’s office. The police then go on a search for Abhi’s body. We see his mother and sister learning the news and the empty office of the judge who gave the verdict.
The film shows the depressing state of several people in the film, an empty courtroom and newspaper cuts of whistleblowers, and police officers that were killed in a similar way to Abhi for what they have tried to do for their society. The dead of Abhi leads Vani to commit suicide. Vani realized too late that she admired and appreciated Abhi’s work. Finally, tired of becoming a victim of this vicious corrupt political cycle, she takes her own life.
The movie ends with Myra and many others taking part in a candle procession and vigil for Abhi at night and a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr “Man’s capacity for Justice makes Democracy possible but Man’s inclination to Injustice makes Democracy Necessary.”
THEMES AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Republic tells an important story. There are some scenes that made you think, and some things are difficult to process when you realize what is happening. While it still has the traditional dance sequences, it has a more serious vibe showcasing corruption from the viewpoint of the whistleblowers that are relying on others to help them stand up. Everyone did a good job portraying their characters at the level that was established by the story. There was no overacting or a character portrayed in a way that seems odd to the serious theme. Even though Abhi is the lead I consider that the story I carried by everyone.
The film shows many various degrees of corruption. From government electives to regular people. Everyone has their own interests and doesn’t really care about doing the right thing. It may be difficult for some people to process all these levels of corruption. It is sad to accept but there are countries where these are the norms and democracy is just a fancy word.
FIGHTING CORRUPTION: A DIFFICULT FIGHT
The film also shows how fighting corruption is a difficult fight. You must be mentally strong to keep your honesty and be able to resist the blows. Standing your ground to remain honest is a constant fight.
BREAKING THE HUMAN SPIRIT
Unfortunately, corruption can break the human spirit in many ways. The first type is character assassination with the help of the mainstream media that is in some cases sponsored by the corrupted. The second one is threatening the lives of loved ones or even killing them.
MANIPULATING PUBLIC SENTIMENT
The corrupted have ways to remain in power by manipulating uneducated people with their promises and manipulating educated people through the media using tactics such as character assassination. Many of us have lived long enough to see it happen locally and internationally.
Finding justice in a corrupt system is a difficult journey that should never end until justice is served. Here is where it’s important to strategically plan and choose allies wisely that will continue the fight.
It’s very easy to say “Never give up” but for someone whose spirit is broken and is alone, it is hard to even stand up in the morning. Having a strong bond with our support system is important. It’s food for the soul and the spirit so even if the support system is physically not present, we can still get the strength we need to move on through our bond.
NEVER FORGET THE REAL HEROES
Corruption has taken many victims but those that told the truth and were betrayed by their family and friends and even their own society should never be forgotten. They must face the mirror someday and have a confrontation with Karma. Whistleblowers are important in all industries and should be protected by law. They exposed the illnesses of the government and the business world and it’s our job as a society to find the cure for those illnesses.
GIVING IT A CHANCE
These days there is no harm in trying. Relying on critics is worthless so why not give it a chance? Like Bharat Ane Enu and Sarkar, the themes of the movie are government related so I was curious about the movie. We should look for these stories and support them.
Republic is a sobering reminder of how we the people get manipulated by those in power into betraying these heroes. The cases of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are a constant reminder of how easily the public was manipulated into believing they were the enemy when what they did was expose the truth of corrupted systems.
The case of Edward Snowden who should be a hero is a clear example. He momentarily didn’t just open the eyes of Americans but the world. At the time many people understood that cybercrimes are done by the U.S. government as well. Every government with the tools partakes in it and it’s just not only the usual suspects such as China and Russia. Even those that are friendly with each other like the U.S. and European Nations play the game. I said momentarily because people seem to have forgotten all of this and are just unconsciously giving up many of their freedoms just because their team is in charge.
Republic is a sobering tale about what happens to those with the courage to expose the corrupted but who don’t have the emotional and financial power to fight back. It’s very close to reality, a reminder of all those unknown heroes that died for exposing the truth, all those who are still being pursued, and those who were persecuted for exposing the truth of influential figures. Most importantly a reminder of the victims that passed away, those that are still living and waiting for justice to be served, or those that are living in hiding.
It’s a story that encourages self-evaluating our morals and choices. Knowledge to defeat the evil that is slowly damaging society is necessary. We want to have faith in people but there are instances where you just can’t be that naïve. Especially when it comes to government and businesses. It has been ingrained in many societies through pop culture, mainly from the West, that money is the solution to everything. So, it’s not surprising that the youth are growing up materialistic aspiring for more influence and power. It’s the example that has been given by grown-ups.
We, the people, should be more vigilant to protect real democracy and seek knowledge. We should face reality and not turn away from the fact that our system is defective and needs repairs. We should remember the power of our vote and stop misusing it or taking it for granted. Many democratic republic governments have forgotten about democracy and are leaning toward autocracy/dictatorship. They have also forgotten to serve the people they are representing.
When the current regime is not what we want we should look for new leaders, like the Dutch Farmers did. The Dutch Farmers formed their own party and were successful in getting support during the election. Not enough to make an immediate change but enough to scare the establishment so much that almost no mainstream media covered the news like they would if it was a win from a traditional establishment party. I believe that change is possible, it just needs strategic planning and good leaders to execute those plans.
My Rating: 8/10
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