In Koratala Siva’s political drama Bharat Ane Nenu, Bharat (Mahesh Babu) celebrates his fifth educational degree by singing a song about how he doesn’t know anything despite the world being an encyclopaedia (the lyrics: “I don’t know, know know.” )

When Bharat is anointed the chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh after the sudden death of his father Raghav Ram (Sarath Kumar), he owns up again to his cluelessness: “I don’t know anything about running a state.”

A few months into the job and a few sequences later, Bharat has finally cracked the puzzle. I do know, he says, but does he? Bharat’s first decision as head of state is to hike the fines for minor traffic violations to ludicrous amounts ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 30,000. His rationale: fear, accountability and responsibility are necessary to rule a state.

Bharat, who has been selected rather than elected, continues to behave like an autocrat. His strong-arm tactics towards scrubbing the grime out of the system include simplistic solutions to problems that resolve themselves the minute he proposes an idea. The director, who has also written the film, borrows existing political systems and schemes such as Panchayati Raj, a fee regulation committee for schools, and fund grants to empower villages, and passes them off as Bharat’s novel ideas.

Bharat is clearly an advocate of authoritarian rule, even if the movie tries to pretend otherwise. When an opposition party leader compares Bharat to an autocratic king, the chief minister says that while others are reminded of monarchy, he remembers a lesson his mother taught him: the mark of a true man is to never break the promise he makes.

Even Nanaji (Prakash Raj), the trusted adviser of Bharat’s father and the one who got Bharat the job in an attempt to keep the ruling party united, begins to have his doubts. But Bharat parrots the oath that he took as chief minister. He also finds the time to be an action hero when things do get out of hand. In highly choreographed slow-motion sequences, Bharat swats away the bad guys as if they are insects. If you have never seen a chief minister wielding a machete, this is your chance.

Bharat Ane Nenu (2018).

What’s a macho hero without a woman by his side? Bharat falls for a constable’s daughter, Vasumathi (Kiara Advani), stalks her, finds her phone number and persuades her to go out with him. All’s fair, after all, when you are in love and have absolute power.

Kiara Advani has little to do in the film, and does not even get to say whether or not she wants to be with Bharat. And since Bharat has decided that they will be together, he demands that she be accountable to him too (his exact words).

Bharat Ane Nenu is a typical middle-class fantasy in the vein of Shankar’s Mudhalvan (1999) about a principled and incorruptible outsider who weeds out corruption and fixes a broken system. The 173-minute film plays out like a brochure for Bharat’s greatness, is highly repetitive and has very few surprises.

There is little doubt that Bharat will triumph in a black-and-white, nuance-free and highly incredulous movie designed to showcase Mahesh Babu’s charisma. The leading man expends as much effort as the director, and his face remains a blank canvas throughout. Prakash Raj delivers a better performance, and along with the other actors, including Posani Krishna Murali, Aamani, Jeeva, Devaraj and Jeeva, keeps the movie on the rails.