Sarkar: A Preachy & Predictable Political Campaign
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed by AR Murugadoss, Sarkar is a political drama starring Vijay, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Keerthi Suresh in lead roles. The Murugadoss-Vijay duo has delivered successful films like Thuppaki and Kaththi. So, it is only natural that you expect Sarkar to live up to their previous body of work. Sadly though, Sarkar isn’t half as entertaining as the aforementioned films. In fact, in many places, it lacks the fluency of the visual language to even be referred to as cinema. Leaving many ends untied and by hastily proceeding with a highly idealistic second half, the film inevitably lets you down.
Sundar Ramaswamy (Vijay), an NRI business magnate arrives in Chennai to cast his vote. As he heads straight to his assigned election booth, he discovers that his vote has already been cast by someone else. A frustrated Sundar then takes the election council to court and demands that his district hold the counting until he receives an opportunity to cast his vote. This incident leads Sundar to many other pressing societal issues and ultimately opens his eyes to the ignorance of the ruling party. Left with no other choice, he steps into politics and his political journey that accompanies henceforth forms the crux of the film.
What happens when one attempts to squeeze in a year’s worth of news into a three-hour film? A shoddily executed, overstuffed, overly dramatic film like Sarkar is born. This isn’t to say that the film is entirely bad. There are bits and pieces that are earnest. But these pieces are out-numbered by preachy stretches that are simply unbearable. From the atrocious Sri Lankan Navy that kills Tamilnadu fishermen to the ignorant government, the film tries to address all issues of cruciality but merely manages to scratch the surface.
Idealism at a time like this might be comforting to watch on the silver screens. But if you think about it, it is the last thing one needs. Especially when even this idealism isn’t executed by taking in a holistic perspective. Now, the film criticizes the various actions and inactions of the government. It urges you to fight for your vote. But this comes across as a one-sided propaganda because the film conveniently ignores many other pressing issues. Instead of a fresh political perspective, you get more of the sympathy-milking category of drama that Tamil cinema has grown numb to over the years.
Moreover, it is so hard to believe that Sarkar is a Murugadoss directorial. The director’s previous body of work demonstrates a good use of visual language coupled with a moral message. From Ramana to Kaththi, his format has been the same. But his approach has always been visual. But Sarkar feels like a bunch of speeches strung together by a wafer-thin screenplay. Rather than visually engaging the audience, Sundar appears in public places over and again to deliver speeches. From auditoriums to public roads, he conducts his speeches almost everywhere and yet not one of these talks translates into action. What then, is the purpose of the film? Sure, you become aware of the section 49 P. But is this alone enough for one to accept Sarkar as a feature film? What about the mise-en-scene that is barely existent.
Even the character development and plot twists are shockingly ordinary. Sundar is referred to as a corporate criminal but not once does he exhibit such an outstandingly intelligent persona. The names of the characters are poorly conceived too. Take for instance the name Sundar Ramasamy, it seems to gave born out of a culmination of Sanjay Ramasamy and Sundar Pichai. Mr.Pichai works at Google, Sundar Ramasamy works at GL; I mean, where is the imagination? Surely, it could’ve been much better with a little more effort. The first half at least has traces of a screenplay rhythm, the second half is a complete bore with no story-telling pattern whatsoever.
As Sundar Ramasamy, Vijay is both great and overly dramatic. In some scenes, he is so earnest that he gets you in the beat of the film. For instance, his narration of a story based on Tomatoes was moving. But in other scenes, the aggression he displays is not backed by solid writing. So, it provides scope for unintentional comedy. In one scene towards the climax, he says “I don’t have the mood to fight”. The way he says it has you in fits of laughter when you are actually supposed to take him seriously. As expected Keerthi Suresh’s character Nila hardly has any scope to perform in the film. She is the daughter of the opposing party member and yet this angle is never explored. Instead, she merely follows Sundar around. As Komalavalli, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar renders an impressive performance, especially in the first half. As long as she acts as her father’s advisor, she comes across as intelligent. But the moment she lands in India, she is dumbed down just so that Sundar can seem far more intelligent. This is why you never feel intimidated by her in the second half. Without an intimidating presence, there is no point in even having an opposition.
AR Rahman’s music for the film is a huge letdown. The songs are average by anybody’s standards let alone a maestro like him. They are badly placed in the film, making them all the more tiring. What should have been a song like ‘Mersalaayitten’ takes the horrendous form of ‘Simtaangaran’ and leaves you feeling infuriated.
Girish Gangadharan’s cinematography acts as the only saving grace of the film. It is far from conventional and simply refreshing. But in the bigger picture, this is lost in the chaos the screenplay brings about.
On the whole, Sarkar is a below average entertainer that strings along a few tiring speeches, completely ignoring the nuances of visual language. It is simply a three-hour political propaganda for the probable entry of Vijay into Tamilnadu politics.