Review: Sarkar: Brutal Reality of TN Politics in a Mass Entertainer
Visuals of people muttering the name Sundar Ramasamy. Cut to a computer screen that zooms to reveal the hero’s introduction scene. Lights blur and focus turns slowly to reveal a pair of black sunglasses, a trademark smile, a black cigarette held between the lips – and tak goes the lighter. A long shot of Vijay clad in his customary shirt and coat walking with beautiful women. A Las Vegas casino turns totally Tamil in just a minute as the bar dancers, gamblers and Vijay jump into a synchronised dance number.
Basically, the story of every Vijay movie.
But wait. Hold your horses. That is just the first five minutes.
The film has so many real-life references that are just impossible to miss. If you are from Tamil Nadu, you definitely will relate to the film. Well, even if you are from anywhere else in India, you will still find every single scene a shocking mirror reality.
Sarkar: Raw, Real, Head-On
Sarkar is about Sundar Ramaswamy, the CEO of a multinational firm, seen as a corporate giant. He returns to India to cast his vote, only to find that it has already been cast. Unable to contain his anger, he ropes in top lawyers, files a case, burns the midnight oil reading law, wins the case, stalls the announcement of results in that one constituency.
This angers the chief minister who was so close to winning. Then enters Radha Ravi, the minister’s right hand man, and his daughter, Varalaxmi. Just when they underestimated the power of a single vote, Sundar influences the common people to also claim their votes which were cast illegally by others.
A re-election is announced.
Sarkar is then about how Sundar convinces people to not sell their votes, take responsibility as a citizen in a democracy, work together to find the right leaders, vote for the right person and demand answers.
Instead, let me tell you why you should watch Sarkar.
It has a promising premise, and though the first half drags a little, the storyline makes up for it.
Dear AIADMK and DMK, Sarkar is for You
Many digs have been taken at Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, OPS, EPS, and even opposition DMK in this movie.
Sundar reiterates through the film that the biggest failure of a democracy is when there is no strong opposition. Tamil Nadu’s main opposition party chief Karunanidhi passed away just a while ago. Now, even though his son Stalin is driving the ship, many analysts believe the party has lost its strength.
There are scenes on how criminal cases against sitting ministers can stop a swearing-in ceremony – a flashback to the post-Jayalalithaa death drama that made OPS the chief minister for a while and then Sasikala – oh wait no, Edappadi Palanisamy!
My top pick when it comes to the digs taken at the AIADMK government is how all the white-clad party men bow so low when they meet their leaders, plaster the face of their leader on all the freebies – mixer, grinder, fan, TV, water, rice, etc – and how they even have a photo of their leader in their pockets, which is clearly visible through their translucent white clothes. Rings a bell? Puratchi thalaivi Amma?
A Mass Entertainer with Strong Political Undertones
Director Murugadoss hasn’t kept the references subtle.
You know how brutally honest this film is going to be from the way in which the first incident is portrayed. Vijay’s driver points at a collectorate and narrates the story of a family that poured kerosene and tried to kill themselves to escape being hounded by loan sharks, and how their cries for help fell on deaf ears. He talks about the indifference of the public who choose to forward a Whatsapp message about an issue and then move on to another.
Vijay gains points for show of sentiments and the glycerine-use when he claims he is from Rameshwaram and how his father was one among the thousands who lost their lives after being detained by Sri Lankans.
But even though serious issues are raised, the story doesn’t lose its mass entertainer quotient.
It’s Not All So Serious
Every five minutes in the movie, there is a mention of an issue that is plaguing the state – Pudukkottai’s hydrocarbon project, Cauvery water-sharing, Sterlite protests, police brutality, Jallikattu, farmer suicides, cash-for-votes.
Now if you think is this another Tamizhan, you are wrong. It’s not all preachy and full of legal lessons; Vijay gives you the whole package.
Alongside, the Vijay-Yogi Babu humour is a killer.
The songs in Sarkar are quite abrupt, but some of them are really catchy. Oru Viral Puratchi, which is already topping the charts, is the perfect mood for the young vigour and election fever.
Sarkar also has some interesting guest appearances by transgender activist Kalki Subramaniam, environmentalist Piyush Manush, Thoothukudi activist Fathima Babu, etc.
Intrigued? Not spilling spoilers. Go watch the film!
Film Anchored and Driven by a Tight Ship of Brilliance
The storytelling is smart and witty, and though the action sequences are, as usual, too unrealistic, the brilliant casting picks the film up.
Vijay is first introduced to us as a playboy like ‘Ghengis Khan’ (wait, what did Murugadoss mean?). And the name ‘Sundar’ is supposedly inspired by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, but beyond the name, you don’t find any other similarities. His brilliant dancing and loaded dialogues are topped with subtle romantic gestures and an appealing emotional quotient that makes him shine the brightest.
Varalaxmi, however, often steals the thunder in the film and, at most times, is the thunder herself.
Radha Ravi is a brand by himself, acting as the perfect Number 2 and villain.
I have nothing to say about Keerthy Suresh, who plays the love interest in the film. She’s just seen throughout the film giving Vijay company – whether it is an item song, action sequence, serious political argument – Keerthy’s job is to just stand in the background. She doesn’t have many dialogues or any importance, and that’s a disappointment considering what a powerhouse of talent she is.