Cast: Vijay, Keerthi Suresh, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Radha Ravi
Director: A R Murugadoss
Indian cinema has often doubled as a platform for promoting social, cultural and political causes. It has often been preachy and pedantic, as we have seen in some of early Raj Kapoor films and later Manoj Kumar's efforts – which got so blatantly and invariably patriotic and boring that he was named Mr Bharath. Today, we seem to be having another Mr Bharath in Akshay Kumar's latest outings, like Toilet Ek Prem Katha and Padman.
But unlike Kumar, Tamil cinema's Vijay turns into an unbelievable Superman. While Kumar went through a more-or-less realistic script, playing a very ordinary and down-to-earth common man in Toilet.. and Padman, Vijay will do nothing of the sort. He has to be the conquerer, the one man who can sort the problems of his home State, Tamil Nadu.
In his earlier Mersal (2017), Vijay was a doctor. This time around in A R Murugadoss' Sarkar, he is all set to take over the administrative reins of Tamil Nadu. Given the political leadership vacuum in the State after the death of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in December 2016, actors like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and Vijay have been nursing political ambition.
It has been time and again debated whether an actor can become an effective political leader, nay the Chief Minister of a State. While those who feel that they can and cite the examples of M G Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa, who transformed themselves from silver screen stars into political luminaries, forget that they worked in the political arena for years, firmly establishing a base at the grassroots level before taking on the chief ministerial mantle. Ramachandran worked with political stalwarts like C N Annadurai and M Karunanidhi for a long time before approaching the people. Jayalalithaa was part of Ramachandran's team.
Vijay has had no such experience, and he probably hopes that he can find a mass base for fulfilling his political dream through the big screen. And Sarkar is unashamedly a propaganda vehicle for Vijay. And Murugadoss (third collaboration with the actor) plays along making sure that Vijay is all important in every frame that walks into. Ironic as it may seem, while Sarkar purports to celebrate democracy, what we have instead is a one-man army. Vijay can do no wrong, and he is projected as a messiah for all of Tamil Nadu's ills. It is more dictatorial than democratic.
At once a playboy and a corporate leader who can win single-handedly fighting dozens of goons, Vijay's Sundar Ramaswamy flies hundreds of miles to cast his vote in Tamil Nadu elections. But when he finds out that someone else has voted in his place, Ramaswamy gets into the act to cleanse the corrupt political system. He urges the people of Tamil Nadu to rise in revolt, and he deploys all kinds of methods to facilitate this. And into this quagmire, steps in characters like Komalavalli (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar), devious to the core. Incidentally, Komalavalli was the original name of Jayalalithaa, who headed the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Produced by the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Sun Pictures, Sarkar all through its 163 minutes of run time, does not hide the fact it hates the AIADMK.
While Sarkar cannot be faulted in direction or mounting with some great action sequences, the plot has been written only for Vijay. There is really no place for a second character. Even Keerthi Suresh, who was excellent as the South Indian actress Savithri in the biopic, Mahanati, is reduced to essaying a wide-eyed admirer of Ramaswamy. Others like Radha Ravi have also been relegated to the background.
If Vijay and his director assume that movies like Sarkar will propel the actor to starry heights of political existence, they may be just about a tad off the mark. Fan craze, tickets being unusually priced and sold in the blackmarket and a lot of glee and noise during the shows are no indication that all these will translate into electoral votes. I think Indian masses today are much more savvy to be talked into believing that an actor who can deliver under the arc lamps will also be capable of doing justice to a political seat.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)
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