Sarkar, at times, does not look like a political thriller but a documentary that highlights issues plaguing the country
A single vote helped English prevail over German to become the official language of the United States of America. One vote ultimately decided the fate of Adolf Hitler as the leader of the Nazi party. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of the most influential leaders in the history of Indian politics, witnessed a histrionic one-vote defeat. Sundar Ramasamy (Vijay), the protagonist of Sarkar, is stating the facts to the Chief Justice to illuminate the significance of a single vote in a democratic system. A.R. Murugadoss, director of Sarkar, places this scene early in the movie that forms the bedrock of the message that it strives to deliver.
Sarkar is a one-man show all the way. Vijay is everything, everything is Vijay. The focus on Vijay is so much in this so-called political thriller that he grows on you but it takes the sheen out of other important characters in the film. It is almost like there are people on board a ship and a single man is trying to steady the ship.
Vijay plays the role of an NRI who is the CEO of a big enterprise. Even before Vijay appears on the screen, TV news channels are flooded with the news of Sundar’s arrival in India. Employees in different companies are dithery and contemplating what his intentions would be as he is known for closing down big companies and his entry in three countries has been banned. “I’m a corporate criminal”, Sundar exclaims in one of the scenes later on. But Sundar is here only to cast his vote in the Tamil Nadu state assembly election which gives a sigh of relief to those employees. This is just a glimpse of how much Vijay controls the film single-handedly.
The narrative starts to build up when Sundar finds out that someone has already voted in his name. So, with the kind of introduction that was given for Sundar, the audience would be anticipating him to do something about it. We see him appertaining to Section 49P to cast his vote again. We are shown the people’s power when lakhs of people all over Tamil Nadu come out in support of Sundar clamouring for their voting rights. We also see the support for Sundar dwindling just like any great political leader that we can think of when Sundar is being designedly accused of wrong deeds. Sarkar educates us, signifies the voting rights, and raises important questions that resonate well with the audience as it makes us reflect back on the political situation that is plaguing the country.
Vijay is brilliant but since the screen space for other characters were lacking, the emotions attached with those characters also remained brief and short-lived. M. Masilamani (Pala. Karuppiah) is a corrupt political leader. He looks terrifying when he hits on a reporter’s head using a bronze lamp. He even mercilessly tells Sundar that he wants the people to remain poor. Rendu (Radha Ravi), which means ‘second’, is a close aide and brother of Masilamani. As Rendu threatens Sundar and mocks him for fruitlessly fighting for a single vote, the atmosphere is extremely tense. In another heated argument, Sundar retorts saying that he earned that name for remaining ‘second’ all his life. But the ephemeral nature of these sequences takes the interest factor out of the equation.
But it is Komalavalli a.k.a Pappa (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar), daughter of Masilamani, who created more impact in her short screen space. She is strong and bold and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s extraordinary performance brings out the rivalry very well. She plays all her tricks and countermoves describing herself as “a born criminal” in the film. Even her transient presence kept the movie engrossing and as she vanishes, so evanesces the engagement factor. I can’t help but reminisce about the iconic Neelambari character in K. S. Ravikumar’s Padayappa whose duel with Rajinikanth is one of the most riveting experiences in the history of Tamil Cinema because of Neelambari’s powerful characterisation which has stayed with us.
Amidst all these, there seems like some forced addition of romance portions between Nila (Keerthy Suresh) and Sundar. She keeps popping up every now and then. She romantically expresses her love in sentamil (classical Tamil) with a background score reminding us of her popular character in Nag Ashwin’s Mahanati. She shakes a leg in one of the foot-tapping numbers called ‘OMG Ponnu’ alongside Sundar. And again she keeps popping up as we can spot her standing somewhere.
Kaushik (Yogi Babu) is superb and the way he describes his role in casting fake votes is hilarious but again it does not last long. Even the brief presence of Sundar’s mother and other family members never looks convincing.
It goes without saying that Thalapathy Vijay, as his fans call him with affection, has a preternatural screen presence. He is unfazed by the presence of goons. The superheroic fight sequences look great with some stupendous slow-motion camera techniques that capture Vijay very well. Top Tucker song blends well with the fight sequences and so does other wonderful tracks composed by A. R. Rahman. The astounding soundtracks infuse some energy in a movie which does little to keep the audience immersed.
Sarkar tries to be relevant with real-world as it throws light on several issues including the hydrocarbon project, farmer’s plight, Jallikattu ban, Chennai floods among others. In a scene, Sundar even emotionally goes on to compare the partially-burnt face of a girl lying in the hospital with the current state of Tamil Nadu. The film, at times, does not look like a political thriller but a documentary that highlights issues plaguing the country. But, with uninteresting storytelling, the issues emphasised in the film does not register well. After the success of Thuppakki and Kaththi, this must be the weakling in the A. R. Murugadoss and Vijay combo.