eAR Murugadoss is known for making theatre-friendly films with social messages, and has often explored the subject matter of corruption in the government (and government agencies). His association with Vijay has been the best part of his almost two-decade-long career. Thuppakki and Kaththi were thorough entertainers (the former was a better movie). Now Sarkar, which brings the duo together for the third time, invites us in with the ear-pleasing A. R. Rahman track Oru Viral Puratchi. But the zeal present in the song is missing in the film.
Sundar Ramaswamy (modelled on Tamil Nadu's pride Sundar Pichai—other names in the film have been inspired by Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy and lawyer-politician Ram Jethmalani) comes back to India after half a decade to cast his vote. When the CEO who earns Rs 1,800 crore per year sets foot in the country (after dancing to a highly unenergetic song), he's surrounded by a chain of bodyguards. His demeanour, however, doesn't reflect his financial status or the choice of words both his admirers and enemies shower upon him. Murugadoss takes less than ten minutes to highlight Sundar's affluent background. And he even drops Nila (Keerthy Suresh) into the polling booth so that he doesn't have to find a way to bring her into the film later.
In the beginning, I wondered whether this one-line story would be enough to pack in the drama in a movie headlined by a star like Vijay. And as Murugadoss opens his bag of tricks to show what he's got, you learn that there's nothing spectacular here to light up the skies.
When Sundar learns that his vote has been cast illegally, you expect him to explode, but he doesn't resort to such extreme measures since he's not new to the ways of Indian politics. He makes calls, tch... tch, he asks his assistants to make calls to various departments to make sure his plea is heard. This set-up plays out magnificently on the big screen. It's even fun to learn certain rules related to the elections. From then on, however, the proceedings go south and it turns into a race between the noble-intentioned saviour and the power-hungry politicians.
The batch of villains (Pala. Karuppiah as Masilamani, Radha Ravi as Rendu, and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar as Komalavalli) are painted entirely in black and, more importantly, we've already seen how their characters are going to turn out in the TV promos. Not once do they pull a surprise out of their hats and the ego clashes between Sundar and Komalavalli don't bring us to the edge of our seats. Varalaxmi definitely brings a certain amount of cunningness to her role. But she enters the film only towards the third act (she's only seen speaking with her father on the phone in the first two acts) and by then, the interest in knowing what's going to happen has dipped.
The best casting decision (apart from roping in Varalaxmi) is giving Yogi Babu the chance to mouth some hilarious lines. Though the stretch leading up to the Simtaangaran track is dry, Babu's presence feels like a glass of buttermilk. I thought he would make fun of Sundar's dressing style (he wears blazers and shirts-on-shirts in Chennai). Alas, he didn't!
The only takeaway from this movie is the frozen expression that Vijay gives the camera after spitting out punch dialogues.