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Sarkar - Movie Review

[Image: Sarkar.jpg]

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.

Rating: 1.5/5

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Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Thugs Of Hindostan - Movie Review

[Image: Thugs.jpg]

Cast: Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Sana Fatima Shaikh
Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya

In one of the scenes meant to bring intensity to Thugs Of Hindostan, Amitabh Bachchan tells Aamir Khan, “Baat suna ke hi maaroge ya koi hathiyar bhi laaye ho (Have you brought weapons too or you’re planning to kill me by words?)” To this, Aamir simply smiles. Well, this is what happens in most of the film. The actors are so obsessed with their characters that they forget the audience is waiting for engaging content, a spectacle they haven’t ever seen before. However, all they get are characters with a penchant for smiling.

It all begins in Raunakpur, which literally means a place full of wealth and glitz, full marks for imagination. Local king Mirza’s (Ronit Roy) voice-over introduces us to English Captain Clive (Lloyd Owen) and his ruthless tactics. He is out there to conquer India in the garb of a merchant but soon finds himself face to face with Khudabaksh aka Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan), a local rebel. Azaad has an accomplice in super-archer Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), the apparent heir to the throne.

Because the East India Company can’t catch Azaad, they seek assistance from Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan), a notorious thug who proudly mouths lines like, “Dhokha swabhav hai mera (To con is my nature).”

So far, so good.

But what happens after this is nothing short of watching an opera by jazz performers. Disguised as the story of a hoodlum who aims to impress everyone with his rustic charm, Thugs Of Hindostan is actually a collage of clichéd sunset shots and plot twists that every second person in the cinema hall can anticipate.

It’s understandable why Aamir Khan chose to do this film though. Firangi’s is a role that must have shown him glimpses of brilliance. And he sure is the best of the lot, bringing quite a lot to the table. He understands the graph, the ups and downs and the trajectory that might have given Thugs Of Hindostan a satisfactory resolution, but the other principal characters totally fail him. One could argue that the absolute focus on Aamir’s ruffian has dimmed everyone else’s scope, however, that aside, Thugs Of Hindostan doesn’t offer anything new either. It is a bad rehash of films we have seen too many times.

And then there is a falcon hovering over all the time. At one point, ridiculous as it may sound, Aamir even starts talking to it. Had the film been stretched longer by even a couple of more minutes, the audience would have done the same. And this is when I haven’t even discussed how Fatima and Amitabh start singing lullabies in the middle of a battleground. Wait, did I mistakenly watch Kranti (1981) again? Or was it Khuda Gawah (1992)?

However, there is one character that shows a lot of promise when it lights up the screen for the first time—Katrina Kaif’s Suraiyya. She is an unapologetic courtesan who talks about her sex life and keeps slapping Firangi. There’s a hint of love between the two, but you already know why she is in the film—to dance. And so she enters, dances her heart out, invokes whistles and fades in the dark only to repeat the drill after a few minutes.

Essentially, Thugs Of Hindostan is all about Aamir’s antics. However, among the few who have some substance left for them is Amitabh Bachchan. But he is also the most exasperating of them all as he delivers dialogues like, “Ab iske pariwar ki zimmedari bhi hamari hai (Now, we have to take care of his family),” after slicing a mole’s epiglottis.

It would have done the film some good had the makers realised that making a film based in the early 19th century doesn’t necessarily mean that you use storytelling techniques as ancient.

For the first few minutes, you are taken into Firangi’s world. He would fill you up with personal anecdotes and thereafter you’re pretty much on your own, left to figure out whether information adds anything to the story. Sometimes it does, but mostly not.

Thugs Of Hindostan builds up a larger-than-life narrative and then loses ground. Just when you begin adjusting to one kind of tonality, it changes into another film. Holding a film together for 165-minutes is anyway a daunting task, but with the stellar star cast, it should have been nothing short of a spectacular party. But it isn’t.

Thugs Of Hindostan may satiate your need for entertainment this Diwali, but overall, it’s a solid case of great boast, little roast.

Rating: 2/5

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Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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