In Sarkar, Vijay plays Sundar Ramasamy, who is often called a ‘corporate monster’ or Genghis Khan. He is a rich, cool NRI based in the US who travels to countries and acquires companies and shuts them down if he so feels like it. He comes to Chennai to vote in the assembly elections only to find that someone else has already illegally voted for him. Sundar then begins his battle against the government in Tamil Nadu, taking on the ruling party, the AIAMMK (!).
He proves to be quite the player as he first gets his constituency’s counting halted legally using Section 49-P of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. He then has the entire state election declared illegal before halting the CM’s swearing-in ceremony even as it is going on. He gets the Election Commission to announce a new election date and brings the party down as he gets honest independent people – activists, teachers and the like – into politics. All this in about two weeks.
Every socio-economic political issue in Tamil Nadu is raked up for Vijay to give speeches laced with punch dialogues be it buying the votes of the poor or invoking the Jallikattu or Sterlite protests. Whether it be the Cauvery water issue or the hostility faced by Tamil Nadu fishermen at sea against the Sri Lankan Navy (his father was killed by them at sea), Sundar is there to speak about it as he takes on the ruling party, the AIAMMK. Yes, it’s minimum camouflage and Sarkar all but names the current ruling party in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK, even as it holds it responsible for all that’s wrong in the state currently. I suppose that’s inevitable as the film’s producer, Sun Pictures, is an associate of the AIADMK’s major rival, the DMK, in Tamil Nadu. There is also a critical sequence in the build-up to the re-election where the poor throw out the freebies given by the ruling party into a bonfire.
Now that she is no more, even ex-chief minister J. Jayalalithaa or ‘Amma’, is not spared. Vijay has had his brushes with Amma in the past, particularly during the release of his earlier film, Thalaivaa (2013). Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, who plays Sundar’s adversary, is a character named Komalavalli, which is Jayalalithaa’s actual name. She is shown as the brains behind the AIAMMK, a young, ambitious woman with a personal grouse against Sundar, who took over and shut down the company she worked for. She is modelled more on Sasikala, though, in terms of physicality and style. Komalavalli even kills her own father, the CM, to take his place in the re-election, which has parallels in the various rumours surrounding Sasikala and her being responsible for Jayalalithaa’s death.
That said, there are moments where Sarkar does occasionally come alive in its second half. Some of the cat and mouse moves between Sundar and Komalavalli are engaging as we wonder what twist next would shake up the re-election. But this, too, fizzles out pretty soon enough as no one is even a close match for Sundar in this er… film.
The film is naturally designed for Vijay with care. His fans are bound to be happy as he acquits himself well with what he has to do. His character is constantly eulogised, his past glory reinforced (at the interval point as was in Thuppakki, he tells the villain that he is waiting), he is styled well, he shows his characteristic flair in the dance and action sequences and generally seems to be having a jolly good time fighting for the welfare of the Tamil state on screen. The high-octane fight sequences against the baddies are choreographed lovingly for him with plenty of slow motion and solid bone crouching sounds aided further by A.R. Rahman’s loud, loud background score. Vijay, a huge successful mass hero in the tradition of M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) and Rajinikanth, even invokes MGR as he hums the song Vetri Meethu Vetri Vanthu (Victory After Victory) from the film Thedi Vantha Mapillai (1970), where MGR starred with Jayalalithaa. Certainly thanks to him, everyone in Tamil Nadu will now know about Section 49-P and if not, they would immediately Google it following the film. I know I did.
With the film being all about Vijay, Vijay and Vijay, most of the supporting cast make little impact. Keerthy Suresh is wasted playing the classic ‘jaalra’ or sidekick to the hero and has no role to speak of. Even her one romantic song is badly placed, brings the narrative to a grinding halt and is most unflattering to her as she is giving western style clothes to wear that she just cannot carry off. Varalaxmi Sarathkumar as Sundar’s political opponent has the role with more meat but gives a rather one-dimensional performance. Only Pala. Karuppiah, incidentally an ex-AIADMK member who shifted to the DMK, playing the reigning chief minister, and Radha Ravi, called ‘Rendu’ or Number Two, the permanent number two in the party (shades of O Paneerselvam?) have some strong moments to call their own.
The big disappointment is A.R. Rahman’s music, which is adequate but with none of the songs being particularly memorable. Still, CEO in the House, Top Tucker and Simtaangaran have their crowd-pleasing bits although Oruviral Puratchiyereminds one of Jana Gana Mana from Ayuthu Ezhuthu (2004) both, in terms of situation and composition. The picturisations are nothing to write home either, the dance sequences are filmed mostly head-on frontally with Vijay performing for the audience. The other technicalities are so-so, the length of 160-odd minutes telling on the film.
All in all, Sarkar is a great propaganda platform for Vijay and a huge Diwali treat for his fans. But as I said earlier, I cannot really call it a film and for that reason, I refuse to rate it. In any case, for its target audience, reviews and ratings don’t matter. And from the huge box office collections so far, it appears to be a mighty Happy Diwali for them and for the Sarkar team as well.