Sarkar First Impressions: A superficial political campaign that worships Vijay, the star
This AR Murugadoss film feels like a terribly long campaign that is only interspersed with songs and fight sequences
There’s a scene in Vijay’s latest release Sarkar where a corrupt politician kills an investigative journalist with an idol. Now, it made me wonder if this is a metaphor of some kind. But Sarkar isn’t that kind of a film and AR Murugadoss makes that extremely clear. It functions on stretches of expository dialogue and they begin right at the start, only to be interrupted with songs and fight sequences.
There is a mad rush to capitalise the political imbalance in the state both off-screen and on-screen. ARM seems to realise this and shifts to the overreach gear where almost every dialogue has an ulterior nugget. In a stray scene, he makes Nila (Keerthy Suresh, in the template not-integral commercial heroine role) profess her interest in Sundar in chaste Tamil. She chooses to do so as there are kids around and they don’t understand chaste Tamil. There’s a response about how Tamil has become a language to discuss secrets in our state. Even the cinematography pushes beyond what it needs to. Girish doesn’t stop with showing Sundar landing a punch, he needs to follow it with a shot where the cheeks of the guy getting punched tremble under the force.
This campaign seems to have been sculpted frame-by-frame and line-by-line for the star that is Vijay. Watching a star has its own perks and there is a certain rush in watching him mouth punch lines and give us whistle-worthy sequences. But even Vijay's charismatic screen presence does not help his on-screen persona of Sundar flounders whose repititive actions comes with diminishing returns. The jerky dialogue delivery, the outstretched hands, and the attitude, while enjoyable at first, does get to you after a while. But Varalaxmi, despite her limited screen presence, gives an impressive performance that gets you hooked. She holds her forte on screen, immensely tough, especially when you have a star like Vijay on the opposite end.
The irrelevant heroine, the unnecessary songs (the placements are becoming increasingly unbearable) and the quintessential magnum-opus sequence - all tropes from an AR Murugadoss film continue in Sarkar. You can see shades of several other films - Mudhalvan, Sivaji and ARM’s own Ramana - in Sarkar but the biggest difference between those films and Sarkar is that the latter proves that social message alone does not always constitute a great film.