Sundar Ramaswamy, a corporate raider, arrives in India to vote in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election, only to find that his vote was already recorded.
Sundar investigates the matter and learns about an unknown law that can give him back his right to vote. He then raises awareness against electoral fraud among the masses and decides to contest as a non-partisan politician in the elections amidst several attempts made on his life and reputation.
ABOUT THE FILM
Sarkar is a 2018 Indian Tamil-language political/action musical film. It was written and directed by A. R. Murugadoss and produced by Sun Pictures. The film stars Thalapathy Vijay, and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar alongside Keerthy Suresh, Yogi Babu, Radha Ravi, and Pala Karuppiah. Sarkar means Government/Authority. The music is composed by Bapi-Tutul & Prasanna Shekhar with lyrics by Sandeep Nath.
WHERE TO WATCH
In the next section, I will share with you how I understood the film with subtitles. Yes, there are going to be major spoilers but I think it’s important to share this perspective because sometimes things can get lost in translation or cultural differences may have an impact on how one interprets the story. I think it’s unfair when this happens with critics that are very quick to judge. Especially with foreign cinema, audiences tend to rely on critics and influencers that sometimes have their own biases or even have no idea about what they are reviewing.
Eventually, I think it’s better to watch it and make your own assessment. Sometimes rewatching is necessary. Afterward, it’s fun to compare with these “critics and influencers” and see how much they got wrong. There is always something. Now, let’s get into the story…
The film starts with a long text in Tamil written by the director. The intro is a summary of the history of India, showcasing all the fights of the different dynasties, the English invasion, the fights for independence, the rise of a new government structure, and the power of protest from constituents demanding their government to deliver what was promised.
Sundar Ramaswamy, played by Thalapathy Vijay, is a wealthy NRI (Non-Resident Indian) from the U.S., referred to as a corporate monster due to his ruthless business dealings through corporate raiding. Corporate raiding is the process of buying most of the shares of a company and then using shareholder voting rights to require the company to undertake novel measures designed to increase the share value, generally in opposition to the desires and practices of the corporation’s current management. Several Indian corporations received the news that Sundar will be arriving in India. Scared of becoming one of his targets they try to collect as much information on him.
Sundar arrives in Chennai with his team to cast his vote in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election and meets Nila who is his brother’s estranged sister-in-law. However, he finds out that someone else had already voted in his place. Sundar approaches the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission and demands a recount of the election result for his constituency, an annulment of the fraud elector’s vote, and the ability to legitimately cast his vote, to which they later agree.
In the meantime, Sundar went to visit his family with Nila. Meanwhile, Masilamani receives suitcases full of black money. He then discovers a journalist, Muthukumar, hiding inside one of the suitcases to record evidence of his corruption. Masilamani kills him and buries the suitcase.
Arriving at home Sundar studies the Indian election laws. The following day alongside Nila he goes to talk with the election commission and court officials. Some of them question what change his one vote could bring. He then explains the importance of one vote in a democracy. He started listing the flaws in the voting system: his voter ID was not checked. As an NRI his passport should have been inspected. in addition, he mentions Section 49-P where in a situation like his, he can be given a new ballot and allowed to cast his vote. One official mentions that nobody knows about this law. In the end, The judge declared that Sundar could cast his vote.
On the road back, Nita, Sundar, and his driver are in the car. His driver mentions how everyone is talking about him on the radio. On their ride, his driver shows him a building where a poor man put petrol on his wife, himself, and his two children because he was not able to pay back a low amount of money to the loan sharks. He told him how he was there witnessing how the children were just looking at them not understanding what was happening.
Sundar inquired about what the government did. His driver indicates that the government didn’t do much to prevent it from happening again and the video of the incident was just reshared on social media. Another problem will arise and we’ll keep resharing it. Problems don’t have solutions, they have more problems. Sundar decides to look around for the family’s home and was clearly emotionally affected.
He then attended a gathering where Rendu, brother of Masilamani and fellow politician, interrupts the MC to give a speech about how the one thing all attendees have in common is money. Sunder interrupts them and tells Time that he is wrong, the one thing they have in common is People. People are the viewers of a channel, customers for businessmen, voters for political leaders, passengers of airplanes, and readers of newspapers. People are what make us what we are. Rendu rebukes that what matters is the money that they get from the people and openly threats Sundar that we could also steal his vote this time around. Nila is watching him concerned.
Masilamani’s daughter Komalavalli, played by Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, currently living in Canada, and his brother celebrate his win. Komalavalli calls home to congratulate her dad and wants her uncle about Sundar. He seems to have left an economic mark with a takeover of a large corporation in Canada. She informs him that 3 governments have barred Sundar from entering their country and warns her uncle not to mess with him in any way. That left Rendu preoccupied as he may have done the complete opposite.
In the meantime, Sundar gathered all the media to tell his story. His intention is to raise awareness among those that have been victims of illegal voting and made them realize that they have the same right to fill a case and demand their vote back.
Sundar is driving the car with Nila and his nieces when suddenly they ride into a blocked section that looked abandoned. There they face a group of tugs intending to hurt them. Sunder defies them and fights them. Later on, Nila tells him that her people found the man who voted in his place.
Although Masilamani’s party won the elections and was re-elected, the Election Commission annulled the results based on Sundar’s plea to recount the votes, and fresh elections were scheduled to take place within the next 15 days. This will give those whose vote was stolen to chance to cast their vote. Sundar’s actions bring him on the wrong side of Masilamani and Rendu whom Komalavalli decides to plan actions against Sundar.
In the meantime, Sundar’s mother is complaining and asking why he is doing so much. He brings his whole family to the hospital where the surviving kid is staying to get treatment for her wounds at Sundars’ expense. He tells her that her face is the current state of Tamil Nadu and how she would feel if it was her kid. He takes her on a tour of the hospital wings where each patient is there because of the negligence of the government. He is angry with the politicians who were in power for 5 years and did nothing. He wants to bring them down.
FACING THE ENEMY
In the following days, Masilamani men are looking for him to kill him. That is until one night, Sundar goes directly to the Masilamani’s office and faces Rendu and his men. He reveals how he knows all the crimes they committed and how he is a specialist in destroying brands. Rendu gives his men the order to kill Sundar. Sundar is not afraid and fights back. After the first round which he wins, he receives a call from Masilamani threatening him. “I’m waiting,” Sundar says.
After evading many assassination attempts by Rendu’s henchmen, Sundar decides to run as an Independent candidate against Masilamani. He faces some issues during his registration even though he delivered all the documents required, but he warns the government official that he will sue the government till the supreme court. He just unabashedly interrupted an interview Rendu was given.
He resigns from his CEO position at the GL company on Live-Television to avoid any conflict of interest. He then says that “the thought of a single-party democracy is the biggest danger for the country”. Rendy taunts him that his party is a significant establishment and he is just one man. Sundar replied: “When tossed out of a train, even Mahatma Gandhi was just one man. Nowadays, one man turns into a group and a group turns into one man over the course of a single day“.
To take things further, he decided to go to the constituency mentioned by Rendu where he is the most unpopular. Sundar was notorious for his business dealings and that made him initially unpopular among the masses. Until Sundar delivered a speech detailing his rise from a humble fisherman background to a businessman and his struggle from poverty to riches which made him gain massive support in that particular constituency. He listens to all their issues and tells them to follow him to Masilamani’s event so that he can inquire all their questions to the current sitting Chief Minister.
Sundar, his supporters, and the people from the constituency follow him on bikes and on gatecrash an event involving the merger of Masilamani’s party with the opposition. Sundars go to the stage and sits next to Masilamani confronting him regarding his silence on district-related issues, he makes it clear that he will not solve them. People must remain poor to rely on them and keep them in power. “They will act like beggars to vote for us,” he says. the police brutally start beating up Sundar and his supporters.
In Tamil Nadu, there are only two political parties and on that night they will merge into one giving him the majority power and he proceeds to tell him how he has the legislature also in his hands. His single-party democracy will soon come into power. Sundar realizes that the entire political system in the state and country is corrupt and needs reform. He decides to contest in all constituencies in Tamil Nadu along with his supporters. Masilamani asked him whether he has the money to compete. Sundar shows him the crowd that came with him and asked him whether he can hear them roar his name. he gathered this crowd in just one day and reminds Rendu of what he said during the interview “Nowadays, one man turns into a group and a group turns into one man over the course of a single day“. He then leaves the stage.
Masilamani then gives the order to the police to bash all of Sundar’s supporters including the elderly, women, and children. Sundar was taken into the back of a van and was beaten up as well. Until he sees through the window how a woman confronts a police officer “Don’t tell a woman who bore two kids that she can’t bear pain”, getting beaten he lost his mind. outside the police brutality escalates to extreme levels. In the van, Sundar fights everyone and manages to come out. What he sees brokes him, the crowd gathers around him and he asked them for forgiveness. The crowd tells him not to cry, they have experienced the betrayal of the ones that were supposed to defend them. He tells them not to ignore this pain. This is a like a labor pain. Bear it and a brand new Tamil Nadu will be born.
The next day, the news is all over the media. Everyone is questioning how it could have happened and what Sundar will do next. He gathers his supporters to organize which they do. His plan is not to make a political party but ask the people to gather 3 representatives for each constituency and support them. It doesn’t matter whether they are interested or not. Choose people that are already selflessly serving the people. Through internet scans and inquiries, he tells the people to find out whether their choice is truly honest people with the will to serve people. “Find the leader of your land!”.
Sundar acquires video evidence on a CD wherein young people who had attempted to expose Masilamani’s corruption were killed under mysterious circumstances, and he plans to reveal it to the media to discredit Masilamani and have him arrested.
In the meantime, Masilamani’s daughter Komalavalli arrives in Chennai after finding out that her father and uncle have lost support due to Sundar. They also tell her about the CD. Sundar may be a corporate criminal but she’s been a criminal from the womb. She decides to damage Sundar’s reputation and frame him as corrupt.
Komalavalli plans a car accident and then blames Sundar for the accident, which causes him to lose public support. She furthers her agenda by killing her father with an overdose of diabetic tablets for her party to gain sympathy votes. These crimes ensure that Komalavalli, the new Chief Ministerial candidate for her party, would likely win the election.
On Election Day, Twitter messages generated from Muthukumar account say that Sundar allegedly has stashed black money in various locations, which further degrades Sundar’s reputation. Unknown to anyone, the tweets were sent by Sundar impersonating Muthukumar, who was one of the activists killed by Masilamani. Further messages lead to the finding of Muthukumar’s decomposed body and exposing Komalavall’s lies.
Meanwhile, Komalavalli finds out that her mother has decided to expose her role in Masilamani’s death at the memorial in front of the media later in the day. Komalavalli arrives at the memorial with her henchmen to stop her mother, but Sundar subdues her henchmen. Her mother’s confession is live-streamed, and after that, Sundar gives a speech motivating every remaining person that did not vote yet to go vote.
This restores public support for Sundar. Sundar and his 210 representatives win the election, while Komalavalli and Rendu are arrested for their various crimes. However, to the surprise of everyone, Sundar declines the position of Chief Minister. He will be on the other side asking questions from the opposition. He chooses one of his representatives to be the next Chief Minister in the same manner they were chosen to represent the constituencies. The chosen one that will be CHief Minsiter is an honest former collector.
Sundar then acknowledges the hard work and sacrifice of the youth: If you go to other countries of the world and ask them the names of those who gave their lives for their community, they will take the names of those who were alive 30 or 40 years ago. But if we ask the same question in Tamil Nadu today, the answer would be “It’s the youngsters who gave their lives this year. It is the folks who sacrificed their lives last month. Although, they were agonizing deaths. I am proud of them.”
IMPACT OF SARKAR
The Government of Tamil Nadu accused the filmmakers and Vijay of inciting the people by targeting the ruling government in some scenes and defaming the former chief minister by naming the main antagonist after her. This led to numerous protests at theatres, where the film was screened, and vandalism of banners of Vijay. Several actors supported the filmmakers by raising their voices against the oppression of freedom of speech. Following the threat of lawsuits from the government, the filmmakers agreed to cut the scenes and mute references to Komalavalli in the audio track. The film also faced plagiarism allegations that were settled in court. They copied a story that was registered with South Indian Film Writers Association and settled to give the proper credit.
Due to the film’s success, the Election Commission of India started raising awareness regarding Section 49P of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 which allows a voter to have the right to get back his/her ballot back and vote if someone else voted in that individual’s name. Despite all the issues faced something positive came out of the making of this film to the detriment of those willing to retain the status quo. It would be a shame to have these stories shelved when they can have such a positive impact on society. Those with the intention to break down society and remain in power are so full of themselves that they don’t see that it’s their own destruction.
VOTING FRAUD AND CORRUPTION
The movie was very interesting. It showcases how even when you have certain minimal measures such as the obligation of showing your ID to vote the process can still be flawed. It’s funny how countries that don’t even have these minimal measures in place that are clear red flags for fraud chastise others that do.
It also makes you realize that every country has its own regulations and that the world doesn’t revolve around the West. You realize how a simple rule such as bringing your ID to vote is normal in most countries. And it also makes you question what the point is in demanding international observers for some countries, while others with obviously flawed systems get away with no observation.
GIVING BACK THE POWER TO THE PEOPLE
I like the idea of independent candidates invading the corrupted system and choosing people that already work for the people such as social workers to be their representatives. The fact that they are not linked to any political party removes the issue of being bought or corrupted from the beginning.
It’s the people that directly support them and not corporations or nonprofit sponsors. In reality, we saw something similar started happening in the U.S. with the Bernie Sanders campaign which could have run as an independent, but we also saw how it disintegrated into nothing when he joined a political party.
ENTERTAINING AND EMOTIONAL
The movie has many scenes I enjoyed but the one standout is Sandar’s entry to the party office and the fight scenes. They are over-the-top entertaining yet believable. It’s difficult to explain. There are films with even more bombastic fighting scenes as the hero or heroine has superpowers. Overall I also loved Sundars’ confident attitude toward his enemies and how he carries himself in general.
The scene showcasing police brutality was hard to watch but in reality, there are even worse scenes we have watched from countries such as France. However in the end when the police left and the crowd embraced Sundar in his pain and he did not accept it. It was very emotional for me to watch. When he said to not ignore the pain but accept it, I cried because you can equate that line to anything in your life. I did.
His final speech I think is very important and relatable, especially in these times when decisions made by governments enriched the wealthy while restricting and destroying the working class. Acknowledging the real heroes that made sacrifices and are not afraid to give their lives on a daily basis important. The establishment media has done a great job distracting people from the real issues, silencing those that are fighting for the people, damaging their reputation, and promoting fake heroes.
GIVEN IT A CHANCE
Election or Voting fraud has come up a lot in Western news and it would be interesting to see how it’s handled in other countries. I enjoyed the movies I’ve seen so far of Vijay such as Master (2021) and Kaththi (2014). Regarding reviews I already mentioned in other publications what I think about movie reviewers and how useless they have become to movie watchers. Whether you enjoy a movie or not depends on your mood, your interest, and your openness to the story. On a global scale, we need more stories like these to be shared and not keep them on the shelves.
Sarkar is mainly made for the Indian audience referring specifically to Indian voting laws, but it doesn’t stop the global audience to relate to government corruption and voting fraud. So, if you take into consideration that there are going to be dancing numbers, references to Indian laws, and the traditional (over-the-top) action scenes of South Indian movies, you most probably will enjoy the movie as I did.
Sarkar is an interesting movie to watch. I liked that it focused on the main themes of electoral fraud/voter fraud and corruption. You have one man and his supporters going against a corrupted system. It’s a simple story with no convoluted storylines and romances. To make it more appealing for the local audience the traditional dancing and action sequences were added to make it entertaining for that audience.
The important takeaway I took from the film is how important it is to clean the corrupted governmental system for the voting system to have a real impact. The challenge for us is to figure out how to make a one-vote revolution work. Infiltrating the corrupted parties doesn’t work without power and influence. It is almost impossible to find someone smart, emotionally strong to resist threats and bribes, and willing to fight against the corruption within the party.
So, the chance of making a real change could be higher by massively supporting independent representatives of the people. The challenge is to find honest people that truly want to serve the people and have the courage to stand their ground against the corrupted system.
My Rating: 7/10
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All images in this publication belong to the original creators and are used as references under fair use.