Sardar – An engaging espionage thriller that raises the alarm on a terrifying social issue P.S. Mithran’s USP in his previous two films ‘Irumbu Thirai’ and ‘Hero’ is dealing with a strong social issue that people are often unaware of and presenting it in an engaging manner. In ‘Sardar’ he has joined hands with the power performer Karthi to deliver an engaging espionage thriller and at the same time sound the alarm on an impending calamity.The film opens in 1988 with an Indian raw agent codenamed ‘Sardar’ going rogue and disappears after being branded a traitor. In the present Inspector Vijaya Prakash (Karthi) who carries the burden of being the son of the traitor tries hard to make a good name for himself.
He indulges in social media propaganda to trend his name high even as he tries to woo his childhood sweetheart Shalini (Raashi Khanna) a lawyer. Elsewhere Maharaj Rathore (Chunkey Pandey) a business magnate has succeeded in bagging a project for linking all the waterways of India through a pipeline. A woman Sameera (Laila) who is conducting demonstrations against the evils of packaged water is murdered. When Vijayaprakash investigates he is drawn into a web of deceit and lies and amidst the chaos only one thing is clear that the Indian nation is going to face a calamity like no other through water.
There is only one man who can stop it and it is none other than Vijayprakash’s father ‘Sardar’. How all these people and events are connected and what happens next is what the screenplay is all about.Karthi is back in the mass hero zone after a gap and that too in dual roles giving him a load of opportunities to shine and that he does with elan. If there is a youthful charm about the son’s character that is instantly likeable there is a lot to admire about ‘Sardar’. His introduction scene in a Bangladesh prison is one of the best goosebump moments in recent times in Tamil cinema.
Karthi also has a field day with his slow moving fights that works up the energy of the audiences. He is also pretty effective as Bose the street drama actor in the flashback portion especially when he takes with a wry smile the brunt from his father for being no good while his brothers are soldiers. Muniskanth as the foster father of Vijayaprakash as usual is impressive and the twist in his character adds value too. Chunkey Pandey the yesteryear Bollywood hero is aptly cast as the royal villain who can pull strings internationally. Sadly his character becomes a caricature as the film progresses.
Rajisha Vijayan as the girl pining for her cousin Bose has done a neat job in the flashback portions. Thankfully this village belle has the intelligence to crack the intelligence. Raashi Khanna on the other hand has nothing much to do as her love scenes with Karthi serve only as a dampener in the larger picture. Laila makes a comeback after several years in a key role but we have very little time with her. Child YouTube star Rithvik appears in a similar role that he played in his debut movie ‘O2’ and one should say his talent has again not been tapped. Yugi Sethu is terrific as the Cockroach.
What works best in ‘Sardar’ is the characterisation of the spy and the balanced depiction of his bravery during missions and the sacrifices he makes for the country that includes painful obscurity. A big plus is that the character’s motives are upheld till the very last frame justifying “”Once a spy….always a spy””. The writer-director has put in extensive research to bring awareness to the dangers that are present in packaged drinking water and the exploitations of the world’s most valuable resource by a few evil men. Similarly the detailing of the modus operandi of RAW is also interesting. Dialogues barring the love portions standout for example “”You are the uncomfortable truth and I am the convenient lie””. The parallel action packed interval block (or what should have been) where the father escapes through water and the son through fire is poetic.
Speaking about action, Dilip Subbarayan deserves praise for his stunning choreography.On the flip side the initial portions that deviate from the main subject and wander into boring romance territory is off putting. There are claims from the makers that this is a grounded spy film but what is on display is far from that. After a point the action becomes mindless and numbing and the film limps to a middling climax after all the promise that it had in the middle hour or so. The film also looks stagey and hence it appeals more to the brain than to the heart.G.V. Prakash Kumar’s background score as usual enhances the visuals but the songs though hummable don’t fit in organically in the screenplay.
Like his previous films Mithran regular George C Williams cinematography is of the highest standards. Ruben’s editing especially when switching between parallel action blocks is delightful but he could have trimmed down the long drawn out ones in the second half.
The rest of the technical elements are sound. Prince Pictures has provided high production values that lend credibility to such an ambitious subject. P.S. Mithran has once again impressed with the detailing of the core issues and the competitive execution and stylised filmmaking required in today’s OTT fed world. Verdict : Go for this engaging espionage thriller that raises the alarm on a scary calamity in the making.