Production: Studio Green Cast: Mehreen Pirzada, Nassar, Sathyaraj, Vijay Deverakonda, Yaashika Aanand Direction: Aanand Shankar Screenplay: Aanand Shankar, Shan Karuppusamy Story: Shan Karuppusamy Music: Sam CS Background score: Sam CS Cinematography: Santhana Krishnan
NOTA is pretty similar to the one in Bharat Ane Nenu, where the reluctant son of a chief minister has to take over the mantle from his father. Even their family set-up is similar. He is the son of the first wife, who is no more, and resides in London. There is a step-mother and a very young sibling. But there the comparison ends. For, Varun isn’t an idealist like Bharat. The first time we see him, he is partying like there’s no tomorrow. When he is told that he should take over as the chief minister, he remarks he doesn’t even know who the governor is. When the governor asks him about the portfolios of his ministers, he is clueless. And he needs someone else to dress him up in dhoti, that trademark costume of a politician.
More than the prospect of running the state, what worries him more are the flex boards that have been put up by his party men. One has his shaking hands with Donald Trump, and another sees him dressed up as Baahubali. And he is bothered about his friends turning these into memes on Facebook!
The plot is all about how this happy-go-lucky youngster realises his responsibilties and acts for the welfare of the people. But NOTA doesn’t flesh out this transformation in a gradual way, giving us scenes that show the evolution of this character. All we get is one scene – a tragedy that is staged in a perfunctory manner – to show us that Varun is someone who cares for others. We do get a hint of this earlier, when we are told that he takes care of a few orphan children, but what really makes us buy into Varun’s new-found maturity is Vijay Deverakonda’s assured performance. The film marks his Tamil debut, but the actor does a competent job; there is very little of the slang that we find in actors from other states, though his modulation needs a little work.
The political scenes, some of which recall Mudhalvan, are the film’s strengths; in fact, its only strengths. For, the emotional drama between the characters is quite weak. The chief reason for this is that the characters, including Varun, are underwritten. Anand Shankar keeps giving us promising leads – a chief minister who is referred to as Rowdy CM, a political opponent (Sanchana Natrajan, impressive) who is equally young and more scheming, a counselor (Sathyaraj, in a Cho-like character) who could have a more personal interest in Varun – but he doesn’t follow them through. Surprisingly, the film holds on to a revelation about the relationship between this counselor and Vinodhan until the climax, when we easily guess it right in the scene when it is first brought in. Instead, the director devotes more time on a hawala angle that is hardly dramatic. The lack of a strong antagonist, too, results in a political drama that is less punchy than it should have been.
NOTA is surely going to boost this further, as he breeds swagger. Right from the start, he carries the film on his shoulders. The rest of the supporting casts including Nasser, Sathyaraj, M.S Bhaskar, & Sanchana Natarajan do their jobs neat and clean. Despite the presence of a star like Vijay Deverakonda, senior actors Nasser, M.S Bhaskar, and Sathyaraj hold their own forte in the scenes they appear.
Sam CS background music is pleasant, but the songs could have been better. Santhana Krishnan Ravichandran’s visuals makes the movie grand. Technically the film is a real feat, with the kind of camera work & fast paced editing by Shantha Kumar and Raymond, respectively, which capture the intensity in the script. Half the way, the major problem with the film is that we don’t know where the story is heading towards. The motive of the film seems unclear sometimes, because of which a section of audience might not be too engaged.
The movie takes a dig at almost all the popular political parties and recent political events. But the familiarity of the situations make a few jokes predictable. The film could have been a lot better had it concentrated more on the political part, than the other subplots and drama. The film tells us that there are a lot of problems with the political scenario of the country. We’ve already seen it in films like Mudhalvan. But that is addressed only at the end which turns out to be too late, but still a positive finish.