NOTA movie cast: Vijay Devarakonda, Nassar, Sathyaraj
NOTA movie director: Anand Shankar
NOTA movie ratings: 2 stars
What is it about Indian filmmakers and their fascination with London-bred heroes? Director Anand Shankar could have picked any other European country on the world map, but he has chosen London as the hero’s second hometown in his new film NOTA. Like the British Raj, V Varun (Vijay Devarakonda) comes to India for a temporary stay but settles down here permanently to rule one of the country’s states. Is growing up or even studying in London enough to be a leader in India?
Anand’s NOTA plot overlaps with director Koratala Siva’s Bharat Ane Nenu, which also followed the story of a prodigal son who returns from London. Like Varun, even Bharat was also in a hurry to leave India for London. But, they both are forced to take up the responsibility of a state government in their father’s stead. But, the similarities between the two films stop right there. NOTA has one up on Bharat Ane Nenu as it has more substance.
Unlike Bharat Ane Nenu, the film is not reduced to a hero-worshipping exercise. Koratala’s Bharat was quite pompous and far removed from the reality. He was quite convinced that he could just solve the most complex and systemic problems of the country with just a snap of his finger. But, Anand takes a very grounded approach to tell the story of his hero, Varun. Anand gives Varun one crisis after another, pushes him into the political mess, makes him grapple with political con artists and gets him to play dirty.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Vinodhan (Nassar) heeding to the advice of a corrupt godman forces his son Varun into politics. Varun is presented to us as a man with a golden heart. So, what if he drinks heavily and then takes the car out for a spin? It doesn’t make him a bad fella. It just makes him more desirable to the young audience and Anand understands it.
Vinodhan is found guilty in a scam and sent to jail. His imprisonment gives his party members a reason to hurt the public. In the ensuing violence, a bus with a schoolgirl in it is set on fire. The incident makes Varun angry and, in a press meet, he “threatens” that he will bump off anybody who tries to hurt the public. Following the press conference, the riots come to an end. This allows Varun’s college mate-turned-political-rival, played by Sanchana Natarajan, to give him a nickname, ‘Rowdy CM’. And the label that was meant as an insult becomes Varun’s shining armor, thanks to the public. The movies about politics always make use of little vignettes of everyday life to show the approval rating of the hero. And if the hero is young and glamorous as Varun, a group of young girls appreciating the chief minister as a “sex symbol” is unnegotiable.
Varun under the guidance of his well-wisher, played by Sathyaraj, solves all the crisis thrown at him. For example, like a murder charge against him just vanishes without a trace so that the story can move on. Varun becomes people’s favouirte, and his own father sees him as a threat. Varun now has more forces working against him. He has a murder charge to beat, a floor test to win, a huge pile of his father’s black money to unearth in offshore accounts and a state to run. These are just the top four sub-plots of the movie. NOTA has been riddled with so many sub-plots that it is really hard to track all of it.
At the end of the first half, it seemed Anand’s set up for a political thriller was complete and I expected the main act to play out in the second half. But, in the end, I feels like the whole 150-minute movie could be a set up for a sequel.
With the help of his music composer (Sam CS), and cinematographers (Santhana Krishnan, Ravichandran), Anand gets the visual style that’s apt for an intelligent political thriller. But, writer Shan Karuppusamy muddles the movie with too many sub-plots.
Vijay Deverakonda plays his role with a swag. And Nassar stands out with his performance as a corrupt politician with a grotesque nose. Mehreen Pirzada is nearly non-existent. Anand should be appreciated for not including a dreamy song just so she will get something to do in the film. Sanchana Natarajan and Sathyaraj play their given roles without any rewarding moment to shine.
NOTA is a better political drama than Bharat Ane Nenu. But, is that enough?