The protagonist in Suriya-starrer NGK, Nandha Gopalan Kumaran, is a regular Joe. He has traces of idealism that we all possess and it’s also limited to what we care about. This is seen in the very first shot of the film: it’s raining and NGK is trying to put the water to use for agriculture—a lone wolf. We also come to know that he had a high paying job that he quit to be his own boss, to become an organic farmer. He’s doing his best to make a difference, like most young men, before life gets him.
NGK’s experience at the government office is his first brush with rejection. He’s surprised to see his incompetent schoolmate being able to move things because he’s a party worker. Seeing what a politician can do, even if he’s only a low level party worker, it’s NGK’s first craving for power.
After that, we see what he goes through. He starts with the intention of getting things sorted for his village. He begins wanting to do good but ends up getting entangled deep inside and realizes that the only way out is to go through the ordeal. What’s the ordeal here? Navigating the dirty, filthy world of politics.
This is the only way forward and is clearly shown by Aruna Giri, the lowest possible member of a political party. We get a glimpse of Aruna Giri, an idealist like NGK, who joined the party with a lot of aspiration, but now, is more concerned about eating his biryani and not missing out on the alcohol. Is he foolish? No! He is trying to survive.
NGK realises the importance of power in society and tries to hold on to his ideals but he also knows that he has to navigate dirty minds. This is the best part of NGK: an idealistic person who comes with hopes and aspirations is being denied success. The audience gets to see him lose: he gets himself dirty, falls deep into the dirt and we observe his problems. But do we see our own problems? Like NGK, we cannot! We are too deep in them to see them objectively.
There have been instances in my life when I had to make a decision. I often chose the one which I knew was wrong from an analytical standpoint, but still felt correct. Am I bad? No, I am just trying to survive. NGK is a very complex journey to etch on screen. It’s a big star film and yet it has everything to make it a study of human psychology.
What does being corrupt mean today? It doesn’t have to be as direct as what’s happening to NGK but as young people who navigate the world we slip into various types of corruption. A part of us knows we’ve lost our way, but like NGK we choose to go deep and forget it. It’s not a blunder, it’s a survival mechanism. If we didn’t do this, we probably can’t live with ourselves.
NGK forgets love, family and his purpose; they all become inconsequential to a twisted version of himself. We all end up like NGK, one way or the other. He’s not black or white but grey like us. What happens to NGK after his friend takes his own life is a masterful play of a deteriorating mind. He’s delusional, but with an image of success and power.
Didn’t NGK know that his parents were in trouble? Didn’t he know that his wife knew of his purely physical outlet in Vanathi? Everyone knew, but ignored hoping it wouldn’t really affect them (like we often do, too). NGK is the purest representation of a mad, selfish and narcissistic man. He’s also lost and intoxicated. He gets his hands dirty. He realizes that he’s sinking but also knows that the only way out — just as in life — is to go all the way through, because there’s no other way out.