Cast: RJ Balaji, Priya Anand, JK Rithesh
LKG has been "directed" by KR Prabhu, but "direction" is too loose a word for what he has done here — basically, ensure that the gags in the script survive their transfer to the big screen. LKG, then, is more about the writing (credited to "RJ Balaji & friends") — and like many films of this genre, it works when the gags work, and falls flat when they don't. But here's the surprise. I thought the film would do to Tamil Nadu politics what Tamizh Padam did to Tamil cinema. And sure enough, nothing is spared, not even the upcoming Selvaraghavan-Suriya political drama, whose title (NGK) is the acronym of the tripartite name of its protagonist. (Here, RJ Balaji plays Lalgudi Karuppiah Gandhi, hence LKG.) And how about the exam called PEET? Only, this one's for aspiring politicians: Political Eligibility and Entrance Test. From Vijay Mallya to Sasikala's oath-taking to the name of a newspaper ("Thaai Oli"? In the land of Amma? Yikes!), no target is sacred.
But the film isn't just a loose parade of jokes. It's also about LKG's journey from a ward councillor to the state's CM. (The party's symbol? The jallikattu bull.) He finds he has to compete against a longtime political survivor named Ramraj Pandian (JK Rithesh). Beside him is Sarala/Sara (Priya Anand), a political strategist whose first move is to thrust an unsuspecting LKG into an impromptu media interaction. The reporters twist around his words with such absurd exaggeration, it's hard not to smile. That could be said about the film, too, which doesn't even have to try too hard. Under the Facebook video of a school with overflowing drains, we get this comment: "Thalapathy 63 update please." When real life keeps throwing up these gems, it's just a question of picking the shiniest of the lot and stringing them together.
Every time you think "so why isn't this funnier?", something uproarious lands up — like Justin Bieber's endorsement of a very Tamilian protest, or a spoofy YouTube review of a politician who may be male or female (and who's introduced in a killer Ramarajan tribute that channels the Ilaiyaraaja sound of the period). Composer Leon James also remixes the Malai Kallan track, 'Ethanai kaalamthaanemaatruvaar'… Stop laughing for a minute, and you'll want to weep that a mid-1950s song about corruption sounds like it was written for today. Mercifully, RJ Balaji (who does well in this tailormade part) isn't trying to be a Shankar hero. In the last scene, he delivers a strong message and yet, makes us see that nothing's going to change. It's the reason we keep watching these movies. Nothing, apparently, changes in real life. But at least, we can laugh about it on screen.