A saint in saffron remains seated as the 'Tamizh thaai vaazhthu' is played; a Governor throws a sidey glance at one of the women on stage, right in the middle of an important political event. The audience needs no encouragement to laugh. They've seen it all play out in the theatre of the absurd that Tamil Nadu politics has become. RJ Balaji's LKG, directed by Prabhu, is among the many Tamil films in recent times to question the government at the state and central level. Quite interesting, because Bollywood too has had a slew of releases that are pertinent to the election season, only those films have pandered to the government that is in power while Tamil cinema has made the opposite choice.
LKG is about an ambitious ward councillor, Lalgudi Karuppiah Gandhi, who is at the kindergarten level of power, but wants a bigger share of the pie. His heroes, the ones to whom he does daily puja, are Sathyaraj's character from Amaidhi Padai and Raghuvaran's from Mudhalvan. Anyone familiar with Tamil cinema territory would know that this marks him out as the villain rather than the hero. But then, LKG has no hero - its purpose is to reflect a certain reality, and in that sense it is unabashedly a "message padam".
The film makes liberal use of recent political events and while this is pretty entertaining for those who catch the references, it stops well short of being an intelligent satire. The problem is that Prabhu seems to have been undecided on whether he's making Tamizh Padam 3 or a realistic film that bites because it touches a raw nerve. Take Priya Anand, for instance. She plays Sarah M Swamy (real name Sarala Munuswamy), who manages a team at VR Analytica, a Cambridge Analytica-type of company that helps politicians win elections. But just as her name is bogus, so is her characterisation, which is limited to uttering stock phrases about "corporate". When she decides to help LKG win the election, she barges into his home like Kajal Aggarwal in the Colgate Active Salt ad (by the way, why didn't that awesome 'I challenge Kajal Aggarwal' line from the trailer make it to the final cut? I'm upset), and takes over his life. Sure, the scene itself is funny, but it once again establishes LKG as a spoof along the lines of CS Amudhan's film which released a few months ago, rather than an original product.
RJ Balaji has tried his best, but the problem is that you can see him trying. The comedy often feels forced and he resorts to shouting whenever he needs to emote. Ramkumar Ganesan is perhaps the most assured actor in the cast, playing the Deputy CM who gets an opportunity to become the CM (no marks for guessing how and why). In its eagerness to reveal how influenced people are through social media and viral trends (meme creators, for instance, attend the CM's swearing in, instead of the press), LKG barely scratches the surface of any real issue that affects people's lives. Why, for instance, do people vote for freebies? Why do they sell their votes for cash? Is it just moral depravity? The judgement is delivered well before the film can really examine the matter. After Sarkar, Vijay's Deepavali release that berated voters in a similar fashion, several had written about how this was an elitist and tone-deaf view of the masses. LKG too is content to remain in this territory, not going beyond the depth of an average WhatsApp forward.
The second half of the film, which pitches a battle between Ramaraj Pandian (JK Rithesh) and LKG, is disappointing to say the least. To make a point about the media spreading rumours and social media taking it to be the truth, the film resorts to a generous dose of homophobia. Earlier on, too, there are throwaway dialogues about whether one is a true "aambalai" or not - and of course, the film has no woman politician at all, despite the whole crisis in Tamil Nadu having been triggered by the death of one! The screenplay is often disjointed, with one scene stacked after the other; rather like watching a play where the characters are assembled on stage as the lights go off and on and the action happens in between.
LKG is an enjoyable watch for frustrated voters who may get some sense of joy in watching this take-down of the political class. But as a film, it needs a lot more to pass out of kindergarten.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.