By Subhash K. Jha
Director: Anand Shankar
Cast: Vijay Devarakonda, Sathyaraj, and Nassar
We have seen stars play the reluctant politician before. Ranbir Kapoor in Prakash Jha's "Raajneeti" and Mahesh Babu in "Bharat Ane Nenu" was forced to take charge of their father's political empire when a crisis beckoned them from their luxurious life abroad.
Vijay Deverekonda, easily the most promising actor to emerge from Telugu cinema since Mahesh Babu, plays the scion of a political family who finds himself sucked into the murky politics of present-day India where horse-trading and money laundering is a way of life. We get big doses of both in this headline-hefty political parable.
Devarakonda fits into the role of the questioning chief minister with a hand-in-glove familiarity. He challenges the status quo without assuming messianic ambitions. He is at once the dynastic insider in Indian politics by birth and the cynical outsider by nature.
Watch how Devarakonda's Varun combats the lazy indifferent attitude of cabinet ministers during a flood-relief stint, straight out of the calamity faced in Tamil Nadu, with stinging sarcasm, probably lost on the people we choose to represent us in Indian politics.
This engaging film rips off headlines from Indian politics and makes them its own. There is a kind of operatic earnestness about the film, a sense of heightened social consciousness neatly balanced by Devarakonda's minimalist performance. His Varun, the reluctant CM, is not prone to fits of hysterical sermonizing.
This guy is more a doer than a talker who focuses on dealing with political humbug with the same enthusiasm that he invests to his PlayStation.
And play, this playboy-politician certainly does. Even after being designated the temporary CM, he is shown going out with friends for a night of hard partying, a binge that the Opposition later uses to prove how ill-equipped Varun is as Chief Minister. While the politicians in the film leave no trick untried to play dirty, the film plays it straight, resorting to no backhanded plot-maneuverings to attract our attention.
"Nota" is a simple, straightforward morality tale told with a dash of finesse and much sincerity. It could have avoided some of the trite moments that have crept in willy-nilly. Cramming in too many real-life incidents from Tamil Nadu's politics sometimes proves a heavy burden for this suitably blithe take on the rot that has set into Indian politics.
Also, Sathyaraj who was so impressive in "Baahubali" comes across as halfway powerful as the politician hero's guide and mentor. Nasser, who plays Devarakonda's politician-father emerges from a car-blast with prosthetics that make him look like an Egyptian mummy.
Politics does that to the best of people. It debilitates and disfigures the best of intentions. Luckily, the film makes its point about the need for change in politics without becoming embroiled in the polemics of politics.