A young man unexpectedly coming to the highest seat in a state overnight! That’s the kind of fantasy that never gets boring, even though we have been seeing it since the days od Mudhalvan. It’s the kind of dream that we never get tired of seeing; of having a leader who will hit the reset button on the politics of our land. NOTA gives us that dream again.
We are introduced to Varun through a song right at the beginning, where he is celebrating his birthday with vodka shots and girls. Before his vodka high has worn off he is the CM of Tamil Nadu, nursing a hangover at the Governor’s residence after being sworn in. It is an expedited position of convenience for the ruling party and his father, the real CM, played by Nasser, who wants to take moral high ground by resigning his post. The son is expected to be his pawn for a few weeks at most. But, things do not go to plan and the son is forced to take matters into his own hands, and once he takes over and starts thinking for himself, he knows that he has to change the system which is rotten from deep within. How does he go about it?
There are two aspects that the movie has to deal with. One is the growth of the young inexperienced man as a leader or administrator, and the second is his confrontation with his political rivals. NOTA tends to spend more time focusing on the rivalries and how he overcomes them. A ruling politician always has a fair number of rivals, the most important of which is the opposition. But, here, since the protagonist is also challenging the established ways of his own party, he has enemies within too. And, there are a few more characters thrown in for good measure to make this a multi-pronged challenge that the CM has to face.
NOTA does suffer a bit from this largesse of inserting characters in the script. There seem to be so many sub plots in the movie that none of it really grows fully within the two and a half hour duration. The most interesting duel that the CM has to face is right within his family, and even that peters out in the end. The face-off with the opposition has a few interesting moments in the second half, but is surprisingly nipped before it can bloom. Then there is a black money trail in Panama which threatens to go out of hand but is wrapped up too conveniently to generate any excitement. And we have a bald Godman who makes ominous predictions and dances to Yoga tunes! The central antagonist is not identified till very late in the second half, and by then we know too little about him, and there is not enough time left to paint a menacing picture.
However, where the movie does win over the audience is in its fearless sarcasm of all contemporary political events in Tamil Nadu. The movie has taken a swipe at almost everyone who has been in the news for the wrong reasons. People who watch the news closely will find many references to political personalities in this movie. The practice of paying obeisance to leaders, and many gimmicks we have been seeing over the years have been mocked at merrily. The ruling parties come in for special flak, and the team has also not backed off from taking a sly shot at leaders from the 60s and 70s! All those scenes vibe well with the audiences, the auditorium rings with applause at each such instance.
Vijay Devarakonda holds NOTA firmly on his young shoulders. It is perhaps for the first time that an actor has become a star before his first movie releases. Going by the response in theaters for his introduction, one could hardly believe that he was making his debut in Tamil. Not even Mahesh Babu could elicit such a response when he did his first straight Tamil movie. The impact of Arjun Reddy in making Vijay Devarakonda a pan-South Indian star can be gauged easily by the reception NOTA is getting. He has intense eyes, and is able to convey the anger and righteousness that are so important for the character. His dialogue delivery, lip sync and Tamil accent show that he has put in some serious effort.
One does not understand the whole point of the flashback involving Nasser and Sathyaraj. Nasser looks funny in the 70s style wig. And, the pent up animosity between the two men is with good reason. But, what significance does it hold in the central plot, one wonders? Is Sathyaraj’s character inspired from Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series? Anyway, the time spent on the laborious flashback could have been avoided. However, Nasser and Sathyaraj, the experienced artistes that they are, pull off their roles with conviction. Nasser in particular gets some scenes where he stamps his authority. His prosthetic make up in the second half needed a lot of care which was unfortunately not available and the lack of continuity between shots is glaring. The same can be said of the cut on MS Bhaskar’s forehead, which magically seems to change in size and depth in every shot. Poor attention to detail!
NOTA never lets you sit back and yawn. Even though there are quite a few bits of the movie that could have been trimmed, there is never an extended portion where you feel disinterested. A part of that credit goes to the editor Raymond Derrick. Also, the decision to minimize songs, just two, has served the movie well. Sam CS’s BGM keeps the tempo lively. The writers’ decision to completely do away with a romance track is another pleasant surprise. They have also resisted the temptation to end the movie with the customary fight scene. NOTA will also be remembered for a few strong dialogues that are sprinkled along the way, no preaching or moral posturing though!
NOTA makes you dream that Utopian dream once again. The convincing performance of Vijay Devarakonda keeps the movie taut. Yes, there are many portions that could have been changed, trimmed or done away with, but NOTA still remains a watchable political drama devoid of many cliché commercial elements.
TalksOfCinema Verdict : NOTA can be given your vote of confidence!
TalksOfCinema Rating : 3/5
NOTA Movie Review