'Election' movie review: A laudable attempt at showcasing ground-level politics

'Election' lingers one step behind the raw and realistic filmmaking we witnessed in the director’s first film 'Seththumaan.'
'Election' movie poster
'Election' movie poster

It won’t be an overstatement to believe that the protagonist of 'Election', Natarasan is the grown-up version of Kumaresan, the boy from director Thamizh’s first film 'Seththumaan'. Kumaresan helplessly looks on as his grandfather dies due to a drunk duel between two caste Hindus, he does not understand what is going on. In 'Election', Kumaresan’s confusion is verbalized by Natarasan, when he says, “I don’t understand what is this politics about,” in more than one instance in the film.

Natarasan’s father (George Maryan) is someone who romanticises his grassroots position in a political party. He is sidelined after seeking a ticket from the party’s district secretary in Vellore. Heartbroken by this and other such incidents, Natarasan, who is an engineer by profession, emerges as an independent candidate in an upcoming election. The film begins as a son’s journey to redeem the pride of his father. However, Election, with its complex layers, is more than just its premise.

Watch out for some brilliant performances from Vijay Kumar, Dileepan, Pavel Navageethan, and George Maryan. The writing of 'Thamizh' and 'Azhagiya Periyavan' makes up for below-par performances. An incorrigibly poor performance could not be spotted even upon close scrutiny. The narration could have become a confusing mess if it was handled carelessly. However, the frayed familial ties between multiple families have been integrated well into the drama surrounding the election. Familiar themes like friends turning foes and vice versa, betrayal, change of allies, switching party loyalties, and gaining and losing of trust make a lot more sense with the interpersonal exchange and history that the characters share.

There are as many subplots about who one is to another, with the potential to pull us away from the central story. Thankfully, whenever a character loves, hates, trusts, kills, and saves someone in the film, they do it in order to stay afloat politically. Since every action carried out by characters has an underlying intention to keep his/her political career intact, our attention too stays intact.

Standing apart from other serious election thrillers that portray the lead as a virtuous, but helpless man looking to turn the tables through ballot, 'Election’s protagonist enters politics devoid of principles or knowledge. He is also a flawed candidate who believes greasing the voters’ hand would turn the mandate in his favour and does it. There is a constant indicator that he is a misfit in politics, not because he is evil incarnate but is gullible and can’t think beyond his family’s wellbeing.

Breaking stereotypes of an all-perfect hero in Tamil cinema, Natarasan learning what is politics throughout the run-time both brings the character close to reality and also makes for an interesting character arc. The character arcs of Navageethan and George Maryan are interesting as well. The particular scene where George Maryan lets go of his prestigious ‘katchi thundu’ gets a perfect placement.

Election doesn’t believe in one final do-or-die polling that could seal the fate of all. By displaying the under-the-table ‘understanding’ between two seemingly rival factions/parties, the film shows us the POV of politicians who trivialise polls. Such a realistic portrayal of politics is a healthy departure from films of this genre. However, this does not make Election a flawless film. The director could have exercised more attention to the level of detail in depicting the proceedings of the local body elections.

Barring a few campaigning scenes, the film fails to convey how it is conducted. Another shortcoming is that the film which unravels in the time span of 10 years, comes to life only during elections. Much water would have flown under the bridge in the meantime, but all characters react to what happens in the previous election only the next election as they seem to be in a pause mode until then. The songs and the background do not meet the standards set by Govind Vasantha’s earlier works.

Thamizh delivered a strong political statement in his first film 'Seththumaan'. 'Election' lingers one step behind the raw and realistic filmmaking we witnessed in the director’s first film. Election still manages to impress, as the director did not veer into anything outlandish in a desperation to go mainstream.

Director: Thamizh

Cast: Vijay Kumar, George Maryan, Vathikutchi Dileepan, Pavel Navageethan, Preethi Asrani

Rating : 3/5

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