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NGK Review: For the past few years, Suriya has found himself at crossroads. After demonstrating his box office pull in the late 2000s with films like Ayan and Singam, he has been trying hard to fit into scripts that serve both the actor and the star in him. While the films he did with new-age directors like Venkat Prabhu (Massu Engira Masilamani), Vikram K Kumar (24, inarguably, his best film this decade) and Vignesh ShivN (Thaanaa Serndha Koottam) did not work at the box office, even the ones with proven commercial filmmakers like Hari (Si3) and Lingusamy (Anjaan) haven’t had any impact. Which is why news of him collaborating with a unique filmmaker like Selvaraghavan felt both exciting and unnerving.

Unfortunately, their film, NGK, is a letdown, and doesn’t fulfill any of the promises it has on paper. But the fault, this time, squarely lies with the director than the star, who is the best thing in the film. As the titular NGK (Nanda Gopalan Kumaran), Suriya valiantly tries to inject life into a flaccid script that cannot if it wants to be a political wish-fulfillment fantasy like NOTA or a grounded political drama like Aayitha Ezhuthu that exposes the ‘system’ for what it is.

Much like he did with his gangster epic Pudhupettai, Selvaraghavan tries to construct NGK as the journey of an individual from the lower rungs in the system to the very top. But unlike in that film, he fails to give us engaging – and convincing – situations that chart this rise. We hardly feel any emotion when the highly educated organic farmer NGK is coerced into joining a political party. The scenes where he starts learning the ropes, as an underling to an MLA (Ilavarasu), come across as unintentional black comedy. And we don’t get how he manages to turn the tables against some of the most cunning politicians. We are simply asked to believe because he is an educated guy. The film’s tonal inconsistencies are jarring.

Selvaraghavan’s representation of the political set-up – as something that is mainly PR-driven – seems simplistic. The opponents that NGK has to cross to achieve his goal are generic, underwritten characters and are played by actors (Ponvannan and Devaraj) who lack the charisma to make them feel powerful.

Selvaraghavan even fails to give us solid female characters, something that he is known for. The characters of Sai Pallavi, as NGK’s wife Geetha, and Rakul Preet Singh, as a PR strategist with whom he enters into an extra-marital relationship, are the weakest links in the film. While the NGK-Geetha relationship seems farcical, the latter comes across as something that belongs in a different film. To make matters worse, we even get an out-of-nowhere song that increases our frustration.

If we end up enduring the two-and-a-half hours, it is mainly because of Suriya who gives it his all, acting the hell out during the actorly portions and playing to the gallery whenever he is required to turn on his charm.

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