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Sardar: What Cobra could have been - a competently made spy thriller

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Having seen the teaser for PS Mithran’s latest release ‘Sardar’, I had braced myself  for a repeat viewing of ‘Cobra’ released earlier this Summer. The film’s star Karthi appears in multiple disguises and costumes - which was also Cobra’s primary marketing point - and I was overcome with flashbacks to rolling my eyes and sighing with the Vikram starrer. Thankfully, ‘Sardar’ is a better feature in almost every aspect. 

The story follows Vijay Prakash, a successful police officer famed for his social media presence displaying his triumphant acts to the public. His overly do-good nature is fuelled by an event from his past which continues to haunt him. Vijay Prakash finds himself embroiled in an international conspiracy, centred around the commodification of water. By following the simple James Bond template of ‘taking down the bad guy with evil intentions’, ‘Sardar’ immediately becomes a much more focused venture than ‘Cobra’, with clear goals and motivations for the characters. 

From the opening scenes, it is obvious the filmmaking is in safe hands. George C Williams’s cinematography is extremely competent (his work on 2014’s ‘Naanum Rowdy Thaan’ is stellar). A moving Dutch angle is used on two characters having a phone conversation, which heightens the artistry of a sequence of shots which could easily have been dull. The editing is very fluid, helping to tell the detailed plot smoothly. A flashback sequence revealing a sordid event is cleverly shot with a lower frame rate visualises the fragmentary recreation of memory and emphasises the sketchiness of the act. The film emotionally connects through well done parallels in the story and properly realised characters and their respective arcs. 

The best section of the film is the lightly-sepia-tinted flashback sequence which opens the second half of the film, where a sealed letter must be read without being discovered. Once again, the scenes involving missions in ‘Cobra’, pale in comparison to this, which seemed hastily thought out and executed. 

Karthi puts in a solid performance, appearing in his second spy role this year after the fantastic ‘Ponniyin Selvan.’ The rest of the supporting cast meet their due diligence, despite the heroines’ roles doing little other than provide mild distractions and meeting the requirement for a few romantic songs. It was a delight to see Laila back on the screen, and the child actor Rithvik who plays her son Timmy was the other highlight role. 

GV Prakash Kumar’s soundtrack left a lot to be desired, however. GVP’s film soundtracks are quite hit or miss, and most of the songs in ‘Sardar’ are forgettable - except for the ditty ‘Soraka Poove’, which features a strange yet catchy bridge/chorus. However, the visualisation of the song was too saccharine sweet for my taste. 

The film only falters with its adherence to Tamil commercial cinema trappings and sticking almost too sincerely to the James Bond spy template. Otherwise, the film performs well and is certainly watchable. 

I would recommend this film if you enjoyed ‘Cobra’. I received flak from a certain twitter user who claimed the review had been too harsh, and this film has responded on my behalf. Tamil cinema will improve only if we hold higher expectations for its output. 

Krishna’s rating: 3 stars


Official trailer for the film below.

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