Nota review: Vijay Deverakonda shines as millennial Rajiv Gandhi

Vijay Deverakonda, the most promising actor to emerge from Telugu cinema since Mahesh Babu, plays the scion of a political family in ‘Nota’ who finds himself sucked into the murky politics of India

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Subhash K Jha

We’ve seen  stars play the reluctant politician before. Ranbir Kapoor in Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti and Mahesh Babu in Bharat Ane Nenu were forced to take charge of their father’s political empire when a crisis beckoned them from their luxurious life abroad.

Vijay Deverakonda, 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.

Deverakonda 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 Deverakonda’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 Deverakonda’s minimalist performance.

His Varun, the reluctant CM, is not prone to fits of hysterical sermonising. 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 play-station.

And play, this playboy-politician certainly does. Even after designated the temporary CM he’s 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-maneuvering 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 car-blast with prosthesis that makes him look like an Egyptian mummy.

Aiyyo Amma!

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.

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