An aspiring politician uses all the crooks to become a low-level party worker, eventually heading his way up the stairs of political hierarchy. Just when he thinks he begins to live his dream life, which sees no harm in corruption for political and personal gains, an incident sparks up an alter ego within him who is an exactly opposite persona, an anti-thesis of his character.
Tughlaq Durbar is a dramedy that gives you this revitalized taste of the old Jekyll/Hyde lore set in the political chaos of Tamil Nadu.
Directed by Delhi Prasad Deenadayalan, Tughlaq Durbar puts on a great show, powered by appreciable performances from duo Vijay Sethupati and Parthiban. Though the film’s premise promises a captivating satire and a deeper look into the corrupt politics and how it could be opposed, it is rather rendered as a comedy entertainer. It’s not like that it does not make a statement (it has a hard-hitting climax), it’s just that the statement remains a bit unexplored and incomplete as it keeps on making all elements comedic for audiences’ sake, making Tughlaq Durbar a hard try in vain.
Storyline and Character sketches of Tughlaq Durbar
The story’s lead protagonist is Singar Velan aka Singam (Vijay Sethupati) who has been raised by the residents of his locality along with his sister, Manimegalai (Manjima Mohan). Over the years, he has made peace with a fact that only the rich and powerful are valued in this world and hence aspires to join his idol, Rayappan (Parthiban) in politics and serve his gains.
However, on an occasion, Singam, who has climbed up the ladder to remain in his idol’s eyes and presence, meets a funny accident that causes his brain to create an alter ego within himself. This split-personality, when takes control, brings out an honest, caring, and selfless Singam. What then follows is a fun-filled and full-of-laughter narrative, wherein, Singam tries to get elected in his constituency while trying to suppress this honest politician within himself and win applause from Rayappan.
Tughlaq Durbar’s Satire on Indian Politics
The film delves into the thought that what could happen if political leaders developed a conscience that force them to devote their resources and time to the people. While Singam is an embodiment of breeding corruption in Indian politics that promotes corporate and monetary growth over social development, his alter ego represents the anger and frustration of common people over the administration’s continuous failure to mend even the smallest of loops and gaps. This kind of narrative calls for a more serious tone, but the writers are able to perfectly balance this ordeal with comedic satire.
The dialogues in the film are well-written to support the intended puns on politics and Vijay does a good job making them sound both funny and impactful. The film leaves those remarks and puns there and then, with no further exploration of their sense and meaning, which essentially makes the movie more of a one-time entertainer.
The Use of Comedy
The film uses situational comedy, putting Singam in battle with his newfound conscience in dire situations where his “career goals” need him to butter up to Rayappan and the party’s corrupt motives. These situations turn into some of the best hilarious sequences that could cause a laughter riot, keeping the audience in the loop.
For instance, when Singam has to deliver a speech, his alter ego twists the words to defame Rayappan, much to his horror.
He’s barely able to save the day at the last moment when he regains senses and control over himself.
The film’s writing and editing aspects have been executed well, which makes this transition between the “good” and the “bad” personalities surprising and unexpected, and hence, helps the film not lose its grip on its message. Vijay Sethupati also makes these transitions subtle and lighthearted, creating a bit of suspense concerning the progress of the story.
The Lack of Character Development
The first of the issues with Tughlaq Durbar is that it never delves deep into the second persona of Singam. The audience mostly watches the film through the bad side of the character and despite that, his alter ego is introduced as a turning point in his character’s progress in the movie and is hinted at as the film’s true hero, there are just a very few sequences where we see this persona of Singam taking command on-screen.
This distorts the understanding of the intended satirical dialogues as well as reduces the story’s balance with its two blended genres. The film takes too much time exploring the corrupt and selfish side of Singam that it has got no room to dig into this anti-thesis of his character which we are introduced to. There are moments when it feels that the other guy is slowly retaking the film; however, none of them goes full throttle, leaving this film which has a great cast and story potential mostly feather-weighted. And since the film leaves the very personality that makes impactful political remarks at the side, it also gets wittier due to its trademark humor and less metaphorical.
Lacking Depth In Its Narrative
There are tonnes of remarks that the film’s protagonist is outspoken about which could have a lasting impact if explored, but the filmmaker keeps them blind. There are talks of extortion, land grabs, and corporate greed within politics, but the film does not take time to delve into any of the issues, which doesn’t justify its satire. In order to keep it amusing and entertaining, the film hardly lampoons on these aspects and uses them to make puns and comedic remarks instead of inducing them into the main plot. That’s the reason that the film seems far-sighted and incomplete as it ends and leaves us with an unsatisfactory conclusion.
The film tries making some strong statements and establishes an entirely different context of its plot before it dilutes itself with humor and laughs.
Tughlaq Durbar is engaging and worth a watch; mostly for Partibhan and Vijay; however, seeing it getting on the right path and suddenly going down a different route takes out the political thought from it.
Tughlaq Durbar is available to stream on Netflix.Internet Explorer Channel Network