The film, despite its follies, is largely watchable due to the performances, cinematography and the music
Sarkaaru Noukari Story
Satya gets married to an orphan Gopal, a government-job holder, after a long wait to choose the right bridegroom. Gopal is a health promoter entrusted with the AIDS awareness campaign in the village. However, the locals mock him for his profession and the couple is gradually deserted by the village. When asked to choose between marriage and his job, what’ll Gopal pick?
Sarkaaru Noukari Review
Cinematographer-director Ganganamoni Shekar, who helmed Panchatantra Kathalu, treads the ‘Ayushmann Khurana’ route with his sophomore directorial revolving around the AIDS awareness campaign set in the 1990s. Sarkaaru Naukari tries to be an ‘awareness’ film and a slice-of-life relationship drama at once, but the writing isn’t witty enough to address a taboo.
The filmmaker draws you into his simplistic universe with relative ease, as the orphan Gopal and Satya’s worlds come together. A lake separates Gopal’s house from Satya’s, all that the latter’s parents need is an alliance with a government job holder. There’s a nervous energy about the new chapter in their lives, while they try to find happiness within their ordinary yet secure existence.
The visual poetry through natural light, exploring the raw tension between the newly wed couple, is a warm throwback to (the rustic charm in) Bapu’s films like Muthyala Muggu or a Gorantha Deepam. Their newfound ‘togetherness’ is charmingly explored through Nee Pasupu Paadale, a melody with an undeniable old-world charm.
Gopal has a friend Shiva and the latter’s lady love is suggestively named Ganga, who’s the happiest while playing around with lotuses in a lake, as she dreams of their marriage. There’s a good-for-nothing sarpanch, his sarcastic sidekick, a gossipy neighbour, a determined teacher while a few aimless men gamble, find happiness ‘beyond’ their marriages.
Sarkaaru Noukari’s problems begin when it tries to establish Gopal’s daily routine. The comedy is largely insult-driven, his superior won’t even touch the box of condoms (Nirodh) that he needs to distribute across households. Children make balloons out of it, Gopal is nicknamed ‘buggalodu’ and receives a mouthful whenever he tries to justify the use of a condom.
While the director attempts to say that Gopal is committed to his profession, the screenplay lacks enough conviction to suggest it. He hands out a condom to a man who’s making out with a woman behind the bushes, drives away a customer from a barber for ‘preaching’ about hygiene - the coincidences aren’t organically weaved into the narrative and the storytelling lacks imagination.
Soon, the conservatism around Gopal’s profession has ramifications in his household too. As long as the filmmaker sticks to the tension in Gopal and Satya’s marriage, the drama, though old-fashioned, is absorbing. The entire abortion subplot is needlessly exaggerated though. And the film needed to focus more on lending an identity to other characters beyond the couple.
Even as the proceedings are gripping in the latter hour, the events lack a strong emotional foundation. The unexpected tragedies, suicides, the drama around the stigma, ostracisation from the village don’t affect you enough. Despite compelling performances, the treatment of the subject is dated.
While dealing with the AIDS campaign and the stigma, the messaging is too direct, leaving very little for imagination. It’s simplistically addressed as the mysterious ‘pedda rogam’ with no cure and one that results in death. A timely twist in the climax and the unconventional packaging of the protagonist’s flashback within the screenplay help the film end on an optimistic note.
Ganganamoni Shekar’s cinematography does a lot to capture the visual drama within the backdrop using smart metaphors through nature, the common-manly ‘cycle’ to drive the plot forward. There’s little to complain about Sandilya Peesapati’s songs - Nee Pasupu Paadale, Neella Baayi and the catchy promo song have genuine repeat value.
Suresh Bobbili continues to assert his authority as a rural drama specialist as his music score seamlessly integrates with the narrative. The casting decisions are top notch - from the measured Akash Goparaju to the explosive Bhavana Vazhapandal, the gentle, warm screen presence of Madhu Latha and Mahaadev besides the inimitable versatility of Tanikella Bharani.
Akash is at ease with the low-stakes drama, though his apprehensions are evident when he has to do the sermonising, delivering bombastic speeches. There are inconsistencies within the slang - alternating between Telangana and urban Telugu accents. The real surprise package is Bhavana, capturing Satya’s inner turmoil as she deals with a stubborn partner.
The supporting cast - comprising Sahiti Dasari, Sammeta Gandhi, Sai Srinivas, Sudhakar Reddy, Mani Chandana and others - needed more well-defined characters, but are impressive while they last. Ganganamoni Shekar shows vast improvement as a storyteller in comparison to Panchatantra Kathalu. Provided he works more on his dramatic sensibilities and writing, he’s here to stay.
Sarkaaru Noukari verdict
Sarkaaru Naukari, a drama exploring the tension between a couple while dealing with a social stigma in the 90s, is only partly intriguing. The humour isn’t quite clever, the drama isn’t always arresting even as the compelling performances, cinematography and the music nearly salvage the film.