The market for political dramas is seething in Tamil cinema. Director S R Prabhakaran moves in at the right time to cash in on the trend. Sengalam is about an influential politician who is on a hunt to zero in on a right candidate for the upcoming municipal chairman election in his town, and the treacheries of people who desire to contest the election. Actress Vani Bhojan who was last seen as a female lead in the slasher film Miral is back on screens with her political thriller web series titled Sengalam in which she has essayed the lead role. Actor Kalaiyarasan has played a vital role in the drama. So, how has the political thriller web series Sengalam come out? Will it help establish a bankable lead heroine image for actress Vani Bhojan, and be a good break for actor Kalaiyarasan? To know that let us get into the series review.
Sengalam is set at the backdrop of Virudhunagar district where it follows the life of Sivanyanam (Sharath Lohithaswa), a shrewd politician from a political family that has kept the chairman’s post of the district admiration within their family for nearly four decades. He has two sons Rajamanickam (Pawan), the incumbent chairman, Natesan (Prem Kumar), an aspiring businessman, and a daughter Maragatham (Pooja Vaidyanath). Rajamanickam is equally astute as his father, and always has an eye not just on his adversaries but also on people close to him. His growing popularity and political moves to consolidate his control on the chairman’s position irks Ganesamoorthy (Vela Ramamoorthy), the sitting MLA of the constituency who has been waiting for the right moment to topple the family and bring the entire district admiration under his wing. In the meantime, Rajamanickam who has lost his wife opts to remarry. He weds Surya Kala (Vani Bhojan), daughter of an influential businessman.
Surya Kala is happy being a housewife and does not concern herself with politics. In one instance, Rajamanickam takes Surya Kala on a trip to Kodaikanal. In an unfortunate turn of events, they meet with an accident which claims the life of Rajamanickam. But Surya Kala survives sustaining few injuries. The chairman position is now open and everybody with the desire to attain it starts making their moves. Sivanyanam being a sharp politician casts aside the grieving period, and begins to contemplate on a candidate to field in the election. Surprisingly, Surya Kala also enters the race to become the chairwoman, and starts to pull strings on her own with the assistance of Naachiyar (Shali Nivekas) and Rayar (Kalaiyarasan). Who will Sivanyanam announce as his candidate, does Surya Kala stand a chance, or will she force his hand, is what makes the rest of the series.
After the likes of Amaidhi Padai back in 1994, Tamil audiences have not witnessed the actual devious nature of politics in movies much. To be fair, Tamil cinema does not hold a space for such dramas. But with time, everything changes. There is a breath of fresh air in Kollywood with a strong political relevance to it. An odor induced by story tellers Vetri Maran, Pa Ranjith, and Mari Selvaraj. On the pathway laid by them walks director S R Prabhakaran whose intent to draft such a storyline is laudable. He does his best to root Sengalam in reality as much as possible, if not completely. And that is the USP of the series. Another interesting idea is to have a woman as the central character of a turf that is touted to be as one that belongs to men. Not just that, the character transition of her character from an innocent housewife to an ambitious sly woman has also been framed well.
All the characters that drive the plot forward are painted with interesting layers. The style of narration to run two plots parallelly has paid off well. It aids in keeping the audience hooked. Even a tad more edginess in narrative could have done a lot of good. On the negative note, the series wanders off the flow here and there losing the pace of the proceedings. Staging of a few events is over dramatic and comes off quite odd. For instance, the hype and portrayal of election results and its consequences. After a point the series takes a predictable path that one does not even have to take to the slightest stress of having to think twice to sense where the next scene is heading. Sengalam did have in it the content to be a solid gory political thriller. But predictability kills the cat. Director S R Prabhakaran sort of teases us with season two in the cards with unanswered questions, and hints at who might have killed Rajamanickam.
Actress Vani Bhojan has got under the skin of her character and has brought it to life. She comfortably shoulders Surya Kala signifying her arrival inside the women centric drama domain. Actor Kalaiyarasan once again showcases his prowess as a performer. He demands our attention with his towering presence. Actor Sharath Lohithaswa pulls off his role effortlessly. Despite having limited screen time, veteran actress Viji Chandrasekhar makes a tremendous impact. For a debutant actress Shali Nivekas has bagged a meaty role. The actress, for her part, does complete justice to it. Actress Manasa Radhakrishnan lives up to her part. Veteran actor Vela Ramamoorthy with his menacing demeanor elevates his character. Actor Bagavathi Perumal serves the purpose for why he was brought on board. Actor Daniel Annie Pope is effective as usual. Actor Muthu Kumar is functional. Actors Arjai, Prem Kumar, Pawan, Gajaraj, and Pooja Vaidyanath have all chipped in and have done their part well. The rest of the cast has delivered what was asked of them.
On the technical front, Sengalam is a dearth of songs. But music director Dharan Kumar makes up for it with his pulsating background score that blends well with the mood of the series and elevates it to a different level. Cinematographer Vetrivel Mahendran has covered the entertainer from the best angles possible. His work stands out especially in capturing the tension throughout the drama and the rural background. Editor Biju V Don Bosco has put his scissor at the right spots to enhance the work of his colleague.
On the whole, storyteller S R Prabhakaran’s political dynamite Sengalam is loaded with absorbing political plotting and fine performances but predictability defects its fuse and turns it into an unexploded ordnance.
Sengalam is available for streaming on ZEE5 video OTT platform.