Raju Murugan’s Joker is a political satire, starring Guru Somasundaram, along with debutante actresses Ramya Pandian and Gayathri Krishna.
Set in a remote village Dharmapuri, Raju Murugan’s Joker is about the mental deterioration of a middle-aged man, Mannar Mannan, played by Guru Somasundaram. When the film begins, he appears to suffer from something akin to dementia. He walks around as a self-proclaimed “People’s President,” voraciously fighting for social justice, even when his actions border on self-destruction. The film explores the changes in a person’s psyche, when even basic amenities like sanitation are denied.
At first, we see Mannar Mannan, the simple-minded factory worker, who is in love with Maliga (Ramya Pandian). When he asks her to marry him, she agrees, but on one condition: he has to build a toilet in his house. After installing a makeshift toilet together, they get married.
Meanwhile, due to what is initially perceived as a fortuitous turn of events, the government decides to build a toilet in their house, as part of a ‘free toilets for all’ scheme. But, due to technicalities, the plan is abandoned midway. One day, the half-built toilet crumbles on Maliga, and puts her in a vegetative state. A shattered Mannar succumbs to depression. Eventually, he files a petition for euthanasia to end his wife’s misery.
The opening scenes are suffused with a sense of absurdity. Guru Somasundaram, clad in a worn out jacket and pants, rides around on his moped, calling himself the President. Some indulge him kindly, some dismiss him as a fool. He has been taught that if you don’t get something, you need to take power into your own hands, So, he appoints himself the President of India. At first, when he repeatedly threatens to let loose the Bhagath Singh inside him, it’s funny.
As we wait for the film to explain his bizarre behaviour, things escalate. Mannar tries to murder a man who has escaped conviction. This is the scene that cements the fact that Mannar is actually suffering from a mental disorder.
Guru Somasundaram beautifully captures the essence of a young man content in his own bubble. When in love, his innocence and devotion are heartwarming. The romance between the lead pair is one of the highlights of the movie, done so well that their exchanges feel like a slice of real-life.
Whether he’s offering to get free liquor at the election rally for his partner, or desperately crying for someone to help him with his wife, Guru Somasundaram’s acting draws the audience into appreciation over his victory, and anger at his helplessness.
Full of innuendo, Joker takes a witty and realistic stand on politics and corruption. Several scenes depict the ministers’ gaudy and farcical show of loyalty, the freebie culture in politics, and the media’s obsession with sensationalism. Joker has the audience cheering in agreement.
Bhava Chelladurai, who plays Guru Somasundaram’s friend, captures the anguish of a man who once had great ideals but eventually succumbed to alcoholism because of his inability to make a difference in society. Veteran theatre artist Mu Ramaswamy Aiyya nails his role as a social activist. At the end of the film, the devastated activist delivers an impassioned epilogue, voicing his concern for the status quo; about how we live in an era where there is respect for money and indifference for human lives.
Joker is that kind of movie. It leaves you sombre, and full of wonder at the horrors we tolerate.
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