With some films, you realise you are in for a torturous ride from the first shot. In others, a promising opening sequence makes you anticipate a joy ride. Sakuni falls in the second category. The opening sequence sets the stage for an engaging political drama, except that the film lets you down by meandering quite a bit before regaining steam and trying to deliver its goods in the latter half. But is it good enough? Without giving away the opening sequence, we’ll usher you into the story.

Kamala Krishnan (Karthi) arrives in Hyderabad to meet the railway minister and request him to withdraw a railway project that threatens to bring down his ancestral home, which now serves as a charity home, in his native town. The naïve Kamal or Kamala Krishnan is at the receiving end of the wicked political circus. He runs pillar to post, it dawns on him that no neta will help him since the chief minister (Prakash Raj) himself has sanctioned the project.

Bhoopati, who has made his way to the chief minister’s chair through sheer viciousness, has his eyes set on the kickbacks and nothing else. To teach him a lesson and in the process save his ancestral home, Kamal has to take on political might. He jumps into the fray, indirectly, by becoming a kingmaker. He backs the fiery idli-seller (yes, idli-seller) Radhika and without much ado makes her the corporator and eventually the Mayor. The battle has just begun. Kamala Krishnan turns calculative while still retaining his ideology of ‘politics for people’ and locks horns with Bhoopati.

Sakuni has the necessary elements that could have made for an edge-of-the-seat political drama. But the wavering, almost lazy first half is its undoing. The portions where Karthi seeks the help of his aunt (Roja) and falls in love with her daughter Sridevi (Pranitha) could have done with some editing. The Rajini-Kamal banter between Santhanam and Karthi loses its charm after the first few minutes. Add to that the needless cameos by Anushka Shetty and Andrea Jeremiah. When the film finally gets back on track and gnaws its way through the political zig-zaw puzzle, there is too much to be done in a short time that it ends up looking unbelievable. There are a few cleverly written sequences, especially the ones involving Nasser, that make you wish the film had more of these and had done away with the romantic duets. And where did Roja disappear after the first half?

Beyond its pitfalls, if Sakuni is watchable, the credit goes to fine performances that come from Karthi, Prakash Raj, Radhika and Kota Srinivasa Rao. Towards the final portions of the film, watch Karthi steal the thunder from his co-stars even in scenes where he has little to say. Prakash Raj proves yet again that he is a powerhouse performer. Actress Kiran Rathod makes a comeback in a supporting role. Pranitha pales in comparison with her talented co-stars. G.V. Prakash Kumar shines in his background score than the songs.

To draw an analogy within a similar genre, Sakuni could have been a cracker of a drama like Rangam (Ko in Tamil) but the ingenious sequences are few and far between.

SAKUNI

Cast: Karthi Sivakumar, Prakash Raj, Radhika, Kota Srinivasa Rao and Pranitha.

Direction: N. Shankar Dayal

Music: G.V. Prakash Kumar

Plot: An underdog turns a king maker and teaches a lesson or two to the netas.

Bottomline: Falls short of being a crackling political drama, but still worth a watch.