Language : Tamil | Running Time : 183 Minutes | Director : A.L Vijay
The last time I went to watch a Vijay movie in the theater was Thuppaki, which was a film I liked. The one I watched before that was Ghilli. The rest I’ve had the good sense and good fortune to avoid watching in the theater. “Ilaya Thalapathy” Vijay is back in action with Thalaivaa. After a successful and not the usual fans movie in Thuppaki, Vijay has come back with Thaliavaa and directing him this time is A.L Vijay.
As I finished watching the trailer of the movie when it first came out, the only thing I didn’t want it to be was to try to follow The Godfather when it came to making Vijay’s character and my worst fears where confirmed as the movie settled down after a prelude that starts off as an interesting one that sets the beaten path of ages old. When an old helpful Mafiosi dies, his people are targeted and there’s a rise of a new godfather. Circumstances make sure that his son has to leave him and live abroad, brought up by a man who decides to leave the underworld behind. A prelude that started off well but the way it sets up things for the rest of the film, it is obvious that the movie is going to look like a rip off of better made crime films and in one scene, even an idea that was most recently used in Ameerin Aadhi Bhagwan.
When are we going to move away from movies that don’t have that hero introduction song where the hero dances in front of a 100 people and is appreciated by everyone? When, specifically, will Vijay stop catering to his fans when it comes to this need to exhibit his dancing skills with a song in the very scene he is being introduced? After the prelude, when you have a dance sequence come up, you are taken away from the proceedings. I understand that it is one of the travails of making commercial cinema and that too with a hero whose fan following expects that dance sequence where they’d outdo the hooters of a factory but I hope we can move on from this practice. The movie shifts to Australia from Mumbai (prelude sequence) and we meet Santhanam, a man who has been the saviour of many a Tamil movie of late. Such is his stature right now that he received a rapturous welcome on screen, an almost equal to Vijay’s reception and I was sitting in a theater filled to its brim with Vijay fans.He works in Vishwa’s (Vijay) bottling plant and supplies water can and bottles in Sydney. To make that introductory dance sequence work in the movie and to have one of the better shot scenes in the movie, we learn that the factory also acts as a dance studio.
In Australia, the film’s love angle is developed. Amala Paul can make Deepika Padukone run for cover, She looks great and emotes quite well. She has done better films and hopefully, she gets to do better films. In another sequence where Vijay gets to exhibit his dance skills well, one of the films better shots is visible to us. As an incapacitated Meera (Amala Paul) and Vishwa dance, we witness one very well choreographed scene. Again, commercial cinema demands it and if it is well choreographed and not an eyesore, so be it.
I’ve always wondered why every movie about gangsters or people above the law has to bear resemblance to The Godfather or Nayagan. There is a scene where a lawyer (Y Gee Mahendra) comes to Anna (Sathyaraj) asking him to mete out justice to a man who has raped a girl who works in his household. Cue in scene from Nayagan where top honcho from the police comes to Velu Naicker (Kamal Haasan) asking him to mete about justice to his daughter, which is a scene from The Godfather but actually better done, if I may say so. It is rather surprising and difficult to chew that we are still having similar scenes being developed with rather no inventiveness. Sathyaraj plays his role with a straight face and a stiff back that only a man so sure about himself can do. He has had two Eid releases and if trade news is anything to go by, he is part of two mediocre films, not that it is anything new to him but an actor of his stature could do better. I didn’t think people would actually end up using plot elements from Ameerin Aadhi Bhagwan. The heroine betrayal sequence was one of the nice twists that the movie had in store and Thalaivaa makes use of the twist to telling effect with one of the premier pyro sequences in the movie. What is a masala movie without pyrotechnics?
It is not out of wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps that Vishwa becomes “Thalaivaa” in this film but like the template that has been set by The Godfather and Thevar Magan, the true Indian remake of The Godfather, it is circumstances that have lead him to taking up the mantle. I wonder if the template set by The Godfather will ever be emulated. The more and more I see the template being used, the more and more is the love I have for The Godfather. Films are still drawing from it and don’t have the decency to try and be more adventurous or at least pay homage by getting it right.
We aren’t satisfied with just one twist in the film nowadays. We are looking for twists before the intermission and one in the climax. So, we have one before the interval which is accompanied with the pyrotechnics and another one that happens before the climax fight sequence. The former one would come across as a surprise to most but the latter one is a time and tested plot element that you can spot it in the very first minutes of the movie. Abhimanyu Singh as Bhima bhai has good screen presence but apart from that there is nothing really interesting about his character. Come to think of it, apart from his motive for revenge, there is nothing about him. One of the reasons I liked Thuppaki was because it had an interesting villain. An interesting and intelligent villain can go a long way into making a film interesting and there is a parallel man hunt sequence when we see Bhima and Vishwa pitted against each other. It is one of the rare sequences of film which was quite exhilarating and interesting.
Is there some unwritten natural order that anyone who is into serving the public has to don white shaded shirts? “Color sattai pota naa nalavan illiya?” If I wear coloured clothes, am I not a good person? From a fashionable young man(sic.), Vijay transforms into a white shirt – blue jeans wearing Vishwa bhai in the second half of the movie. Why am I bringing up this cliché forward when there are millions of other clichés in the film? It is because this is one of those things that will be rarely addressed in any other forum. Film makers have so blindly gone ahead and used this cliché in every film about a man serving the public. They change their clothes. The coloured clothes vanish and the man is attired in white as if only the shade of white will symbolise that the man is doing a good job. Is this also a travail of commercial cinema that is unavoidable? I wonder why we haven’t done away with the cliché yet.
Vijay has certainly grown as an actor in his last two releases. The hamming comedy sequences have gone down quite a bit and even those red eyes, I am going to beat up a man 2 times my size with one shot look has gotten more controlled. He is starting to look more suave on screen. It goes a long way in making you look like a top man in the intelligence division or as a man building a legacy as a good natured Don. There isn’t that over dose of crying as his dad dies but he is more controlled and more mature in the way he shows that sadness. He is no Kamal Haasan or Dhanush to hold a close up but he is certainly not the same actor he was a couple of years back.
Nirav Shah lights up Mumbai quite well. The night sequences are particularly well shot. The focus is more on lighting the scenes and capturing the angles than capturing the landscape and in that way, he tries to make us focus on the characters but with no character development in place but are more like mere scarecrows that have the a body and clothes to boast of. Ponvannan is underutilised in the film and it is no surprise the way his actions turn out, it is expected and there’s no real drama in the way his character plays out. It isn’t his fault, he does a good job with all the limitations in the way the character is written but you wish his character had more meat in it. A.L Vijay has always managed to handle romance with soft hands and it is no different here. The romance between Amala Paul and Vijay’s characters is very well highlighted and he definitely has shown some promise in the action sequences but I believe he still has a long way to go. The run time is something that could have been made less than the 183 minutes it has run up to. Some of the sequences in Australia could have been limited and we would have had a film that would have been more bearable than it what turned out to be.
Thalaivaa is more of a averagely done homage film to all the films it has drawn inspiration from and rarely comes out as something original. It will be lauded by Vijay fans, because it is their Thaliavaa’s film but if you are looking forward to an intelligent entertainer, you are going to end up disappointed. It is a commercial entertainer which has the 5 songs, one hero introduction song, one romance song, the father – son sentiment, romance, Santhanam‘s comedy track and herogiri on the hero’s part. What else does a commercial entertainer need? Some entertainment and some intelligence, I say.