Making a biopic is a tricky proposition. The biggest till date is Sanju and while the film emerged as an all time blockbuster, there were also accusations around it being a biased affair. Then of course there is M.S. Dhoni – The Untold Story which was a well made sports drama but had some of the facts left out. So unless its a web series where there is plenty of time to tell a story with all the ingredients, there will always be a compromise around what to say and what to leave out.
Same happens with Vijay directed Thalaivii as well where even though the running length is two and a half hours, what you primarily get to see is Late Jayalalitha’s rise from being an actress to a politician with the entire first half’s focus on her romantic liaison with MGR (named as MJR here). When Kangana says, “Who doesn’t love MJR?”, it is reminiscent of Rekha’s confession for Big B with the exact same line said by her many years ago at the Simi Grewal show.
It’s no coincidence then that Jayalalitha had in fact appeared on the lady’s show long time back and opened up to a large extent. Though that episode from her life has been chalked out of Thalaivii (just like many other incidents), what you do realise is that the film is predominantly the story of a woman who has to fight her way into the man’s world, both when it came to cinema as well as politics.
So be it heroines brought in and removed at the whim of a hero to being in & out of the political circles due to the relationship of convenience, Thalaivii does make a statement on patriarchy that existed especially in the 60s and the 70s. The opening scene of the film itself establishes that loud and clear in the volatile turn of events and while it comes way too soon for comfort, one expects the drama to continue from here on. However, it’s like a Lamborghini pacing out well from the showroom at its elegant best, only to struggle making its way through the street full of potholes.
So while there are scenes where the dramatic quotient stays on to be well, especially with Arvind Swamy’s (playing MJR) Man Friday Raj Arjun manipulating anything and everything that comes in the way of his master, the numerous scenes at the fake 60s style movie sets act as potholes. Also, some of the scenes are erratically placed, be it a shootout that takes place at MJR’s house or the track featuring Bhagyashree, who plays Kangana Ranaut’s mother and in fact looks as young as her (not her fault though).
Post the intermission point though, the film turns out to be a political drama and things start looking better and better. The highlight is the scene at the parliament when Kangana puts the plight of Tamil Nadu people in the presence of Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and later when the power shift happens in the corridors of the government. Especially with Late Rajiv Gandhi coming on the scene as well, things turns truly exciting.
That said, how one wishes that the confrontation between Jayalalitha and ex-Chief Minister Karunanidhi had been spiced up further with more ‘masala’. Here it is relegated to a few campaigns but then if newspaper headlines from the past are anything to go by, there was a lot more that could have been explored. The last scene is a cracker though, even though it’s a bit sudden and abruptly concludes the film. However, the point is made well.
Kangana Ranaut too makes a good point around her being one of the most reliable actresses around. She comes with a very good act, especially in the part of a politician who learns a trick or two in her way up. As for her younger avtar as an actress, she reminds one of her act in another period drama, Rangoon. Arvind Swamy deserves 10 out of 10 for the way he approaches the character of MJR. He gets the look, walk and the mannerisms perfectly right and is unrecognisable after the first 5-10 minutes. Raj Arjun is good again after Sherahaah, though his characterisation is totally one note except for the last 10 minutes. A bit of a variation would have helped. Nasser is wasted as one expects more histrionics from him.
All on all, Thalaivii too is good movie though again more histrionics in the playing time of two and a half hours would have helped. This is a kind if film which makes for the best watch in a packed theatre.