Friday, June 15, 2007

Sivaji: Review

wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwThe Emperor Strikes Back!

Despite being a hard-core Rajni fan, I am trying my best to give you an objective review.

First things first, this movie is a gift for hard core Rajni fans: dollops of humour(tons of nakkal), oodles of style, well choreographed stunt scenes and the magnetic on-screen persona that truly reminds you of the effervescence of a Billa-Ranga-Baasha-Rajni. But what it doesn't have is a story, and that's probably the weakest link in a "could-have been" very strong chain.

Sivaji is probably the first Tamil movie that has kicked up quite a frenzy in the national media. I have never ever seen a Tamil movie-release being mentioned ahead of the presidential candidate on the headlines of every major news network. The Indian media devotes time to news items with a good "stickiness" quotient in order to cash in on all those eye balls that are either hungrily waiting to lap up thalaivar or itching to make that smart-ass comment. And, only Brand Rajni allows you to do that. I am in no way slighting the A-list of technicians, director, music director and producer who have joined hands with Rajni, but I guess in the end the one person who can sustain your interest is Rajni. I think a creatively bankrupt Shankar realized this quite early into his beaten to death script of cleansing the Indian system. Although, credit is due for amplifying thalaivar's "Style" quotient to never-seen-before levels. Rajni, despite his age and the constant doubts of whether he can do it again, delivers, correction, delivers BIG TIME.

The S-U-P-E-R-S-T-A-R - R-A-J-N-I lettering appears on the screen with a new and improved BGM track from A.R. Rehman, which I thought was pretty cool. Sivaji doesn't have the characteristic "cracker" opening that you expect from a Rajni-film. It's pretty sedate where a masked Rajni is brought to the central prison. I think Shankar was trying to build-up the viewers expectation and make him anticipate how the man behind the mask is going to look like since his last release. You know, like unveiling a work of art. But, I must say that it falls flat. An understated opening is not Rajni's style and thankfully that’s the only mistake that Shankar has done while showcasing Rajni for his millions of fans. So what has made thalaivar to land in prison? That constitutes the next 140 minutes of the film.

Sivaji (Rajni), a green card holder and a software systems architect in the United States returns to Chennai to invest his savings of 200 crores for the last 20 odd years to build a foundation that provides free education and medical facilities. He is ably assisted by his young Amma-Thambi (when conventionally addressed thaimaman) Vivek. Vivek also takes the additional responsibility of getting Rajni hooked up with a girl of Rajni's tastes, surprise- surprise, a good tamil ponnu! The first half is quite mundane where the story goes through the motions. And, you know what, its like football!

First pass – Rajni and Vivek play the comic-duo act while wooing an irresistable Shriya (she has set the screen on fire in the song sequences) who works as a sales girl in a music shop. The comedy is really good when its just Rajni and Vivek, but it gets rather staid when its ensemble. Especially the sequence with Solomon Pappiah and patti mandram-fame Raja who plays Sivaji's dad. Ballelakka is quite average, nothing to write home about. Rajni's dance movements in the songs are straight out of an aerobics class. Thotta Tharani and Shankar have the Andan Kaaka hangover from Anniyan. But he more than makes up for it with the "style" song. It is shot well and I thought that will be the highlight of the film until I saw athiradee in the second half. *pure dynamite* Ok, no more digressing, back to the first half.

Second Pass – Rajni bribing all the politicians and removing all the obstacles that comes his way to build the foundation; Rajni getting shocked with the rampant corruption in the system and so on and so forth. The bar scene where M.S Bhaskar, Vivek and Rajni meet to discuss 'business' is quite funny. There is this fight sequence in the music shop where I guess the motive was to use music instruments as props and communicate subtle humor ala Jackie Chan. Bad Idea!

Third Pass – Rajni's mini showdowns with Adhiseshan (Suman) a greedy educationist who wants to stop Rajni at any cost even if it requires him to change the government 'just-like-that'. Suman is suave as the villain but I don't think he can hold a candle to Ramyakrishnan (Padayappa) or Sathyaraj (Mr. Bharath).

So the scenes in the first half unfolds just like a football match. First pass- second pass-third pass, Goal? Nope! It clearly misses the mark. Shankar is not able to present it cohesively. There are not many punch dialogues, although Vivek gets a to mouth cheeky one-liners (especially his take on the young wannabe superstar heroes). It works in parts mainly because of the comedy but does not flow seamlessly like it ought to considering the fact that Shankar is the director.

At the end of the first half Rajni is broke and is brought to the streets. Adhiseshan mocks him and encourges thalaivar to take-up begging as a profession by donating him a one rupee coin (gets the desired effect, fans start booing the villain *chuckle*, only Rajni can make people so involved). Rajni tosses the coin in the air, if its heads he is going to unleash the lion in him (singha vazhi) and if its tails poo vazhi. No prizes for guessing, singha vazhi it is! And at this point you get to hear the punch dialogue "summa adhuridhila" which you would have seen on the trailers. So that sets up the second half, how does thalaivar turn around the tables?

During the interval, I was a little worried. I was cursing Shankar and felt that Rajni should have said yes to Mudhalvan. Lot of thoughts were running through my head. The scenes before interval certainly upped the ante but it still was pretty uninspiring. Could this go the Baba-way? With a heavy heart I settled back into the seat readying myself for the worst and praying for the best.

The second half is far-fetched, illogical and one-dimensional. And that dimension is Rajni who is smoking hot. He oozes charisma in every single frame that he keeps you yearning for more. Shankar has gone over-the-top by coming up with some ridiculous and impractical ideas to cleanse the system. The issue he wants to tackle here is unaccounted black money and how it can help India to transform into a model state. Shankar, please, you are no Manmohan Singh or P. Chidambaram to dabble into "Black-Economy" for a whole 90 minutes and present your master-thesis in setting things right. Stop dumbing-down issues that are beyond you to make it palatable to the masses. Phew! Now with that said lets get back to Thalaivar. Rajni and Vivek are on a mission to bring out all the black money in the country. How they do it? Don't ask they somehow do it. Their plan is to get a 50 percent share of all the black money that bigwigs haven't disclosed. They adopt Shankar's ingenious method of converting black money to white and pump it back into their "Sivaji-Foundation" project. So all the duped politicians and other biggies including Adi seek revenge. They somehow seize Rajni's laptop that contains his financial transactions and put him in prison. Post-which there is a silly twist in the climax, which will make the purists wince. But what it does is extend the climax and bring the uber-cool mottai Rajni to the silver screen. I think Shankar saw what the lakka lakka mouthing king-Rajni could do to Chandramukhi. So he has aped the concept to heighten the tempo of the film. It works well especially the matrix style stunt scenes with mottai-boss Rajni in the climax. Rajni's mogambo-like mottai getup will make the ticket price worth it. Don't dismiss this as a fan-boy observation. This is something that needs to be seen, to be believed.

The things that work in the second half are plenty. The bajji-kadai scene where Rajni offers Adi a bajji is coool. Rajni makes a new style statement by flipping the one rupee coin sideways. The action sequence with Adi's men in the godown is brilliant. Adi's men lecture Rajni about the perils of coming solo into the villain's den. And Rajni's repartee brings the house down, " Panni-nga dhaan kootama varum *pause- dishum dishum* , Singham single-aaa dhaan varum." Rajni also does an impersonation of MGR, Sivaji and Kamal songs which is rip-roaring. Rajni imitating somebody, hmmmm he doesn't do that very often, and so it was quite novel and enticing. The picturization of the songs in the second half are brilliant. Thotta Tharani should be commended for the sets of the Sahana Pookal song. Recreating a glass model of the louvre and a spherical dome, with a desert on one side of the glass panel and a waterfall on the other is no mean feat. And the song Adhiradee is a visual treat, I think this is something that will be talked about for ages. So, like muqabla from kaadhalan, Shankar packages a mini-movie in this 4 and a half-minute song that keeps your adrenaline pumping. Bravo!

Well, net-net, I know the story is pretty lame. But who gives a flying duck for logic in a Rajni movie. I thought Shankar might for a change, but he hasn't. So its one scoop less in what could have ideally been triple scoop chocolate sundae with a cherry on the top. Anyway its summer and I am thrilled that I got my ice cream!


Blogger ratna said...

This is one honest review i read on...Don"t look for logic n enjoy...That is the only way to watch a super star..yeah,, i agree with you..are sidermans and mummies logical?,..BTW. where is your appan?

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your review is tempting me to go & see the movie.
Where is your appan?

4:30 AM  
Blogger Partha said...

hehe.. mchi.. almost seems like we talked to each other before writing the reviews :D.. I mean the overall image of the movie in our perspectives....

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
you don't know me and i don't know you...pretty sad i know, but for somebody's sake proceed with the appan story.
everytime i visit your blog , its making me lose hope.
please i beg.

is this you want?

2:23 PM  
Blogger pbzeppelin said...

hey - just read ur appan parts 1 - 3. In splits. when is the next installment due? waiting...

5:32 AM  
Anonymous raja said...

appan is happily married and has no time for blogs

5:17 AM  

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