Thalaivii Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Arvind Swami, Raj Arjun, Nassar, Madhoo, Bhagyashree, Thambi Ramaiah, Poorna
Thalaivii Director: A.L. Vijay
Where to Watch: Theatres (except Maharashtra)
Bollywood has developed a strange fascination with biopics over the recent past. While the industry keeps churning them out like nobody's business, regardless who's demanding them or not, the truth is that very few are actually worthy enough to be remembered and fewer still take an unapologetically unbiased view at their subject. With the exception of The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Paan Singh Tomar,
Neerja, Sanju, Manjhi – The Mountain Man, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story and to some extent, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, most Bollywood biopics end up being uneven, dispirited renditions of their real-life topics at worst or hagiographies at best. Sadly, Thalaivii, the new Jayalalithaa biopic falls into both these categories, and only manages to be remotely watchable due to Kangana Ranaut, Arvind Swami and Raj Arjun's intense acts. So, are you excited about what to watch this weekend or what to watch this week and wondering whether Thalaivii is worth your time? Scroll down for my full Thalaivii review...
What's it about
Thalaivii documents the life and times of ex-Tamil Nadu CM and screen diva Jayalalithaa (Kangana Ranaut) – from her early days as a teenage actress and Kollywood legend MGR (Arvind Swami)'s heroine and later, his soulmate, to her entry into politics, clashes with M. Karunanidhi (Nassar) and eventually becoming the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and people's messiah.
Watch the Thalaivii trailer below: VIDEO
If it weren't for the performances, Thalaivii would have barely even passed muster. Kangana Ranaut brings all her inner power, underlying vulnerability and strong feminist values to breathe life into Jayalalithaa and constantly remind us how many extra miles a woman has to traverse to break doors and make it in a so-called man's world. Arvind Swami evokes every bit of the old-world charm of a yesteryear legend like MGR and the romantic moments between him and Kangana are the highlight as also the saving grace of the biopic.
Nassar is sufficiently malignant as the scheming Karunanidhi while Raj Arjun is downright nasty at times as MGR's aide and confidant who'll go to any lengths for what he feels is the right thing as far as his master's image goes. Madhoo and Bhagyashree are both revelations in their return to the screen, whereas Thambi Ramaiah and Poorna make the most of their limited, semi-cooked characters. AL Vijay's direction, K.V. Vaijayendra Prasad's script and Rajat Arora's dialogues, while not on the money for large parts, do show fleeting glimpses of the stirring emotions you'd expect from the film of this kind. The songs, while nothing remarkable, manage to be pleasing to the ears.
When I said that A.L. Vijay's direction, KV Vaijayendra Prasad's script and Rajat Arora's dialogues shine for only fleeting glimpses, it's because for the most part, their combined creative effort is largely uninspiring, unimaginative, pedestrian and one-dimensional, turning Jayalalithaa's life into a formulaic template of slow-mo shots, sudden outbursts of larger-than-life bravado and every other cliche witnessed tons of times in past Bollywood biopics. It doesn't help either that the screenplay is uneven, the time frames of both Jayalalithaa's acting and political journey are confounding and vast parts of her life, including her entire political career after becoming CM for the first time, are absent.
For a movie that runs for almost two and a half hours, we get to see precious little of what actually made Jayalalithaa into the messiah of the masses and don't even get me started on the illogical plot contrivances that try turning her into a demi-god or the complete whitewashing of MGR. Instead, the narrative is crammed with several moments of her life that look repetitive and could've easily been done away with, raising as many questions over Anthony and Ballu Saluja's editing as over the lackluster direction and script. Even Vishal Vittal's cinematography and G.V. Prakash Kumar's background score come across as strictly by-the-numbers fare.
Uninspiring, unimaginative, pedestrian, one-dimensional, excessively formulaic, unbelievably cliched and surprisingly incomplete – Thalaivii is definitely not the biopic that a polarising figure of Jayalalithaa's stature demanded, and barring a handful of rousing moments, it's completely down to Kangana Ranaut's feminist power, Arvind Swami's retro charm, Raj Arjun's nasty persona and Nassar's slimy subtlety to save the day. I'm going with 2.5 out of 5 stars.
2.5 out of 5
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