fbpx
Friday, September 17, 2021

REVIEW: Thalaivi

An autobiographical movie on the life of J. Jayalalithaa, a politician and actress who served six terms as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, featuring Kangana Ranaut playing the lead.

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Being Jayalalithaa is not easy. A woman who went from being a reluctant actress to one of the most powerful politicians in the country. A woman with a chequered romance with one of the most charismatic actor-leaders in the country. A woman forever frozen now in our minds and hearts as a gigantic cut-out on Marina Beach.

AT A GLANCE

  • Director: A.L. Vijay
  • Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Arvind Swamy, Nassar and Raj Arjun
  • Rating: (***)

For far too long Jayalalithaa was overshadowed, in the male-dominated politics of Tamil Nadu, by the friendship-turned-rivalry of MG Ramachandran and M. Karunanidhi, immortalised on-screen by Mani Ratnam’s magnificent ‘Iruvar’ (1997). Her excavation began with Siimi Garewal’s iconic interview, which was the centrepiece of Gowtham Vasudev Menon’s 2020 web series ‘Queen’, and one hoped ‘Thalaivi’ would complete it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t in full measure. As Thalaivi, Kangana Ranaut is competent, but one has come to expect much more from the actress. For some reason, she doesn’t seem to inhabit fully the early Jayalalithaa. She is far better as Amma, the politician, the able deputy who outstrips her master. As a result the early part of the film, while colourful and grand, is reduced to a costume ball, where Ranaut and the brilliant Arvind Swamy try hard to imitate Jaya and MGR, instead of inhabiting the spirit of their characters.

Kangana Ranaut and Arvind Swamy imitating Jaya and MGR. Source: Twitter
Kangana Ranaut and Arvind Swamy imitating Jaya and MGR. Source: Twitter

And in underlining Jaya’s journey from Ammu, as the MGR character calls her, to Amma, which the people of the state call her, the film reduces Karuna, as he’s called in the movie, to a moustache-twirling villain played by Nassar, who had, memorably, played Annadurai in ‘Iruvar’. He has none of the poetry of Prakash Raj ‘Iruvar’, spouting instead a ridiculous ditty called ‘Mera yaar’ at a party meeting — which is odd, given that the dialogues are written by Rajat Arora. The same goes for the complex politics of the state, which is reduced to being seen through the prism of misogyny.

While that is important, it renders the movie somewhat flat. Almost her entire journey is seen only through the lens of gender, whether it is the cavalier way she is sometimes dispensed with in movies to make way for other heroines; or the way she is treated by male colleagues.

That is not to say the film doesn’t have its moments. Kangana is best when she has her back against the wall, going on the rampage against officials serving stale food for mid-day meals, or being molested in the Vidhan Sabha, which allows her to launch into a dialogue comparing herself to Draupadi and Karuna’s army to the Kauravas. Raj Arjun is excellent as the sinister R.M. Veerappan, who wants to control MGR’s life and career. “‘Bhagwan ke darshan keiye jate hain, unke paas nahin jate’. Minimum six inches distance,” he says to a rather excitable newbie.

For Jaya, MGR is her mother, her father, her God, her guru, she says. For MGR, Jaya is both a reminder of his past, his first wife, as well of his future, because of her youth. She is also the student who learnt a little too well from her master. “If you give your people love, they will respond in equal measure,” he says. The tragedy of Jayalalithaa was that perhaps that was the most authentic relationship in her life.

IANS

READ ALSO: REVIEW: Helmet (Zee5)


Link up with us!

Indian Link News website: Save our website as a bookmark

Indian Link E-NewsletterSubscribe to our weekly e-newsletter

Indian Link Newspaper: Click here to read our e-paper

Indian Link app: Download our app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play and subscribe to the alerts

Facebookfacebook.com/IndianLinkAustralia

Twitter: @indian_link

Instagram: @indianlink

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/IndianLinkMediaGroup

- Advertisement -

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -

Podcasts

Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

0
  Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

0
  To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

0
  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic death...
- Advertisement -

Latest News

shreya kalra

WATCH: Indore influencer dances on road for video, booked by police

0
  A woman who was filmed running across the road to dance at a busy intersection in Indore, Madhya Pradesh has landed in trouble for...

21 burps: it’s modak time as we celebrate Ganesha

0
  “I’m going to burp 21 times,” I would declare to my Ajji, after eating her mouth-watering modaks. Sweetmeat dumplings made with rice flour and some...
virat kohli

Captaincy comes with its own set of challenges

0
  Captaincy! The word itself is so powerful that it can prompt anyone to have an opinion - either for or against it. And when...
Baby Hanuman, Ganesha and Krishna cartoons. Source: Twitter

Play-based experiences to teach your kids about your cultural festival

0
  When you think about celebrating festivals, what is the fondest memory that comes to your mind immediately? For me, it’s definitely the fun, frolic and...
LYN INNES

From an Indian Palace to the Outback: The Last Prince of...

0
  The Last Prince of Bengal is the intriguing true story of one of India’s most powerful royal families. It’s a fascinating tale about Nawab...