Shell-shocked. That was what I was after watching the biggest film of the year. What really was that? A man, a superman, a ghost, a god? Rajnikanth does have that kind of an effect on you. Especially if you are not a Tamilian, or you haven’t seen a film of his for over 20 years.

Rajni is a phenomenon – we’ve all heard that. He probably deserves a couple of hundred theses written on him. It still might not explain his incredible sway over audiences, apparently the world over. In Sivaji, he plays nothing but himself – El Mariachi, Neo, Superman, Stephen Chow in Kung Fu Hustle, all rolled into one. There is seemingly nothing he cannot do. Halt a bullet in its trajectory, beat up a hundred goons single-handedly, fly into the air a la Matrix, die and then come back to life.

As Indians we are used to exaggeration – we are familiar with macho heroes, be it AB or MGR, beating up the villains to a pulp. We watch it in all seriousness, suspending disbelief. The difference here is, I am truly not sure if I am meant to watch it in seriousness. Isn’t this really a spoof? Isn’t Rajni kind of winking at the audience and saying, ‘Isn’t this cool? I can be what I want and do what I want – this is a movie,’ with a kind of awareness of the ridiculousness of it all?

Sivaji, an NRI returns to India wanting to set up schools and hospitals for the poor. He runs into obstacles – a ruthless businessman, politicians on the take, shady cops, a corrupt bureaucracy, all of who want their share of the spoils. Sivaji tries paying them off, but there is always one more guy to be paid, he loses patience and decides to take on the system, in the process making it his mission to rid the country of black money. So far so good – we know this happens in our films. A hero gets treated unfairly and he turns to vigilante justice. But then things turn bizarre – we are treated to a lesson in economics (what black money is and why it is bad), money laundering (with Muslims as the hawala traders), dying in police custody, and then being revived, ... the list is endless. Somewhere in between, Sivaji also manages to fall in love with a wholesome Tamil girl who wears revealing clothes only in dream sequences, bathes in Fair and Lovely (how much did these guys pay for the product placement, I wonder), turns a Michael Jackson white for the duration of one song and there is a whole comedy track which is pretty pathetic by Tamil film standards. The plots, the characters, all are secondary - you go to see the film for Rajni, nothing more.

For a movie that is touted as the most expensive Indian film ever made, the production values are not all that hot. The songs and the dream sequences look like a lot of money has gone into them; but otherwise, it’s just average on the looks variety. And I was quite disappointed with the music. Rajni himself looks a bit podgy and his Manish Malhotra clothes don’t do much for him.

But then, the ‘Rajni style’ stays intact. 20 years ago, he made flipping a cigarette into your mouth THE thing to do, for 12 year old boys. This time, they get to choose between flicking a deflected chewing gum into your mouth (the cigarette is too politically incorrect, I guess), drumming on your head, wearing sunglasses at the back of your head or flicking a 1 Re coin from hand to hand and then right into your pocket. And of course, saying ‘cool’ at the end of it all.

All in all, Sivaji is definitely worth watching if you have never watched a Rajni film or haven’t watched one in a long time. It gives you a glimpse into a movie world quite different from any other. You may leave the theatre a lifelong fan. Or you may vow never to subject yourself to this again.


UL said…
I choose the latter, the vow and everything, no time to waste just to renew my vow.

I could perhaps watch Guru, I liked that one. How come I never did see a review on Guru from you?
small talk said…
Yeah I did see Guru. Liked it too. A good movie to catch, if you get a chance.
Laksh said…
Ahh! Finally a sane voice of reason. I could sit through some of his earlier movies in which his sense of humor and timing of delivery was nice to watch. Sivaji was a pain to say the least and I came home with a splitting headache wondering why on earth did I spend 12$ to subject myself to this torture :(

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