For a life and career as checkered as Jayalalithaa’s was between 1948 and 2016, this eponymous film just about covers the leader’s wife from the mid-1960s to 1991 when she was first sworn in as chief minister of Tamil Nadu. This clearly shows that this movie is not a proper biopic but just a version of how a woman can triumph in a man’s world.
It also has so many “filmi” incidents (like Jaya preparing a special dinner for her man because they are reuniting after eons) and the news coming instead of his demise. Writer Vijayendra “Bahubali” Prasad has clearly taken some big liberties indeed!
For reasons best known to the makers, MGR is billed as MJR and DMK as TMK. However Jaya as an acronym (we hope!) for Jayalalitha is maintained and Karunannidhi is referred to as Karuna! Sheesh!
For people unfamiliar with Tamil Nadu politics, the script is too episodic and even bland, with no dramatic highs other than in the beginning of the film where Jaya is attacked and humiliated in the assembly, and vows to enter the premises again only after she becomes the chief minister. This, incredibly, is supposed to have really happened in 1989!!
The deaths of MGR (Aravind Swamy) and Karunanidhi (Nasser) are given some footage, but as I said there is little by way of drama, except where Veerappan (Raj Arjun) plays his own one-upmanship games with Jaya, chiefly because she refuses to stay away from MJR, to whom and whose political interests he is truly and fully dedicated. The film glides and skims through episodes in Jaya’s life, like her passing tiff with her mother, MJR not attending Jaya’s mother’s last rites, the protests faced by the party when something untoward happens, the way MJR’s wife backs out when she realizes that her late husband’s protégé is more powerful than she is, and so on.
All in all, the script seems to be a mix of fiction and reality, made for drama and (transient) effect rather than something intending to make any kind of deep or lasting impact.
Kangana Ranaut is sincere, but seems to go the “filmi” rather than authentic way. Nassar as Karuna is menacing in the way he looks and behaves, but hardly remains in our memory. Aravind Swamy as MJR gets full assistance from the make-up department, but his performance is just adequate and he looks too much like an aging version of Sunny Deol!
The rest of the cast is alright, though Bhagyashree as Jaya’s mom and Madhoo as MJR’s wife are wasted. The actor playing Jaya’s loyal man is very effective, and the best performance comes from Raj Arjun as Veerappan—once again, he digs deep into his character (as in the recent series “Sabka Sai”) and makes you forget the known actor for the intense South Indian devotee of MJR he is shown to be.
Thanks to Ranaut and him, and maybe in parts to Swamy, the film is a decent one-time watch. But much more than A.L. Vijay’s direction, it is dialogues writer Rajat Aroraa who is responsible for the good to excellent one-liners that make for decent viewing. And while the background score (Ankit Balhara, Sanchit Balhara) is overdone, G.V. Prakash Kumar’s music is merely serviceable—at least a couple of great compositions could have made a cardinal difference. But one could not help that many of the lyrics by Irshad Kamil were noteworthy for their meanings and even word-play.
An average watch overall, “Thalaivii” considering my expectations, under-delivers.
Rating: *** (Just About)
Produced by: Shaailesh R. Singh
Directed by: A.L. Vijay
Written by: K.V. Vijayendra Prasad, Rajat Aroraa & Madhan Karky (Tamil dialogues)
Music: G.V. Prakash Kumar
Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Aravind Swamy, Nasser, Raj Arjun / Samuthirakani (Tamil and Telugu versions), Bhagyashree, Madhoo, Jisshu Sengupta, Radha Ravi
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