Review of Thalaivaa/Leader (Rather Talai-Vali/ Headache), a 2013 Tamil Movie Starring Vijay

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Tamil A.L. Vijay’s Thalaivaa has courted controversy after theatres in Chennai which originally intended to play the film received bomb threats, thus leading to a no-show on the first week of its release. It has however reached a cinema hall in the quaint but economically mushrooming city of Vadodara, my home-town. And my brothers, or rather bros, in Chennai, consider yourself saved (except for that poor fan-boy who committed suicide after his idol Vijay ‘s ( i.e. the lead actor and not A.L. Vijay,the director) film didn’t see a release in Chennai. Bro, a word of advice: there are better things worth giving up your life for)! For the film is such a god-damn ridiculous piece of trash it should be kept out of human reach. Here’s another word of advice, this time for Tamil Nadu’s chief minister Jayalalitha, whom actor Vijay has approached for approving his film for Chennai theatres: don’t listen to him! Instead do this: set up gas chambers just like the ones used in WW2 concentration camps and get about a million people killed. Set up a nuclear plant in the hub of the city and leak it. You’d probably see your name taken alongside Hitler’s, but if you make the gravest mistake of releasing this film in the city you lead, consider your precious C.M. seat taken! In the first case, you’d be a dictator and yet not lose your precious ‘kursi’ (seat)…

I believe one S R K Karnan has filed petition with the Chennai High Court alleging that the film portrays the lives of his father and grand-father, two social leaders in Mumbai’s slum-ridden area of Dharavi, in a highly unflattering light by distorting facts and depicting the two men as dons and thugs. His petition would probably be rejected, but if he does make another one claiming his lineage is portrayed as boneheaded idiots, he’d probably win the claim. Thalaivaa is hardly a biopic. Neither is it about “the people” as the protagonists in the film often claim. It isn’t about Anna, who if Karnan’s claim is true has been based on his granddad. Neither is it about Karnan’s father. It’s all about the idiotic hero Vijay. His screen-time and close-up shots confirm this. He dances, he romances, he sings, he jokes, he does dollops of dishum-dishum (fight) and some poor imitation of Robert Di Nero in Godfather and Abhishek Bachchan in Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar/Sarkar Raj, whenever he gets a free time from all the dancing, romancing and dishum-dishuming.

He’s a wannabe dada/don. The film itself is a wannabe Godfather, a wannabe Sarkar, a wannabe typical-Indian-romance (but with twist) and at times even a wannabe ABCD (Prabhudeva’s film on dance). It spends much of its time worshipping its hero Vijay, to an extent that it kills of Anna’s character (played competently by Sathyaraj) pretty quickly. It wastes little time to reveal its true intentions of becoming another in the endless list of forgettable kitschy ‘romance-drama-action’ money-spinners that are dumped on mass audiences by Kollywood and Bollywood. Sathyaraj, playing Anna, is a former coolie who eventually becomes the protector of honest slum-dwellers of Dharavi by delivering justice through violence and force. But the film relegates him to a shadow, one appearing occasionally to tell his son how busy he is, as soon as Vijay enters. He plays Anna’s NRI son-settled-in-Melbourne Vishwa, and the film abruptly switches gear from dead-serious drama to hokey-jokey comedy. Comedian Santharam joins in as Vishwa’s buddy Logu to fuel the film’s path of self-destruction, and for a while we get an unappetizing feel of watching ‘Sarkar + Comedy’.

Enter love interest Meera (played by dusky beauty Amala Paul) and the film enters ‘romance mode’, spending almost an hour till we exclaim “Oh my goodness! What happened to the original plot?!!” (that comes right before the interval, so you can be bold enough and try to ask whether you can come in after interval and pay half the ticket price. I wouldn’t recommend that either as things get even worse post-interval). Vishwa and Meera participate in a dance contest and win, overcoming hurdles like being attacked by their competitors. But why are these things important in a film about Dharavi, its people and its self-proclaimed leaders? Why on earth would he think including a series of comedy sketches, one involving a cook who cannot cook, another about a bunch of single-men in Melbourne pining for Meera and the third involving Meera lying about her marriage with a sleazy-looking B-grade movie star, would be a good idea? Because they absolutely do nothing to further the plot, and they last as long as durex condoms. And how ridiculous is it for a film to forget itself, and jump from drama to comedy to romance and return only to kill of the character of Anna, poor Anna in a car blast? And to listen to Vishwa and Logu call each other ‘Bro’ every single time because, you know, they’re in Melbourne and all, is borderline painful. Just imagine hearing something like: A- ‘Bro… ‘ B- ‘No, bro… ‘ A- ‘Of course, bro’ B- ‘Bro!’, (10x).

Twists before the second half – Meera and her dad turning out to be undercover police after they visit Mumbai along-with Vishwa under the pretext of discussing with Anna about Vishwa’s marriage with Meera, and a guy named Bhima claiming responsibility for killing Anna to avenge his father’s murder (Anna had killed a hate-monger named Varadarajan Mudaliar in the past). Bhima is really a weirdo – he meditates chanting Anna’s name (then Vishwa’s; actually the words chanted during meditation help in relaxation so it’s hard to understand how chanting one’s villain’s name will increase animosity towards that subject: weird spirituality) and he sounds like an evil cyborg, credit awful dubbing (he’s played by Abhimanyu Singh, a pucca Punjabi puttar). Vishwa meanwhile spends his time either channeling his inner Sylvester Stallone/Salman Khan, pounding men after men with brute energy, or drinking bhaang and doing masti (fun). The condition of this film post-interval turns from rubbish to muck to sheer atrocity. A song in the film goes ‘Thalapathy Thalapathy’; meanwhile you’d be experiencing a great deal of talai-vali (headache). I recommend a CT scan after watching this film.

If Thalaivaa is the film of 2013, then its a clear indication its the Dark Ages for Tamil cinema. This film doesn’t deserve the controversy it’s getting (controversy = publicity = ka-ching!).T he multiplex I visited usually plays a little too many ads. This time I wanted some more. The movie, however, takes ages to get to a point, and still doesn’t make any impact. Now why would you sit for a three hour pointless watch?

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