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Thalaivi Review

Review by IndiaGlitz [ Thursday, September 9, 2021 • Tamil ]
Thalaivi Review
Karma Productions, Vibri Medi
Kangana Ranaut
GV Prakash

Thalaivi - Brilliantly encapsulates the enigmatic rise of Jaya

'Thalaivi' is an attempt to recreate the turbulent and history-altering rise of former Tamil Nadu chief minister the late J. Jayalalithaa in politics, underlined by her relationship with the legendary M. G. Ramachandran.  Will this biopic swat the Jaya cadre and viewers alike remains to be seen.

'Thalaivi' begins with the shocking scene of Jaya getting manhandled in the TN Assembly and her eventual challenge to her enemies that she will return as the Chief Minister to the very same building.  The screenplay then goes on to show how she achieved that from being a naive 16-year-old who hated politics.

Kangana Ranaut, in the news recently more for her offscreen controversies has silenced her critics with her power-packed performance in the title role.  it is obviously not easy to portray someone who is very much in the public mind still but she sinks her teeth into the challenge and rips it apart one should say.   It is Kangana's show all the way right from the flashback scenes in which she makes even MGR earn her respect to the very last scene in which she brings to their knees the men who dared to belittle her for being a woman,  Her dedication in learning the chaste Tamil language and speaking it impeccably to do justice to her character deserves praise by itself.   The novelty in Kangana's acting is she never goes overboard anywhere but still looms larger than life uncannily similar to the person she plays.

Arvind Swamy as the legendary matinee idol turned immortal leader MGR, towers through the entire film.  The scenes in which he mentors Jaya and the love episodes are a treat to watch. After a point into it it's like almost watching MGR himself making this a career-best.  The show-stealer of 'Thalaivi' is Samuthirakani playing the MGR loyalist R.M. Veerappan without any fuss but creating an impact with the minutest of grimaces.  In fact the rivalry between Jaya and RMV is the engine that drives the entire film till the very end much like how it impacted TN politics historically.  The rest of the casting is perfect with Nasser portraying Kalaigniar Karunanidhi, Thambi Ramaiah as Madhavan,Jaya's personal assistant, Radha Ravi as his legendary father M.R. Radha, Poorna as Sasi, Bhagyashree as Sandhya and Madhoo as V.N.Janaki.  

What works best in 'Thalaivi' is the near authentic retelling of an important phase of the history of Tamil Nadu through the rise of one enigmatic personality.  The initial scenes also give glimpses of how the film industry worked in the 60s, the MGR-Sivaji rivalry, the Karunanidhi-MGR friendship and eventual fallout.  One very impactful moment is when RMV burns a half-complete film along with the script and other properties just to put an arrogant actress in her place.  Producers did pack a punch those days.  The love scenes between the charismatic duo captivate with the essence of a bygone era of romanticism.  The second half, moves at a hectic pace and is all about the transformation of Jaya from an actress to a reluctant politician and finally the assumption of her autocratic persona.  The film not only succeeds as the biographical depiction of a leader but more the victory of a woman in a man's world who wrote her own destiny against all odds.

On the downside, the first half drags a bit and there is some repetitiveness in establishing the characters.   For some reason, MGR's change of voice is ignored even though him being shot in the neck is shown.  The 153 minutes run time could be taxing for viewers who have gotten used to a lot less nowadays.

The celebrated 'Baahubali' writer Vijayendra Prasad has written the story and screenplay and his hand is evident in placing many punctuating moments in the screenplay like the little underprivileged girl who triggers Jaya into politics and years later becomes her doctor.  G.V. Prakash has served up songs that resonate the era of the story and as usual, enhances the visuals with his background score.  Karky's dialogues are powerful and at the same time also retain the voice of the period.  Vishal Vittal's lens literally gives the feel of being transported to the 60s with production designers Ramakrishna and Monika Nigotre lending high authenticity through their production design.  Antony's cuts make the overall film highly engaging. 

It is a return to form for director Vijay who faltered after the emotionally charged 'Deiva Thirumagal' as 'Thalaivi' is more in the 'Madrasapattinam' league.  He has brilliantly encapsulated the enigmatic rise of Jaya through the writing and execution especially in extracting solid performances from his cast.  Kudos to Chief Minister M.K. Stalin as most who watch this film will be heartened that freedom of speech is very much alive under his rule.

Verdict : Go for this brilliantly made biopic loaded with exemplary performances

Rating: 3.5 / 5.0

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