Tuesday June 19, 2007

Sivaji (Tamil, Shankar)

Posted by Karthik

Rajinikant Ver. 2.0

Receded hairline…uncheck.
Age lines all over the face…uncheck.
Slightly tired swagger…uncheck.
Down market dress sense that wishes to address other markets…uncheck.
Same ‘ol explosive and predictable intro scene…uncheck.

Shankar Ver. 0.5

A one man crusader hero…check.
Larger than life image for the lead character…check.
Semblance of a story…check.
Mega ambitious song picturisations…check.
A dhavani heroine who can add generous oomph to the songs…check.

That, in a nut shell, explains Sivaji, the experience. Shankar goes for B-school precision in image makeover by taking up every single factor in Rajinikant’s 1.0 career and launches the long pending 2.0 version of his enigmatic image. The only thing that gets lost in the process is the middle class resonance of Shankar’s quasi-relevant social themes. Which is not a really big deal, considering how big the actual Rajini market is – except that the believability-factor here stretches far beyond the usual suspension of disbelief we are normally accustomed to in a Shankar film and convincingly enters Rajini’s territory.

It’s also rather surprising that Vivek gets almost equal footage with Rajnikant, but that ends up looking like one master stroke of a decision by Shankar, since the comedian is in his best form playing a hilarious sidekick to the star – almost every line uttered by him is thoroughly enjoyable! The screenplay, interestingly, follows the setup-turn-prestige acts, invented by Christopher Priest in his 1995 novel! The side-part wigged Rajini just having rambunctious fun in the setup; the normal Rajini we’re used to, just after he’s left with a one rupee coin in the turn and the rocking mottai Rajni, aptly resurrected for the prestige! Shankar skillfully pulls the rabbits at the right time, to evoke the maximum whistles and hoots, and that includes the references to other leading stars of Tamil cinema – MGR, Sivaji and Kamal Hassan.

The canvas is massive, more so for the songs, though Shankar’s tedium shows in Ballelakka and the claustrophobic (albeit in a smashing glass dome!) Sahana. But the other 3 songs more than make it up, particularly the incredibly-mounted Athiradee. Suman underplays his villainy well considering what he pulls off is far more credible than most Rajnikant villains. Shreya is fantastic eye-candy. A R Rahman’s background score is as massy as it can get and elevates the mood appropriately.

So there! You have the perfect concoction of THE masala film that the Indian cinema industry is famed for. Any other change in the formula is bound to evoke such a drastic imbalance that it may not be decent business sense at all to go ahead with, in the first place. Shankar’s career graph shows a peculiar trend. He alternates between a serious ‘message’ film and a harmless fun film (barring the seriously gone wrong Hindi sojourn in Nayak!). Gentleman – Kaadhalan. Indian – Jeans. Mudhalvan – Boys. Anniyan – Sivaji? Makes perfect sense, considering Sivaji is nothing more than a rollicking make believe yarn that plays to the gallery in every single, well-crafted scene. If you curtail all urges to look for the connection and believability of Shankar’s serious ventures, this can be an immensely rewarding experience.

But, as all good things go, Rajnikant should seriously consider retirement, considering how haggard he looks in most close-ups, despite all that wizardry by the technical crew. His lack of agility is clearly evident in the dance sequences, where the choreographers skillfully try to appease their thalaivar by inventing milder movements. That the fans of this 58 year old super star fans have closed their eyes to his retirement is a different thing, but the eventual problem is that the star may become a caricature of himself, if he doesn’t – to borrow an oft used filmi adage – ‘play his age’, soon and end up like a South Indian version of Navin Nischol in Nagesh Kukunoor’s incredibly funny Bollywood Calling. I suppose the animated version of the star in his daughter’s directorial debut is an interesting way to keep the legacy alive!

Keywords: Sivaji movie review, Shivaji film review, Rajinikanth, Shriya Saran, Shreya Saran, Tamil film reviews

Note: Sivaji review in Tamil…here!

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