Monday, June 18, 2007

Sivaji -a.k.a.How Shankar screwed up

What Da Boss and two and a half hours of movie time could not do, Mottai Boss managed to do with elan in just half hour. For me, Mottai Boss salvaged Sivaji from sure ruin and disaster.

The credit in bringing him on in the end must go to whoever thought of it. It is the cleverest ploy in the entire movie as its strategic position is that an average movie goer will take home the impression of a swashbuckling yet Matrix-like hero, stylish and heroic even in his violence. If this scene had not been there, the thinking audience would have gone home wondering what the hell the hype was all about after all.

The story starts off on a very creditable premise, though it gets wafer-thin and sometimes disappears completely. Shankar, in his role as conscientious film maker has a reputation for exposing serious glitches in social and economic constructs as they exist today. Though it had garish make-up for Kamal Hassan in Indian, some absurd set of circumstances in Gentleman, histrionics in Anniyan, these movies, all by Shankar, were about exposing the chinks in the Indian society. With Sivaji, Shanker is at his favourite theme again, but in an absurder construct than even his sub-standard flighty movie Boys could manage.

How can a director like Shankar forget that the grammar of cinema does not rest in garish costumes, glamourous heroines (Shriya Saran has NO TUMMY and boy! can she dance!), blond wigs, a few good songs, some bad ones, passable humour, glass houses and angels and stunning special effects. These are just the cosmetics of the trade...they serve to embellish and build on the foundations of core movie components -a solid story line, a plot, a script, screenplay. Only a director who thinks the audience is a bunch of idiots will forsake his commitment to these key elements. Or he himself is lacking, which is in Shankar's case, not a tenable argument.

But before I rave further, 'Do gooder' NRI Sivaji(Rajni, who else!) comes home to India with the utopian idea of running a welfare state all by himself. Naturally enough, it is not a smooth ride to the ideal. His plans to set up engineering and medical institutions of learning to provide free and capitation-free education to the youth and free medical care are repeatedly thwarted at several levels. The big spoke in his wheel is Adi, supposedly a JPR clone, only more suave, classy in his villainy and extortion.

How Sivaji outwits the crafty Adi (a fine performance by Suman) and others in his corrupt coterie, cleverly twisting the arm of the law to serve his purpose, as the line goes, forms the rest of the movie. Predictably, in Kollywoodian Psychomachia, the superhero triumphs.

I've a friend who keeps saying "I may not be perfect, but parts of me are wonderful.' M may not be happy to see its use here, but it is indeed true - the parts of Sivaji that are entertaining unfortunately do not make a whole that is equally or more entertaining.

The families of Solomon Pappiah and 'Pattimandram' Raja rock; scenes involving them are hilarious, well crafted. Vivek has some great lines, splattered right through the movie. Their takes on other actors, from MGR, to Sivaji Ganesan, Vadivelu, Kamal and right down to self-styled presumptuous Little Superstars are enjoyable and indeed even seem clever sometimes.

As for the performance of Superstar himself, there is nothing to complain about. We don't find the crazy humour of Thillu Mullu or the action of say a Mannan in Sivaji, but there is much more that the man has given to this movie. You get the feeling that he has given his all, put in great effort for what might (???!!) be his last movie. His dance is still much the same wooden shaking around, but is energetic; his attempts at mimicry (does a good MGR, S.Ganesan, Kamal) are funny and he really exerts in the action scenes. His Mottai Boss avatar (he claims he is MGR- M.G.Ravichandran, and hey we believe that!) is a crowning glory. In villain mode, slightly reminiscent of similar roles in the classics : Mullum Malarum, Aboorva Ragangal and 16 Vayathinile: he is a total charmer.

For Rajni, the movie is watchable. For Shankar, it is a splendid chance all botched up. And Sivaji, the movie, totters in between. If we were to be crudely mathematical, the sum of the parts do not total upto the whole.

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Anonymous krishna shankar said...

I was wondering why no Sivaji review from you and wanted to write to you today. When everyone is going ga-ga over it, seems (innum padam parkalai, planning month end chennai)you've put it right. Your comments perfectly match the words of my dear friend K, a film buff.
A good friend in the film industry had told me how Kamal 'tinkered' the original 'Indian' story presented by Shankar and he was the one who put him on to writer Sujatha. It seems Kamal commented that the original story was just a rehash of Sivaji's "Naam Pirantha Mann."

10:34 am

Blogger Kannappan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:01 pm

Blogger Kannappan said...

good review...

see my review here

Am not that good a reviewer though :)

3:36 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:41 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i completely agree with u. mottai boss rocked. I liked it as a rajini shtyle package. solomon and co were hilarious. suman's career will take a turn now as a villain
when u come out of a theatre, some element lingers for a while. But this didn't leave any impact at all. songs were pathetic.
Somehow, in their attempt to strike a balance, the duo (rajini and shankar) have lost their self.

3:47 pm

Blogger Swahilya said...

Interesting review Ramya. The movie had a good feel for the three hours spent at the theatre. I agree with Lakshmi about the songs - nothing stays in the mind!

4:01 pm

Blogger Ganesh said...

Ramya unga review latea vandhallum latesta irukku.
Few of us share the same thought. And have written about this in our blog.
But right now reaping hate comments of thalaivar fans. Btw media declaring it a mega hit and what not, ellorum Sivaji jyothila ayikam agam vendiyadhudan.

Dhee Dhee Jaga Jyothi Jyothi!!

6:21 pm

Blogger bhamsblog said...

Agree with you totally. the quintessential rajni came thru for me at the tea kadai bajji with suman scene..but i felt his wooden dacig has lost a wee bit of speed.. esplly in the balalekka sog.. and u r bieng kind to shankar. when u get carte blanche to play aorund with crores, u dont behave like a novice directing is first movie..
ur silence on ARR? Why?
vivek was good but if he had been taken off a couple of scenes wd have been better--for Rajni

2:10 pm

Blogger None said...

Krishna shankar,

hey, now, have u seen the movie? what dya think?! stick by me and yr dear frend K still?! :)


will read ur review... but what's a good review?! :)


after having pushed u to do this, it's only fitting if i reply, at least to tell u this!


ur experience of the movie came along with the package of first day first show in a movie hall. having watched it in a sedate preview theatre where even sneezes were muffled, I could focus more on the movie and where it failed. in my opinion, of course.


enna pannarathu? Naatu nelamai appadi irukku... the world is ready to swear by kitsch. And if its kitsch, why waste time criticising it, eh? Sounds fair!


yeah, i left ARR out. deliberately. i'm quite fond of his music, and to me he is a man with incredible talent. It was such a bummer to see that the songs were hmmmmm.... SO ordinary. nothing elevating at all... but like i said earlier, perhaps kitsch has to meet kitsch. :)
And yeah, its justifiable what you say about shankar, but then, the men who gave him the money ad the carte blanche seem to be happy with his produce!!!


3:24 pm

Anonymous brinda said...

hey, i saw the movie in a posh gurgaon theatre -- along with a largish bunch of tamilian youths... and all they could manage were some half-hearted whistles and cheers... i thought there was very little in the movie to appeal to the bickel-class. very sad... NOW will Hero consider retirement?

2:51 pm

Blogger None said...


u've actually commented twice in succession here! we should celebrate...
o yeah, i think he'll hang up his wig finally. be a bad idea otherwise! :)


3:27 pm


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