I’m not gonna take names of critics or link blogs since I just wanted to address points made in other reviews. My arguments are against criticism of the film and not against the authors. So if you think this is about your review, please don’t take this personally.
First, get this. Superstar can act. He’s proved it enough times. He does not need to prove it anymore. I had written in an earlier post how there is a rigid dichotomy between the function of an actor and a matinee idol.
While an actor is expected to change colours and showcase his artistic range, an icon is expected to consistently embody all those traits that people love about his personality and reprise them in whatever story he is a part of. Because he’s an icon, a superhero – THE reason why people go to watch that kind of cinema.
Obviously, the gratification superheroes provide is different from the kind of gratification actors provide. Sometimes, though not always, even the audience differs. We’ve always had a Sivaji for every MGR, a Kamal for every Rajni, a Vikram for every Vijay (at least, until Vikram decided to change roles from actor to icon!)
Let’s not forget that Superstar has done his share of intelligent classy cinema in the past.
Now, he’s into something more intelligent. Reaching out to a huge far-from-homogenous mass of people. We’re talking about a diverse bunch that takes the aruval out over culture, chastity, caste, class, colour, ideology, politics, religion, language, state boundaries and water among other things.
Why should Superstar reach out to this huge a mass again?
Because that’s what superheroes and icons do.
They reach out to stand up for what is right, to fight for the oppressed majority.
They reach out to assure people that no matter how screwed up and complicated life maybe, there’s always one person they can turn to.
Or, at least fantasise that there’s someone who’s gonna kick bad asses and spread hope.
The word associated with superheroes, my friends, is fantasy. The thing about the format of a fantasy, as a genre, it does not need to delve into plausibility, rational thinking, logical reasoning or what people call a “tight” screenplay.
Think fantasy again.
Think about the free-flowing Alice in Wonderland that probably gave you no idea where in the burrow it was heading.
Think Superman who turned the planet back in time after losing Lois Lane.
Think James Bond, who gets his ass covered by women who bare their ass most of the time.
Think Peter Parker, who recently blubbered when Mary Jane broke up with him.
Think Captain Jack Sparrow.
Wait a minute, Captain Jack Sparrow runs away all the time. He got fooled by a woman, got himself handcuffed to the Black Pearl at the end of ‘Dead Man’s Chest.’ When he realises there’s no way out, he goes down fighting, with his head held high.
Does that make him any less heroic? Or does the fact that Shriya saves Sivaji at the end of what was a light-hearted comic segment? Interestingly, Superstar does hop around around like Captain Jack Sparrow as he sees the train approaching and then when Shankar changes gear from the comic to the serious, Superstar stands his head held high, ready to embrace death, much like Sparrow. The point really isn’t that Shriya saved him. The point is that she was willing to die for him.
A Superstar is timeless. His age does not matter. How does Bond remain the same age when the world around him changes as suggested by technology? How many years did Peter Parker be a college kid? How many years did Superstar live in America to earn Rs.200 crores? What’s his business model? Why does Peter Parker take Mary Jane on his scooter when he can just swing around the buildings in the dark of the night? Superheroes have a comic book license that excuses them from having to answer such smartasses. Things said have to be taken for granted. That’s common sense.
To get back to the analysis, this is not just a Superstar movie.
This is as much a Shankar film as much as it is Superstar cinema. Shankar is one of those few idealist filmmakers who believe that cinema can bring in reform. After addressing capitalist educationists (Gentleman), corrupt bureaucrats (Indian), lazy-ass politicians (Muthalvan) and indifferent apathetic citizens (Anniyan), he wants to address a more basic function that involves the common man. Paying taxes. He knows most people think taxes are unfair, a “fine” for doing fine. He hates the fact that there are many among the rich who don’t pay taxes. Now, how do you make the prospect of paying taxes more attractive to the common man?
You get a brand ambassador, someone they all like, to tell them: “Listen up guys, Black money is bad. Not paying taxes is bad. We’re not a poor country. The richer get richer, the poor get poorer because the rich get away not paying tax and the poor need to keep paying for getting anything they want – starting from basic education.”
That’s a noble thought, a well-intended message, that in order to reach a mass of Superstar crazy fans needs to be said within the format of a six-song six-fight routine, with the mandatory happy ending.
Why is the happy ending so important?
Kamal Hassan could afford to die in ‘Indian’ and ‘Nayakan’ because he’s an actor. An actor becomes immortal when he dies in a film. People give him a standing ovation. A Best Actor award. But, a superhero is reduced to a mere mortal when he dies in a movie. Which is why Shankar and Mani Ratnam knew they had to keep him alive in ‘Thalapathy’ and ‘Sivaji,’ no matter what the odds against them were.
It’s not a compromise. It’s common-sense. It’s what people go to fantasies for. To see their hero kick butt.
So why is Sivaji among the most memorable Rajnikant films ever despite a rather weak romantic track?
Oh, let’s think about that critically slaughtered romantic track again. There’s clearly a shift in Superstar’s philosophy. From ‘Thou Shall Choose Who Loves You Over Who You Love’ (that emerged in Valli and continued till Baba… Listen to Dippu Dippu:
thaedi cheLLum kaadhaL/kaadhaliLLai nanbaa/uNmai kaadhal soLLava/
naLLa kaadhal enbadheNNa/thaedi vandhey kaadhalae) to ‘Best To Live With Who You Love Than What You Get.’ (Kadachavangaloda Vaazhradhoda Pudichavangaloda Vaazharadhuthaan Santhosham).
A complete volte-face.
Why? I guess it is to make Superstar contemporary from being a pragmatic chauvinist to a die-hard romantic because Shankar’s brand of idealism needs a romance to die for. Colour is such an important part of the South Indian’s psyche. Shankar exploits that complex inherent in his audience by having their icon endorse their ‘Fair and Lovely’ aspirations. ‘Velai Thamizhan’ (mentioned in the Style song) is part of that fantasy of the dark-skinned man’s obsession over fair and lovely maidens from Mumbai (starting from Nagarrth Khan known as Khushboo, Rishibala Naval a.k.a. Simran Bagga, Namrata Sadanah a.k.a. Nagma, Jyotika Sadanah and now Shriya Saran). Shankar turns that sentiment into a feel-good fantasy by coating it with the comic treatment and then making the girl say that the dark colour is the best part of their favourite hero. He’s trying to tell them that even if by some miracle they do manage to turn fair, it’s still ‘coool’ to be dark.
Let me get back to the observation with which I started this piece. Stars or Icons are known to consistently embody all those traits that people love about their personality and reprise them in whatever story they are a part of.
Not all the traits Superstar has been known for are politically correct.
Now, Superstar has been criticised by politicians and health activists that he has glamourised the Cancer stick. Superstar, in his last two outings, has tried to make amends – Biscuit in Chandramukhi and Chewing Gum in Sivaji. Superstar’s heroines, over the years, have often been dependents – college students or village belles, often being slapped by the hero. This sort of unabashed chauvinism might not work in the 2000s and in an attempt to make it progressive, Shankar gives us a middle-class working woman. It’s also contemporary because finally, the woman is an equal with who Sivaji shares his life and secrets, and she’s also capable of saving him.
Yes, she’s still the meek submissive lover but hey, things can’t change overnight in Tamil cinema.
I was amazed at the focus of Shankar’s screenplay (I hated his character mix in Anniyan!). He begins Sivaji with the classic Flashback structure, establishing the intentions of the protagonist in the very first three scenes. At the airport, we know he’s come to settle down in India with the line-up of girls waiting to snare him. At the get-together later, we know he wants to get to the root of poverty that he has seen (the beggar at the crossroads sandwiched between the scenes of his arrival and his declaration of intent) – empowering through education.
Once he lays down the agenda for the film, he gets to the other objective of the protagonist – his search for a life partner, an epitome of everything Tamil. He then addresses the social problem of families being so fiercely protective of their space with a strict regard for boundaries that they don’t encourage the courting ritual. Romance needs healthy grounds to blossom. And since at the basic level, marriages in India are about the union of families than just two individuals, he shows us how one family manages to woo the other through a light-hearted comic segment (not all of which I approve – certainly not the bit where Thalaivar goes red with chillies and washes it down the basin graphically but Shankar has always loved to show us what’s gross). This track is smartly paralleled with the protagonist’s efforts to build the college facing hurdles with the ground realities of red tape that leads to corruption… that further escalates politics. He shows us the rich have become too powerful to take on. No matter how much money you have, they can still pull you down and leave you penniless. It doesn’t get tighter than this.
At the interval block, his twin intentions of getting the right girl and building the college are the lowest point. Things can only get better from here and as that coin turns, so does his fate and Shankar flips mode from reality to fantasy. Now, this is the part we’ve been waiting for. The part that Shankar absolutely revels in. The part that puts Sivaji in the list of his most memorable films.
We see Rajni fight his way back, like in Annamalai, like in Padayappa, like in Baasha, he gets his chance to payback… Line for line, coin for coin… “Kooti kazhichu paaru, Kannakku Seriya Irukkum… Yenkitta Kannakku Pesuraanga. Yedu Vandi!”
Now, all those films were about personal triumph, this one is a little larger than that. It’s about a triumph for the society, issues are large and complex and they need to be simplified with comic book storytelling. The villain needs to be someone you hate with all your guts and having a despicable soft speaking scum is a nice touch. After all those Perarasu films, I was turning deaf with all the yelling.
Settling a score is what most films have been about. And seriously, who does it better than Superstar. What makes Sivaji memorable is that it also plays out like a Best of Rajni compilation. It has features his best looks, get-ups, gestures, dialogue delivery, plot-devices and also enriches his existing repertoire of style, facilitating a connect with the Rajni we know from the past to the Superstar he has become to what he could be – the reformer, a Sivaji (the actor par excellence) who could also be MGR (the messiah).
Entertainment has never been so explosive. The last act is pure dynamite. Climax is at its orgasmic best if you’re a Rajni fan. Something that works like a charm especially because of the extended foreplay in the slightly flawed first half.
To Shankar’s credit, even those stray scenes of mediocrity are salvaged by a classy Vivek whose timing in Sivaji is probably a career-best. Jalra has never made itself more audible during a one-man orchestra in concert.
Now that I’ve taken my critic’s hat off, Thalaivaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!
Now thats a called a review !!!
Sudhish – you’re the man! yaaru aadhu criticise pannardhu? I had a blast on thursday night! I’ve been telling people similar things – people of the west had superman, spiderman, etc – we have superstar!
Sudhish,as always your insight in the movie world is amazing,I felt the movie was a complete entertainment package but something’s missing, just that I was a sucker for Baasha, (who isn’t???) and sort of missed a similar buildup and delivery, man that was all power, you could feel it in every dialogue and actions of co-stars and events in the movie. Shankar’s framework is so predictable now, thats the issue, all of Thalaivar’s earlier movies there was novelty in his story themes but for Shankar it is always vigilante themes and I loved it till pre-Anniyan. I feel Shankar survived here in Sivaji because it was Rajini in his pet vigilante theme, but I’m not queuing up for his next movie if I hear the word vigilante again, he has squeezed that theme bone dry, Anniyan bored me, he better reinvent himself, but then again … masses rule!
good post dude!
review on reviews?
get it right – rajni will not die in the climax and rightly said, it is more of a social tin than a personal tin this time unlike basha or padayappa.
one more thing Sudhish, would you rate it better than Annamalai or Baasha or Moondru Mugam on Thalaivar’s list of movies? It did not make an impression on me as much as these movies did though I admit the climax mottai boss shot was special.
machaaaaaaaan, you’ve made this post an answer for every idiot who thinks shankar failed and every b@$!@&% who thinks rajni is over hyped
Does the phenomenon-Superstar need explanation?
one answer to all sceptics and so called reviewers- BOSS!! da.
did any one even know that you can do so much with mottai-
now thats waht iam talking about!
BOSS- Big ol super star. Period
SK..well sed..bt u c..general hatred s frm kamal fans..i wud call them immatured.. dey r in different leagues.. while rajini s all about crowd-pleasing entertainment nd enjoyment..kamal wil b knwn fr his talents nd performance.
Kamal is both an icon and an actor…Sakalakalavallavan,Guru, VV-lam yenna solradu..
sudhish…i just thought this was the script for your next movie, yabaa whatey long post..let me go and have coffee before i complete reading it 🙂
daai.. evanda thalaivana pathi sonnadhu…edra aruvalaa.. eridaa bus-a! tamizh naade kondalikkumullaa
sudhish soooper review!!! summa adhiruthu illa. entha madaiyan logic illanu sonnan…..bleedy naansense thalaivar intha vayasulaiyum kalakuraar!!!
Jus the resoning..that the so called “Sivaji critics” should read!!
Your writing style is exemplary. A lot of contrasting views about the movie. A lot of what you have written makes a lot of sense. However, I believe Shankar has lost though he has made Rajini win 🙂
Superstar has alrdy proved what he has to… Moreover, movies shud b made wid a primary motive of entertaining ppl, rest all is secondary… v pay for entertainment, not brainwashing… n Superstar knows this… thtz y he has a fan followin no one else can even dream of!
Sudhish, check out my blog. I have a summary on some of the Sivaji reviews out there. Check it out if you can 🙂
Keep the good work going 🙂
appadi podu thalaiva! as vivek says in the movie, if superstar did what every tom dick and harry did, he wudnt be the superstar he is.. Thalaivaaaaaaaaaaaah!
I like your writeup. But do you really feel this is the Rajni’s best movie till date?!
Come on dude..
Athavathu nee inglisla ezhudara…
Athavadu epaadiyaavathu oru rajini padathula unakku 35th thunai iyakkunar velai venum….
Yenpa ivlo kasta pattu paper padikkaravangalukku kustam erpaduthara? Adutha aandu, engilandu arasi pirandanaal vizhavula unakku “sir” pattam nichayam undu.
haha, good one 🙂
im glad you dint say we have Krissh!
after anniyan, i was convinced shankar lost it. i watched it with zero expectations, so i didn’t find anything missing. you are right about him repeating himself but i wanted to see Superstar as vigilante in a shankar film. always had wondered how it would be.
thank you. basha and padayappa had suresh krissna and k.s.ravikumar’s signature, this one has shankar’s! baba had suresh krissna’s signature too, so we can never tell with directors and one kind of filmmaking.
moondru mugam was tight! ahead of its times too… that would be my all time favourite and top of the list of films you mentioned.
annamalai had everything in the right proportion… complete package despite some amount of corn in the romantic track with khushboo… that was at the weakest link in the film!
baasha had the biggest anti climax after a near perfect first and second. so it’s still not his most perfect film.
sivaji on the other hand had a weak first half (romantic track again) but more than makes up for it in the second and third acts. people leave the hall with the climax in mind which is why over the long run people will remember sivaji as fondly as they remember the other retro hits.
there were no blogs before Baba and around Padayappa, Baasha or Annamalai or we wouldve seen many expert opinions from pretty much everyone with an ID on why Superstar messed up with climax of Baasha, poked fun at Abbas for ‘Whattaman’ in Padayappa, found holes in Annamalai’s predictable love track and so on…
Blogginga mothala ban pannunon pa! 😀
Rightu! Mottai boss might soon make the bald pate a style statement!
i dont think it is hatred. it’s just the general tendency to analyse and review so closely. if they had watched it just like they watched the old films, they wouldnt have found time to pick holes in the script. if you don’t believe this, try watching padayappa for the sake of reviewing and analysing it..
yes, he’s an icon in his own right, but he does not want to be a superhero known for the same set of styles and mannerisms. i used the word icon academically.
script for next movie? Ill send you by email. 😉
haaaaa haaaa haaaaa haaaaa *mottai baas MGR laugh*
athu correct thaan… at his age, look at him dance like that!!
it is impossible for people to agree on anything given how different all of us are. different people follow different rules for criticism. mine include: don’t judge a film for what it couldve been or how I couldve made it. because there always can be so many ways a film can be made and improved. But that’s on hindsight.
exactly. and if people were disappointed, they wouldnt be watching it a second and third time… many people i know have seen it twice at least. already.
yes, if he tried doing the baasha finger gimmicks now, people wouldnt have found anything unique considering every other kid on screen does it these days. things change with time and im glad thalaivar adapted himself pretty well. Very dignified barring that washbasin scene.
i read my writeup again. I don’t see where I said it is his best film.
ungal karruththukku nanri. ini office arai-kku varavum.
hey, nice review da…i don’t know if it was a review taken from other reviews as stated, nevertheless i don’t mind…
rajni’s going to be remembered as sivaji for quite sometime…the movie rocks…
This ur best post ever!!
I hate Rajni and his brand of movies ( refer -my rajni-bashing comment to ur prev. post)Yet, I loved ur post, simply for explaining wot a Superstar movie stands for. I;ve always tried to find sense in such movies, but not again… loved ur post man!
Sorry, I missed replying to your post the last time around. Wanted to check out the post before reacting and it slipped my mind.
just realised. tracked down the post thanks to technorati. Thanks for the mention! 🙂
And making Rajni win is his biggest victory. Not loss… it’s Baas!
Ha ha? Good one ah?? No no no no, naan kaamedy onum pannuliye! 😀
No no no no, it wasnt taken from other reviews, it was reacting or replying to other reviews made on Sivaji.
Coool. And Rajni bashing is not cool… 😀
this is Wot we expect from our Thalaivar and ritely said this film is made for crazy fans like us…long live our SuperStar !!!!
yes, there are a lot of people out there who think it is cool to tell people that they are rajni fans. it is these kinds of people who arent really convinced about his superstardom that give others a bad name.
Your ‘review’ seemed to target the one particular review that matters to you. Anyway, good analysis from an unabashed Rajni fan…
i dunno which one you are talking about, but like i said right on top, it’s not necessarily about any one review. this reacts to specific points from over half a dozen separate reviews. and no, i havent read yours yet.. 🙂
pera kaetaaa adheerudhullaa.i especially liked chinni jayanth’s “kai veesamaa kai veesu” 🙂
psst…how much did you get from AVM for this?
Just kidding. I’m disppointed at this unexpected support for the likes of Rajini and Shankar from normally sane voices like yours. It is this appreciation of the mediocrity that makes them get away with all kinds of crap.
Kadaikkira edathula ellaam aapu vakkiriye Sivaji :p
Thalaivar rocked… but i guess Shankar also should be given due credit for taking a Rajini movie instead of a Shankar movie. Hats off to Shankar for conceiving and convincing the Mottae Boss rajini role… COOOOOOOOOOOL
I think this movie is the PERFECT answer to entire bollywood on the status of Tamil movies… what a global impact and in coming days with Dasavatharam in line, i hope its gonna be even more emphasised…
yes, that was hilarious. as much as that computer generated mascot speaking squeakily… Ay you’re not Shiv. You are playing with me?
avm paid me in kind. Superstar magic. im grateful for that. No kidding.
looks like you skipped the post in your enthusiasm to comment.
we’re the technical entertainment capital of India. even bollywood films most of the time are made in madras. so yeah, we rock.
i had to read ur review first before watching the movie…leave all the logic while watching him create magic on the screen…no other star at 58 can keep the masses in rapt attention…hats off to thailavar..he has kept us engaged for 30 yrs nw and hats off to u for ur unbiased,calibrated review…off iam again to watch thailavar the second time..
Thalaivar kalakkiputtaar!! i have never had this much fun in any other Super Star movie.
Neeyum review nalla ezhudhi irukke raasa. Vaazhthukkal.
Sud, I saw Sivaji in Kanchipuram :), good timing I took my vacation :).
Nice review. I didn’t expect Mottai BOSS in that movie. coooool style. I want to c that 1 more time .
Abt ur review : Kedaikira edathula ellam aapu vekkariye Sudish 🙂 ( to the critics ).
great post…just abt echoes my sentiments! we dont go to a thalaivar movie and look for logic!we enjoy the moment the charactersitics the works!! great reviw..:-)
After all the expectation and hype created in media, i think the movie is much below expectation. For all non-rajini fans its a one time watchable one. And for rajini fans it is a dream come true to see his star dazzling. But i dont see shankar in any department of the movie except in one song where he shows up himself to establish that it is a shankar movie too.
-KV Anand camera all throughout the movie, especially in making rajini dazzling and the songs & fight sequence were well picturized.
-Music & picturization for 3 songs were really awesome.
-One more credit to Rajini for his bald look.
-Screenplay is below standard. To be specific, the screenplay for the first half of the movie was totally a crap mixing serious subject, love & comedy unproportionately. Im quite surprised shankar has done this.
-It doesnt look like a shankar movie except the richness in almost all songs. So average credit to direction part.
-Name any Vivek movie, i will assure u that it has far better jokes than this. Vivek has performed much as a second fiddle to Rajini than a comedian in this movie.
-Background score other than the music for song & fight sequence were well below standard. I think Deva will suit Rajini far better than ARR in providing background score to his movie (Courtesy: Baasha & Anna malai).
Am I exaggerating… but this is what i serious feel abt this movie.
Overall : Below expectation that the media created, but a decent movie to time pass: watchable once, movie for die hard rajini fan. I see a lot of blogs comparing it wit h Baasha & Anna malai. Please dont do that.
nice one man … interesting comments! i think this would give some amount of insights to those so called “self-assumed intellectual critics” (these ppl think anniyan n mudhalvan are art movies … no they r entertainers … solutions given in the movie r far away from reailty … so get a life and understand tht everybody has diff perception about diff things) …
there is no single clear explanation for the rajini phenomenon … everybody has a diff version …
This is called review. Excellent.
Thank you so much for the Review what a Rajnikanth movie is!!!! I would happily strangled the reviews criticising the movie.
What happened to your “journalistic integrity” which you touted so much in your “letter to Vikram”. Too scared to write an honest review about the crap dished out by Shankar and Rajini in the hype called Sivaji? Ooh! the silliness in his acting, the absolute political/social incorrectness in all the ‘complexion humor’ and ‘ugliness references about women’, more holes in the plot than swiss cheese………………….it’s so cute because ‘thalaivar’ did it. If you have buried your soul, then please don’t try to revive it if Vikram, Tom, Dick, Harry follow the same path with Bheema, Majaa et al instead of catering to your schizophrenic artistic tastes.
Yes, this is a fanboy analysis of the phenomenon Superstar is. Not everybody can pull off what Superstar does. if they could, we wouldnt have any flops, would we?
And this is written in my blog, my personal opinion. So there.
If I had to write this for my paper, I would have added the disclaimer that said: The author is a huge Superstar fanatic. I’m sure readers are intelligent to figure out what’s a fanboy review and what is criticism.
my reply is probable 3 years late. But i just go to know abt this site. This is definitely the best review of sivaji i have ever read. I am not sayin this because of me being a rajni fan but because every movie has an agenda and a target audience. So no point sayin that sivaji has a loose storyline or it might not win a national award(who cares?) All matters is that rajnikanth again proves he is undoubtedly the master of style and is also a very professional actor.
hats off to u sudhish for this great review