The biggest film of the year in terms of both scale and dreams. “This is a film inspired by, dedicated to and performed by Superstar Rajinikanth” says Karthik Subbaraj at the beginning of the film. And he delivers on this statement. Every scene treats this man like a marvel. The makers have elevated his energy at every note that they could lay their hands on. Ranging from fidgeting with a tumbler to flipping a cigarette (there’s almost nothing left in the callbacks department), from minimal dance steps to sarcastic laughter, they’ve celebrated Rajinikanth’s fictional persona to the fullest possible effect. There was a fear that Subbaraj might get carried away with this opportunity to pay a tribute to his idol, but he hasn’t laid a single misstep on that front. Him and cinematographer Thirru have worked in unison to deliver what is probably going to go down as the coolest looking Thalaivar film, along with Sivaji. The intro scene, the interval block, and literally every other scene in the hostel portions are absolutely lit with all the dynamic camera movements. The style they have employed here is very fresh, especially given the number of handheld shots, as opposed to the firm gaze that we have gotten used to. The camera floats and hovers around him, adding to the intended youthfulness. We are enjoying his energy because the makers know exactly how to present it.

Karthik Subbaraj the fan, wins. But the same guy as a writer, goes overboard. His signature “twistu-mela-twist” routine in the final act works on providing crackers, but there is a lingering question of “why”, which in the end sort of diffuses the sparks. There is also a feeling of having watched two different films at the end of it. This has to do with visual disparity (not a problem) in the two halves, and the grossly under-utilised cast. It almost feels like we have to be reminded of their presence, since the focus is entirely set on Rajini. There is also something about us fully knowing Karthik’s sensibility, which made one particular twist very predictable. We are two steps ahead of him not because we are too smart for him, but because we know that he is too smart for such a plot point. Such discrepancies pull the film down to a visible extent.

Did I want the film to be of a certain kind because one among us has conceptualised it or because it has my superstar in it? Definitely the former, because Karthik Subbaraj is a filmmaker of today, and someone who knows how to value the past that he’s grown up with – a sensibility I relate to. This is only a half-way win for this sensibility, but a complete win for the fan behind this tribute.


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