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Sivaji - Movie Review

In trying to fuse two very successful formulas called Shankar & Rajini, the filmmakers have effectively produced a movie which comprises of episodes that distinctly belong to both the personalities. Actually, following a middle path isn't that difficult considering the fact that Shankar's heroes are larger than life and Rajini's roles in the past make him fit like a glove into the former's script. 'Sivaji' is neither the best Shankar movie nor the best Rajini movie; but had the editor's scissors been sharp & swift, this could have been the best Shankar-Rajini combo possible. Running at a little over three hours, one can't help wonder why did Antony (the editor) not prune away some shabby 30 minutes which are diluting & distracting. Anyway, as prescribed by our cinema grammar, if you can safely disengage the logical side of your brain, you can have some fun.

Sivaji (Rajini) is a software architect from U.S who had amassed loads of wealth and wants to do something for the poor on his return to India. His noble ambitions are duly thrashed at the administrative & political avenues. Portrayed as a little naive and very straightforward, Sivaji oils the corrupt system with a big fraction of his money to get his job done. Always under the radar of Adhi (Suman), a hitman & kingmaker (no big difference there!), Sivaji's project stumbles leaving him pennyless. The superhero changes gears to cut the diamond with a diamond - he resorts to dirty tricks to squeeze the black money out of city bigwigs and siphons them towards good deeds.

Talk of commercial elements, and you will find it all here. The first half is a setting-up phase with emphasis on Rajini's romance & Vivek's comedy. Though some jokes are down the beaten path and a few scenes on top of roof, I enjoyed the lighthearted feel of the first 90 minutes. It's been a while since one saw Rajini going gaga over a girl; in fact, I don't remember the last time an established hero proposed to a girl and stood aside patiently for her approval. Shreya fits into the traditional Tamil heroine trap - she doesn't have much to do other than presenting herself as a sattvika girl during the talkies & as a glamor queen in the song scenes. Vivek is almost a second hero here - I wonder if he had more dialogues than Rajini in the first half. Roaring punch lines wittily has been his strength and he doesn't fail to entertain the audience with his sense of timing. I hope 'Sivaji' revives his career & gives us a break from the non-stop nonsense that we've been enduring.

Shankar gets busy with his here's the message of the movie narration in the second half while Rajini readies himself for a top gear rummage of his opponents. You can almost see the fingerprints of Rajini in front of the camera and that of Shankar's behind it. Traversing an immoral route to defraud the bad guys to help the poor people has been Robinhood's... oops, sorry, Shankar's staple screen diet and we see the same thing here. Rajini feels more energetic & brisk here than in his previous outings. Shankar sets up ample opportunities for Rajini to display his trademark style, which he executes deftly to the brim of his fans' hearts. Though this is his first movie as a granddad, some top notch make-up covers up all the wrinkles.

Rahman's songs have grown over me and Shankar sets new standards for himself when it comes to picturizing them. Athiradikkaran is the pick of the album - both musically & visually. Rahman's background score perfectly fits the movie's tone. K.V.Anand's cinematography, especially the way he has worked in the songs needs special mention. Yes, there is grand grandeur; but it's Anand's eyes that assign meanings to those surreal sets by Thotta Tharani - another feather in the movie's technical cap. The film's biggest disadvantage is it's length. There are scenes that drag & pale in comparison to the ones before and after it, and I can't reason why Antony chose to okay them. To name a few: Rajini mimicking other actors and other actors mimicking Rajini might grow stale on repeated viewings. Rajini & Vivek posing as surveyors for the election commission is downright impossible. All the fight sequences seemed lengthy. The 'office room' episodes could've been reduced. Nevertheless, there is not one moment I squirmed in my seat or looked at the watch - if you enter the theatre expecting to see a Rajini movie, you'll be more than pleased when you step out of it.

Though the movie frequently steps out of pragmatism, it is the least of a true fan's botherations. There is plenty of enjoyable humour, carefree romance, family sentiments, unbelievable (literally!) action, cool songs, punch lines and to top it all, Rajini in full form. The villain could've been more powerful, which could have indirectly enhanced the hero's strength from a viewer's perspective - but that's just a minor quibble. There is a Shankaresque twist at the end, where Rajini proves why he's a difficult style icon to beat or emulate. In a resolutely cool get-up which pays a very nostalgic homage to the icon in the eighties, he comes back to kick ass. And this is why the crowd comes back to see him. As for Shankar, he should ponder if he's going to keep doing this for the rest of his working time - message masalas that are predictable and by the numbers. But this time, I'm not complaining.

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