The biopic of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha titled Thalaivii is a very convenient biopic that acts like devotion. The drama Vijayendra Prasad and Vijay bring to the table is enough to remind you about Kammara Sambhavam. The movie’s production values are definitely high, but the writing really can’t grow beyond the bullet points. With an eccentric tone, theatrical dialogues, and presentation, Thalaivii looks like a propaganda film with a great budget rather than a nuanced story that shows us the real person.
Thalaivii starts with the infamous event in the Tamil Nadu assembly where ruling party members assaulted Jayalalitha after she took control of the party. The flashback shows us how she came to the film industry and her association with MJR (MGR). With everyone opposing her relationship with the superstar and her authority in the party, Thalaivii shows us how Jaya managed to be this powerful political figure despite facing all these objections.
At a time when the whole debate about gender equality is catching everyone’s attention, the story of a woman who came to power amidst patriarchy feels like a well-timed move. There is a sequence in the movie where a nurse asks Jaya to rest because she is the hope of many Tamil women. If the writing were able to show an organic rise of the central character, this scene would have given the viewers Goosebumps. But here, the screenplay’s lack of depth makes the scene look almost like a spoof or satire of the usual whitewashing template. In order to show the change Jaya brought to governance, they exaggerate the poor state of conditions in a very obvious way.
The performance of Kangana Ranaut is in sync with the pitch of the movie. The movie’s overall tone is high, and Kangana understands that and plays it for the gallery. The kind of confidence she has does help the film in representing the character in a more lively way. Arvind Swamy as MJR was really effective as this charming and vulnerable political leader. He gracefully transitioned between the on-screen persona and personal space of that character. In terms of performance, the one I liked the most was that of Samuthirakkani as RN Veerappan. Somewhere it felt like if everyone in the cast grabbed the pitch the way Samuthirakkani did, the drama would have looked more authentic.
Vijay, who now has the credit for directing Thalaiva and Thalaivii, is somewhere losing his grip over craft off late. I remember watching movies like Madrasapattinam, Deiva Thirumagal, etc., and thinking how well he is depicting the emotional intensity. Even in a relatively underwhelming Thaandavam, one could sense a slow-burn romance. But of late, his movies look really hasty, and Thalaivii is also like that in terms of the storytelling pattern. Vishal Vittal’s cinematography does make the canvas look grand. Still, the screenplay is skipping through events, and the dramatization is not something that will make you curious about the journey of Jayalalitha. The background score is impressive and plays a crucial role in elevating certain scenes.
It was announced that Thalaivii would have two parts, and we have already seen images of Kangana Ranaut in prosthetics as the older version of the late Tamil Nadu CM. Looking at the way Thalaivii has completely ignored the other perspective, it will be very interesting (or obvious?) how they will showcase the post-CM phase of the character, which was actually a bumpy ride.
With an eccentric tone, theatrical dialogues, and presentation, Thalaivii looks like a propaganda film with a great budget rather than a nuanced story that shows us the real person.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended