It all started with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Then came Mani Ratnam’s Nayagan, and finally the genre got an additional sheen with RGV’s Sarkar. Then this story and format were revisited and rehashed many times making it a template for gangster flicks and used by heroes and directors to add another feather in their repertoire. In the opening credits of Thalaiva, director A L Vijay pays tribute to Mani Ratnam, RGV and others who mastered the craft. Great move sir, but you should have taken care about lot many things than paying homage to the gurus. A L Vijay tries to refine the age-old story but only manages to make just another film in this zone.
The movie opens with Mumbai riots and Nazar and Sathyaraj become victims of those. A series of sacrifices lead to Sathyaraj becoming a messiah of masses and protecting the entire area. Then the film shifts gears to Australia where ‘Ilaithalapathy’ is seen as a dancer and a mineral water bottling plant owner. Then comes Amala Paul who joins their dance troupe and they fall in love. Vijay is brought to Mumbai and the transition of a dancer / businessman to a leader forms the rest of the story.
It seems Vijay fell in love with the city of Mumbai. His previous outing Thuppaki was set in Mumbai and most part of Thalaiva was shot at the same place. The pace and soul of the city is very well captured in every frame. A L Vijay made the first half breezy with loads of comic punches from Santhanam and warming up the romance between Vijay and Amala Paul. After a pre-interval twist, the rest of the movie rides high on emotions and one person outsmarting other. Finally, good wins over evil.
The high-fliers of the movie are the guerilla fight and chase sequences in Mumbai. Nirav Shah’s cinematography is top-notch in canning the locales of Australia and it walks an extra mile in bringing the frantic flavor of Mumbai to celluloid. The other best part of the film is the dance sequence between Vijay and Amala. This one reminded me of the one with Kamal Hassan and Revathi from Dancemaster. That’s what I call awesome choreography laced with melodious consonance of G V Prakash Kumar. Barring a couple, the songs fail to register but Prakash’s background score elevates every scene.
Vijay looks cool as a dancer but he couldn’t carry the grit and intensity that’s much needed for his character in the latter half. He’s not befitting in the role and his performance lacks conviction. He fails to make the viewer emote with his character. There’s plenty of melodrama but he never makes it visible on his face. It’s tough to read him from the expression that borders on been-there-done-that but never tried to live the character. That’s why Kamal Hassan still lives in our hearts and no other actor perfected that role.
The screenplay manages to build the tension with some clichéd and creative touches but the dragged narration makes it unpalatable. The run time is close to 3 hour 10 minutes and the last 30 minutes make you restless. Blame the editor for making the film devoid of slick editing. When you feel the movie is moving towards climax, there’s an unwarranted item-ish dance number that earns the wrath of the audience. Again the climax slips into stereotype making the film look very ordinary. The entire build-up to the climax was grossly wasted with a weary twist. As every other film, in the end, this one falls into the lap of Sarkar.
It’s time A L Vijay pulls his socks and does a decent homework before making a film. He made a half-baked cookie in the form of Thandavam and now repeated the same with Thalaiva. A better treatment and a better character elevation of the hero might have made this film a hallmark in its genre, but the director fails miserably in making the film work in his favor. This time The Godfather template fails to make the cut.
My Rating: Expectation – 7/10; Reality – 5/10view less