The moot question is: does the Rajnikanth-Shankar combination measure up to the stratospheric expectation of their fans? The answer is that it does - to a very large extent, as it has the freshness and novelty in the coming together of two giants of the industry. As a film, it acts as the vital bridge between the old Rajni films and new commercial packaging that makes Shankar tick with the generation next audience.
Rajnikanth has never looked so good on screen with his stylised look and presentation, body language, mannerisms and dialogue delivery. Shankar has been able to get the right balance in a tightrope walk between Rajni's larger-than-life image and the changing taste of today's mass multiplex audience without losing his famous touch. In short, Shankar has given us a more peppy and upmarket Rajni that is sure to work with today's youth audience.
There is only one hero here, as in all Rajnikanth films- Rajni himself. Such is the overpowering screen presence of his cinematic charisma in every frame of the film. The film works big time as Shankar has made the film on a grand scale, in a riot of colours, lavish song picturisation, which is a visual treat with superbly choreographed action scenes. All this comes with top-of-the line techno-finesse, perhaps the best ever in Tamil cinema.
Sivaji (Rajnikanth) comes back from US with big dreams of doing something good for his fellowmen, mainly free education and medical care. He wants to set up `Sivaji University` but our corrupt system, greedy politicians and red tapism stand in his way. Sivaji’s right-hand man is his Mama (Vivek) who not only helps him with his dream project but also finds him a perfect match in Tamilselvi (Shriya).
Sivaji faces opposition from Adhiseshan (Suman), a kingmaker, businessman and educationist who runs a successful medical college and hospital. After realising that nothing works in our corrupt system, Sivaji succumbs to pressure and bribes the entire bureaucracy to start his pet project. Adhi crosses swords with Sivaji and is determined to sabotage the project and he succeeds in bringing our hero to the street. Now it is the turn of our superman hero to strike back. How he does it with just one rupee forms the rest of the story.
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Technically, ‘Sivaji’ is a revelation. In case you feel that it has a predictable story, then there are stunning visuals, which is paisa vasool. K.V.Anand's cinematography is top class. Art director Thotta Tharani work is enticing, especially the sets in songs. Musically the film is a treat, as Rahman has given his best in recent times. Song picturisation, like in all Shankar films, is out-of-the world and what really keeps the viewer hooked, is the packaging and the way it is picturised.
Every song is a visual treat, with Vaaji … and Sahaana… adding glitz to the proceedings. The Style song shot in Spain with where Rajni is shown as a white man is mesmerising, though the much hyped Ballelakka.. number reminds you of the manner in which Andankakka in Anniyan was shot. Thotta Tharani's sets enrich the proceedings. Manish Malhotra’s costumes, especially the suits and denims suit Rajni to the T.
On the downside, there is nothing new story-wise. Shankar has rehashed his pet theme of a one-man crusader who cleans the society of the scum of the earth, which was seen in his earlier socio-commercial fantasies like Gentleman and Muthalvan. There is a sense of déjà vu- as you have seen similar plots too often from his stable. The script is too thin on logic. There are far too many banal dialogues and familiar homilies and messages, associated with a Shankar film, are thrust in and at times the pace is too sluggish, especially in the first half.
The action scenes are well choreographed by Peter Hayne. The two fights in the first half are done in typical Jackie Chan style with the emphasis being to provide light hearted comedy. The climax fight between 'Motta' Sivaji and Adhi is adrenaline pumping with gravity defying 'Matrix' style visual effects. The graphic work in Style and Athiradi songs is mind-boggling.
Shriya has given an outstanding performance. Body language, glances, expression.... you name it and she has it all. She looks bewitching and has enough scope to perform. Suman’s new look as the suave, polished Adhi is perfect foil for Rajni as he does not go overboard and utters only a few words. Vivek has equal footage with Rajni and some of his one-liners are really whacky and hilarious, especially when he takes a dig at young heroes who have taken a leaf out of the superstar by mouthing punch lines and aping his mannerisms.
Though this is a film without any punch lines associated with Rajni films, a “Pera ketta chumma Adhirudhilla.. or “Cool” could drive his fans into a frenzy. Please note that for the first time, there are a lot of English dialogues for Rajni, keeping the global audiences in mind. The comedy in the first half is rollicking and the surprise packet is the ‘Motta’ Rajni who comes in the climax.
Go for it… It is entertainment guaranteed.