An all time hit, Padayappa, a relative flop, Baba, a few political false starts, and a two year hiatus from films. This was what Rajnikanth was up against. One more flop and the man would have been history for all practical purposes. Under these circumstances, selecting a come back vehicle must have been a tough call. Based on current press reports it sounds like Tamil cinema’s superstar has once again delivered a super hit despite all these odds.
The film is very much an “un-Rajni” film. Its a family drama. The hero has no villain to fight against. There are no cigarette tricks, no political dialogues, no tailored punch lines. Yet, its a watchable, entertaining, and engaging film especially if you have not seen the original malayalam version, Manichitrathazhu. Despite the long break Rajnikanth does not seem to have lost his touch. As many of the usual ingredients of a typical Rajni film have been weaved into the story: An intro song with a fast moving background with scores of extras while the hero moves energetically with an MGR-esque sleight of the hand, a couple of fight sequences, a few songs (Konja Neram being my favorite), plenty of comedy etc.
Tamil films unlike Bollywood, still seems to prefer pretty faced women with well endowed back-sides. Nayanthara and Jyothika do justice to this requirement. Vadivelu’s comedy is an asset to the film. Prabhu is a passenger (I guess he was more focused on the production activities). The rest of the supporting cast does a reasonable job.
As for Rajnikanth. Credit to him for having maintained himself so well. At 55 the guy is slim and trim. After his lip job, and perfect wig, and plenty of make up, Rajnikanth seems to have been geared up for a successful return to the silver screen. For once, great care has been taken in his dressing. He is well dressed throughout the film without being distracting. His racy dialogue delivery style remains intact. He did throw in his trademark sun glasses flip, barring which the conventional style was absent. Given the story and script there was little room for it. In any case, he handles his role with the utmost ease.
A lot has been written about the plot, so I am going to avoid mentioning it here again. If its a Rajni film it doesn’t really matter. Does it? If you are a typical Tamil film viewer, either you are pro or against Rajnikanth. If you are pro you will like anything he dishes out. If you are anti-Rajni you will find something criticize no matter what. So the plot is inconsequential anyway!
Overall, the film is certainly worth watching, especially if you haven’t seen the original Malayalam film. The background score is quite annoying (I find this to be as trend among a number of Indian films, especially the fast jerky screen movements accompanied by loud music). The music is adequate and the acting of the supporting cast decent.
Lastly, having been there and done it over and over again, I hope the superstar will use the success of this family drama, to transition to movies where he doesn’t necessarily have to be portrayed as young, fighting villains, prancing around with 20 year olds etc. If he does manage to accomplish this transition, Tamil cinema would be much better served. There is no question, Rajnikanth is Tamil cinema’s all time great box office draw and has remained so for over two decades. That’s a tall order. The question is if he can make a transition and offer something new going forward and still maintain his top draw status instead of simply re-hashing the tried and tested formula.