Movie Review: Shivaji, the Boss

October 14, 2007

We were disappointed when the film's release was delayed from April to June. We all rushed to the theater to watch the costliest film ever produced in Indian film history. We did not mind forking out $8 per head to watch our favorite Super Star on the Velli Thirai (Big Screen). My boys simply adore his antics and adopt his "style" effortlessly. They repeat his "one liners" as if it were a mantra! For the next week we went tapping on our heads like Shivaji, the Boss!

It was paisa vasool, total entertainment. What else can one expect when the director is none other than Shankar, known for his extravagance? It was written (in Tamil mags) that Rajnikath was paid an astronomical sum of IRs 40 crores, that is about $1 mill. Not bad for the dark-skinned actor who began his career as a low-paid bus conductor.

For me, Rajni was the symbol of all that was right about socialism. He was the success story from the 70s when he began his career in the Tamil cinema world. His rags-to-riches story confirms the storyline in many of his stories as Super Star. How could I forget the oily-skinned villain of 16 Vayathiniley (When 16) who struck terror in my heart along with Sridevi's! But the one role I loved was his Mullum Malarum (The Thorn and the Flower) as the wicked-soft Kaalai (literally, bull) who was all rough on the outside and all mushy inside for his sister. His portrayal of an obsessive lover in Moondru Mudichu (Three Knots) with Sridevi and Kamalahasan is memorable to this day. The song Vasanthakaala Nadigalile (In the Spring Rivers) will be forever etched in my memory.

I doubt many of his modern fans (including my children) have even seen some of his finer films where he emoted so beautifully. For one, most of the films I am referring to were in black and white and seen in small Kottaais (palm-frond theaters) in rural parts of Tamil Nadu with the soft whirring of the projector. Television was still unknown to a lot of us. Over a period of time his "style" was more commented upon and duplicated than his talent.

However, I got drawn into Rajni's swashbuckling antics of the 80s and 90s as you could never resist his twinkling eyes that tell you that all this is a huge joke! His sense of timing with comedy makes it more hilarious when delivered in his uniquely accented voice.

Shivaji lives up to that lightness. There are many jokes pertaining to skin color and an entire song sequence that was digitally remastered to show Rajni in "fair" skin. The easy affability of this actor seeps through whether you understand Tamil or not! It is no wonder that he is such a hit in Japan!

The music of AR Rehman is simply stunning. The Oru koodai sunlight in a reggae beat is simply stunning along with its picturization. You can never go wrong with picturization in a Shankar's film. He pulls out all stops to get the songs done right. [He spent crores filming the Adhisayam (filmed on location at the Seven Wonders of the World) song in Jeans with Aishwarya Rai.] The glass/crystal set for Sahana saaral thoorutho was so romantic, it put Cinderella's castle to shame. He is one director who consistently uses his medium to accentuate the visual folk arts of Tamil Nadu. The first song Ballelaika attests to that. The costumes and sets are grander than anything you can imagine.

Coming to the story, it was a very interesting twist to handling the issue of corruption. The movie begins with a do-gooder, our Super Star, imprisoned because he wishes to give back to society! The rest of the film is the unfolding of events he narrates to his cell mates and the final twist in the tale.

Given Shankar's obsession in ridding the land of evildoers, he achieves it through violence. With Rajni, it was more the use of wit and smarts. Yes, the fists fly in some scenes, but not to the extent as in some of Shankar's previous oeuvres. Be it Indian, The Gentleman, Mudhalvan and more recently, Anniyan, he has always treated corruption with annihilation. This time around it was more lyrical and comical with our super star and his eyes that glint!

Rajni, as a super star, never did well with sizzling, sensual scenes. Hence, the safety of taking kids to his films. He would make it look like a grand farce with the girl hero-worshiping more than melting in his arms. He gets away with those romantic music numbers by being a "rough" general, who is a war hero, returned home, rather than a pretty-in-pink lover boy.

What I could not handle, however, was him showing his age alongside his nubile, young star, Shriya Saran. It is not his physical looks as much as his body language which is too mature. I guess, he essayed getting rid of his heroine in Baba which was totally unacceptable to the Tamil people! Poor dear.

I sincerely hope Tamil directors and producers will make him act in roles that are more suited to his age and experience as the Bollywood fellas have done for Amitabh Bacchan. It is also time for a new generation of Tamil moviegoers to know what a great actor their super star is and see him in new roles!

Blokes aka Meenakshi enjoys writing along with being a mom, a school teacher, a musician and an Art of Living teacher (of meditation and breathing)
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October 22, 2007
02:00 PM

Finally found you. How are you?

October 22, 2007
02:19 PM

Did you manage to figure out what those lay-dees were doing, sitting daintily (not!) on stools, wearing ill-suited 'angel' outfits, waving their wings?

October 22, 2007
02:21 PM

I liked this movie for one reason: mega budget, mega star and amazing publicity meant that for the first time we broke through the 'Bollywood' haze and for the first time, folks actually learnt that there are other industries besides the Hindi juggernaut too.

For that, Shankar and Rajni, I salute you.

October 26, 2007
11:07 PM

ha ha ha - speechless.

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