When you ask young actors why they keep making the same kind of movie, they’ll say they want to establish themselves first, with these “safe films” – but here’s the rub. Once you’ve established yourself, once you’ve become the brand ambassador for a certain kind of movie, once you know this is what people like to see you in, then the fear of failure will never let you do anything else. Case in point: the new Sivakarthikeyan starrer, Rajini Murugan, which plays like a party game titled Where Have I Seen This Scene Earlier?. Take the playing-to-the-gallery moment that disses IT folks. The Madurai-based Rajini Murugan (Sivakarthikeyan) mocks them as losers sitting in air-conditioned cabins, whiling away time with Facebook and Twitter. You can understand this contempt if it came from a son of the soil – a farmer, say. But what does Rajini Murugan do? He steals cash from a friend’s father. He sets up a tea stall opposite the house of a girl (Keerthy Suresh) who hates him – because, in Tamil cinema, when she says no, she’s really saying yes, yes, yes, oh baby, yes. This is how you know Sivakarthikeyan is some kind of star. Imagine how you’d have reacted to this character had he been played by, say, SJ Suryah.
Director Ponram banks entirely on his leading man’s likeability. The “story-screenplay-dialogue-direction” credit could have just read “star-star-star-star.” There’s just one standout sequence – the opening credits over images of Madurai rendered with a beautiful pop-up effect. Everything else is so lazily done, the film’s tagline could read: Hey, they’re going to buy tickets anyway. The bit about a white woman falling for a local is just one random scene. And even that one random scene is content to leave it as a sight gag. It ends when we set eyes on the man. Why not develop this as a comedy track? Why not completely remove the toothless conflict (courtesy, the villain played by Samuthirakani, who sets the plot in motion by demanding a share of Rajini Murugan’s ancestral property)? He is one of the least effective villains in memory, because Ponram is afraid to let things get too serious. Why, then, are we subjected to two panchayat scenes, neither of which have any kind of sizzle? And if you’re not going for drama, why not toss a banana peel into the proceedings?
Or maybe they know that the joke is really on us. The people who matter, the ones who make hits of these films, they’re just there for the scene where Sivakarthikeyan lifts his collar as he rides a bike. And they’re there to see yet another aspirant make his bid for Rajinikanth’s throne, which explains not only the first half of the title but also the numerous references to the Superstar’s films. I’m not just talking about the Endhiran banner or the Rajadhi Raja song. I’m talking about two roadside cops, who appear in just one scene, bearing the names Muthuvel and Alex Pandian. The best character in Rajini Murugan is the heroine’s father, a self-styled Rajini fanatic who even tosses his head the way his idol does. Instead of giving his daughter advice, he plays scenes from Annamalai and Padayappa. Why didn’t they make the whole movie a pastiche of much-loved Rajinikanth scenes? If you’re going to take the easy way out, what could be easier?
- Rajadhi Raja song = see here
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