Starring Kangana Ranaut, Arvind Swamy,Raj Arjun,Nassar
Directed by A L Vijay
This is truly a momentous occasion. A bio-pic that tells the truth about its subject in an objective but never disrespectful tone. Hats off to writer K Vijayendra Prasad who proves himself the true Baahubali of screenwriting. He eulogizes the controversial chief minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha without turning the film into a sugary hagiography. It’s a complimentary to the subject matter, but not obsequious.
As seen by the insightful team of Thalaivii, Jayalalilthaa is scheming and conniving, iron-clad in her determination to be – to use a definition applied to Mrs Indira Gandhi—the only man in her cabinet. But she is also a woman hopelessly and helplessly in love, with , who else, the 1950s and 60s’ Tamil matinee idol M G Ramachandran, played with such fragile flourish by Arvind Swami that if MGR were alive to see this bio-pic he would have wanted to be the way he’s played by the actor.
I wonder what Jayalalithaa would have thought of this bio-pic! As portrayed by Kangana (in her most humane performance since Queen) Amma is atrophied by her ambitions and stumped by her love for the man who cannot love her back. Not in the way she wants. Her performance in several details reminded me of Kirthi Suresh in Mahaniti. But Kangana plays her actress-in-love-with-married-actor role with a lot more agonized vulnerability. She is so much in love that she would forsake her dreams to just be near her man.
It all changes mid-way, though. And we can actually see Ranaut transform into a far more formidable woman. Gone are the giggles of the earlier phase when to show her screen the director uses some of the well-known songs from MGR-Jayalalithaa starrers to show the pair’s growing proximity. I have to confess I didn’t enjoy the recreation of the song sequences. They are too selfconsciously retro. And there is this whole elaborate dance in the first-half where Jalyalalithaa does a classical dance performance in front of government officials and Tamil film industry bigwigs. It seems out of place.
Once Jayalalithaa’s political ambitions kick in, the narrative assumes a kinetic force, palpable and unstoppable. Towards the end Ranaut actually begins to resemble Amma. Director A L Vijay exercises a firm grip over both the love story and the politics of Jayalalitha’s life. Her telephonic conversations with MGR just before his death, and the stunning cremation sequence where she gets jostled and molested, are outstanding in projecting an aura of doom and chaos.
Kangana Ranaut goes through the film with a commanding exuberance, never excessive in her expressions of love and desire, always in the right proportions. Arvind Swami is as good, if not better. The other stand-out performer is Raj Arjun as MGR’s trusted lieutenant and right-hand man who spends all his life hating the woman who he thinks compromises his mentor’s reputation.
There are dark patches in the storytelling, passages where the high energy-level of the storytelling flags. But isn’t that how it is in life?