Thalaivi – My Flash Review!

The much awaited Jayalalitha (JJ) biopic is out and I caught up with the Hindi version of it which is streaming now on Netflix. I am stressing on the “Hindi” version because, it’s my guess that the treatment and therefore the end product would be quite different in Tamil.  First up, JJ’s real life is a fascinating story. The ups and downs, the trials and tribulations and finally the legacy she left on which the jury is still out, could be stuff that will put today’s mega serials to shame in terms of content.  Since it had to be condensed into a film, the makers have opted to pick and choose convenient sagas from JJ’s life which makes it a nicely airbrushed biopic of JJ and not necessarily a true biopic.

As one would expect, the film starts with the obvious scene. The scene in which JJ is publicly humiliated at the assembly, which is etched in public memory in TN. In the film, the scene gets compared with the Draupadi’s Vastraharan scene in Mahabharat and you get the tone of the narrative. A narrative that is extremely filmy, melodramatic and entrenched in the 70’s. The screenplay then goes back to her early days as an actress, her relationship with MGR, her entry into politics and finally her triumph in life when she successfully claims MGR’s legacy.

Through this selective narrative, I must say that Director A.L.Vijay keeps us engaged. One of the high points of the film is its production values and therefore the overall making that transports us to that era. The director is ably aided in his effort by the performance of the lead cast which I think was quite interesting in the 1st place. I was sceptical to see Kangana Ranaut as JJ but at least in the Hindi version, she has managed to hold her own. Arvind Swamy as MGR, looks the part and manages to get the body language right most of the times. Just that his voice doesn’t match. Nassar as Karunanidhi and Raj Arun as RNV are cast well and they deliver. If Lara Dutta was excellent as Indira Gandhi in Bell Bottom, actress (Flora Jacob) playing the role of Indira Gandhi in this film is few notches higher!

With all these going for the film, if you still feel a sense of hollowness at the end of the film, it is because of what the makers have chosen not to touch upon. Probably they didn’t want to stir the hornet’s nest. The film conveniently ignores certain crucial events, fast forwards certain others and also twists few others to suit the chosen narrative. Also, since the film is set in the 70’s, the film making style also imitates that era. The dialogues are filmy (“Mahabharat has another name – Jaya” for example) and the staging of some scenes are “filmier” (the scene in parliament about South Indians, for example). Some important detailing are conspicuous by their absence.  For example, after the shootout incident (which is completely rushed out), MGR’s voice and speech delivery seems intact while we all know in reality what happened.

Still, I would say that the film makes for a one time watch thanks to the making and some good performances. I am not sure, if the same verdict will hold for the Tamil version, though.

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