Thalaivii Movie Review: Kangana Ranaut Is Solid, But The Movie Offers An Incomplete Look At Jayalalithaa’s Life | Bollywood
I went to Thalaivii thinking I could see Jayalalithaa’s eventful journey as a politician who held power for years while serving six times as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. But, ultimately, this Kangana Ranaut star tells the story of how a naive Jaya turned into someone more formidable – an Amma for millions. True to the story he intended to tell, director Vijay tackles aspects of his life that followers of Jaya may never have been able to see up close.
As the quintessential Indian biographical drama, Thalaivii is peppered with song and dance sequences and lots of ‘dialogebaazi’. It’s extremely focused on the look and focus of the characters, and of course, transporting you back to the time the movie takes place. The first half takes you to the mid-60s, when Jaya (played by Kanagna Ranaut) was pushed into becoming an actress to support her family, almost burying her dream of becoming a lawyer. Young, charming and beautiful heroine, she was paired with one of the most legendary actors of her generation, MG Ramachandran (played by Arvind Swamy). Their love affair goes through ups and downs, until the political bug bites Jaya and their life takes a different turn.
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Without any distractions or even the slightest interest in politics, the first half of Thalaivii chronicles Jaya’s unconditional dedication to MGR. Through a few heartwarming scenes that highlight their silent exchange and mutual admiration and trust, we see how their bond has survived through thick and thin. The second half is completely dramatic with MGR actively pursuing a political career with Jaya as “propaganda secretary”, much to the apprehension of his party employees, who slyly joke, “Khaas dost ke liye khaas post”. It is from there that the political drama takes center stage and Jaya reveals a side of her that she never wanted to reveal. But, his unwavering love for MGR remains at the heart of the story.
In the midst of it all, something was wrong. Do you know all those stories about Jayalalithaa’s splendid collection of saris and sandals (which often went under the scanner during raids)? I was waiting for this track to be shown in the movie. Alas, the best we have had is that she gets dressed to meet MGR one last time.
That being said, Kangana’s performance as Jayalalithaa deserves applause; she holds up in every scene. She doesn’t imitate Jaya, but leaves an impact. And don’t forget about her physical appearance, accentuated by puffy winged eyeliner, tapered bras and sleek curtains. Kangana taps into Jaya’s rebellious spirit, her ferocity in defying patriarchy, and her empathy when it comes to serving people.
Impeccable Arvind Swamy completes his strong on-screen presence. It is a treat to watch it. His aura matches that of MGR and Arvind’s mannerisms give the character more power and depth. Perhaps one of the best moments in the film is MGR’s funeral scene. He’s filmed on such a grand scale, with shots of his grieving supporters and a broken Jaya.
In other key roles, Raj Arjun’s character RM Veerappan is the backbone of the story. Her character arc is perhaps the best written after Jaya’s, and the journey they pursue is commendable. Bhagyashree as Sandhya (Jaya’s mother) is endearing and Madhoo as MGR’s wife (VN Janaki Ramachandran) will be a reminder of their days as Roja (1992).
Rajat Arora’s dialogues in the Hindi version of the film also enhance the storyline in many places. In the scene where MGR tells Jaya to join politics, she says: “Parde by aurat ke bin film feeki si lagti hai by jab woh aurat power mein aa jaye toh sabko mirchi si lagti hai”. It’s a complete line worthy of a whistle!
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The only thing the director could have paid a little more attention to is the length of the film. At 153 minutes, it’s not only too long but also poorly paced in the first half. And for those who want to see Amma’s journey as a politician and how she served her people, well, maybe Kangana should consider doing a second part, because Thalaivii seemed incomplete to me.