Thalaivii – Story of Grit & Determination
Sunday (26.9.21) afternoon was utilized on OTT platforms. I am following the series “Humans” on Netflix and watch one episode every third day. This is the only time which I can spare for this kind of entertainment. After today’s episode was over, a promotion of Thalaivii appeared on screen before I could click on Friend’s next episode, which is my all time favourite and my dose of good humour online.
I sat down to watch this mostly because Jaya’s persona has a charm and Kangana is one of my favourite actress. My appetite and patience to watch long movies is not much. But I love biographies as they show behind the scene strength of the person. I enjoyed sitting for this movie, with few fast forwards though. 🙂
Late J. Jayalalitha, politician and film actress served six terms as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Thalaivi is multilingual (Tamil, Telugu and Hindi) biographical film. The life of J Jayalalithaa makes for a good story. A misfit ( not an actress by choice) in an unforgiving film industry who turned into an iron-fisted politician, Jayalalitha’s life come pre-punctuated by dramatic highs and personal lows. So it was no surprise that a spate of biopics was announced following her death in 2016.
The film is a narrative on the life of actor-turned-politician Jayalalithaa (Kangana Ranaut), her relationship with the legendary MGR (Arvind Swami) and her rise to power as the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Jayalalitha’s political journey is known to most throgh newspaper headlines. Director Vijay attempts to unravel her icy cold persona and look at her as a woman passionately driven by love. The film is about a woman’s fight for self respect and battle against odds. She had unconditional love for MGR, despite the societal contempt of her. She faced the wrath of MGR’s loyal followers, who blamed her for this illicit relationship. They thought it to be disgrace to his noble reputation. With the passage of time, MGR and Jayalalitha became each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The purity of their love stayed intact inspite of the murky politics and power struggle. The people close to MGR were hellbent on parting the two. The scenes where they indulge in phone conversations without uttering a single word but letting their silence do the talking are touching. The film essentially works for its poignant love story.
Perceived as the ‘other woman’ in MGR’s life, who supposed to get things easy for being his blue eyed girl, Jaya had everything but respect at the beginning of her political career. Despite being cornered, slut shamed and humiliated time and again, she marches on with her head held high. Her relentless fight to earn her place in the society forms the crux of the film.
Kangana in the main role renders a powerful portrayal of a lovelorn woman who keeps rising like a phoenix from the ashes. She elevates the script with her powerful presence, cleverly not mimicking Jaya but getting the tone and nuances of her character right. As a woman scorned by people for loving fearlessly and feeling deeply, Kangana has done justice to the role.
The actress finds a perfect companion in Arvind Swami as MGR, her mentor. He brings in a certain calm to the storm that engulfs Jaya. Swami is impeccable in his mannerisms and body language. There couldn’t have been a better actor to play the Tamil screen icon and people’s leader.
A former ‘filmwali’ rising to power doesn’t go down too well with the men and the misogyny is conveyed in a rather theatrical & repetitive manner.
Editing needs improvement. The filmmaker takes one dimensional approach to storytelling and his observation of the lead character. Jaya is either smirked at or worshipped. There is no in between. The treatment gets reverential especially in the political portions.
Dialogues hit the right note. “Mahabharat ka dusra naam jaya hai” sums up Jaya’s life perfectly. In a scene where Jaya tells her ailing mother that people only remember you when they need you, her mother righty argues, “Bina Matlab ke log bhagwaan ko bhi yaad nahi karte.” When Jaya is told that everyone reveres MGR and that she is no different, she says, “Krishna ko sab pasand karte the, phir bhi Radha ki sab mein ginti nahi hoti.” Neeta Lulla’s costumes are detailed and effective. The winged eye makeup, bouffant and vintage props, the recreation of a bygone era are okay if not specific.
Thailaivii pays a resounding ode to Jaya-MGR’s poignant love story, a relationship without labels. The political aspect feels talky, half baked and one-sided. What eventually stays with you is the story of a woman who defied the odds and wrote her own destiny.
You can watch this if you love strong women character or subtle love stories.
My overall rating is -.
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