Film, Review, Tamil

Sivaji, The Boss

An 80 crore rupee budget, the biggest in Indian film history. The biggest production company in Chennai. The biggest and most successful director in South India. And, the most popular and iconic superstar in the history of Tamil cinema…

AVM Productions, Director Shankar and Rajinikanth come together for the first time, with this heavyweight of a movie called Sivaji, The Boss. The hype has been relentless and unprecedented, and the wait has been long for the superstar’s fans with several delays in the release date. Finally, finally the movie is out and the verdict is clear. Sivaji, The Boss is a blockbuster. Released in more than a thousand cinemas all over the world, the cash registers are not merely ringing but tolling like church bells!

The ‘Thalaivar’s’ (leader) fans are jubiliant. Last seen as a spiritualist in the disappointing Baba (2002) and a subdued psychiatrist in Chandramukhi (2005), the fans desperately wanted the old Rajini back. Rajini, – the superhero of the common man. And that’s precisely what they get in Sivaji, The Boss. Their favourite superstar dances, fights and delivers his trademark punch dialogues with much gusto as he takes on a range of avatars to exhilarate every age group. He dances to everything from a melodic 80’s-like sounding piece to a GenX rap number. He goes from dark to fair (and blond!), fair to dark, and wears everything from traditional dhotis to Manish Malhotra designed kitchy outfits.

The raging debate among tamil cinema buffs was whether this would be Shankar film with Rajinikanth or a Rajinikanth film made by Shankar. No such doubt remains now. Sivaji, The Boss is without a doubt a Rajinikanth film from its first frame to its last. Director Shankar takes on his favourite theme of corruption once again. This time it’s black money and money laundering; corruption in education. Set against this backdrop, is Sivaji (Rajinikanth) who rises, falls and of course rises again. A successful software entrepreneur in the US, Sivaji returns to India to start a chain of institutions in the education and health sectors to help the needy. In comes the bad guy Adiseshan (Suman), an educationist who has generated enormous wealth and black money, with his friends in government. Sivaji’s efforts are thwarted repeatedly by this bunch, and eventually he finds himself on the street. Adiseshan hands him a one rupee coin, to start his life once again. Sivaji’s tryst with evil and revenge begins with this coin. He decides to usurp all this black money, get it to the US, and have it siphoned back through trusts and charities, to help the needy. The subdued and light hearted Rajini of the first half, turns into his fans’ favourite, angry, revengeful Rajini in the second.

In the the Tamil film world, a Rajinikanth movie is like no other. It becomes a genre unto itself, and is to be seen and experienced with no other intention but to relish the inimitable superstar himself. Cinematic considerations like story and narration become irrelevant, and even fade away as his movies unfold. It’s all about the Boss! And to hold Rajini back is like leashing a lion. His movies are about him, and him alone. And that is the spirit with which to watch Sivaji, The Boss.

Director Shankar’s job must have been the most difficult one in putting the film together. He needed to incorporate his style of film making, but this time with an icon who is much, much larger than the cinemascope screen. Angry fans have often mutilated theatres if their star has not delivered to their expectation. To be fair to Shankar, he has managed to insert some of his trademark elements here and there. But above all, it is clear the biggest director in Tamil cinema is also enamoured by the superstar, so what we get is Shankar paying tribute to Rajini, and celebrating him on screen. And boy, does Rajini deliver! He does all the things his fans crave for. He flips a one rupee coin magically in his hands. He flips two pens and signs with both his hands simultaneously. He fights and grimaces angrily to a roaring audience. He flips his coolers like he always did. He moves his hands faster than the blades of a pedestal fan. And delivers those cult punch lines that fans memorise and repeat for years.

Any other character in a Rajini film is there only for decorative purposes or to fill the blanks in a non existent story. However Suman makes a strong impression as Adiseshan. The hero of Telugu cinema of the 80’s is suave, polished, and brings a new-world villainic charm to the movie. Shriya is purely decorative, and delivers her hip shakes in the songs to expectation and nothing more. Vivek as Rajini’s cousin is delightful with his unique brand of comedy, and keeps his own fan following intact.

On the technical side, the photography (KV Anand) is consistent and mercifully not flashy. The experienced cameraman is not intimidated by the sheer scale of the movie, and is in total control of his craft. The editing (Antony) is neat and clean and keeps the movie moving along smoothly without resorting to his trademark flash cuts lest it takes away from the superstar’s acting. Art Director Thotta Tharani’s sets are awesome and humungous and surely must have consumed a half of the film’s budget. But above all, AR Rahman’s music is a winner yet again. The melodic Sahana Pookal Poothatho song reminds you of the glorious 80’s when Ilayaraja ruled the Tamil Film Industry. It’s picturisation too with the huge glass set is imaginative and unique to say the least. On the other end of the spectrum, the Oru Koodai Sunlight piece is dashing and contemporary, true Rahman style. It is as if Rahman has reserved that something special for a special film.

For die hard Rajini fans, Sivaji, The Boss is celebration time, and for those who have not seen much of the man, the film is a must see. As for Director Shankar, he needs to wait and make a movie with a lesser known mortal, to tell his stories the way he wants to…


Tamil, Action, Drama, Color

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