Thalaivii Review: Kangana Ranaut is effortless as Jayalalithaa but shoddy dubbing lets the film down
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Arvind Swami, Madhoo, Bhagyashree, Raj Arjun
Bollywood Bubble Rating: 3 stars
Right from its announcement, Thalaivii was one film I was genuinely looking forward to. As a child, you have grown up hearing stories of how Jayalalithaa aka Amma stood up for people’s rights and why she was celebrated and almost worshipped in Tamil Nadu. And then, you have a biopic that pays an ode to her journey – from films to politics – with Kangana Ranaut stepping in as the main lead. Thalaivii is unlike other biopics: it doesn’t cover the life of the actor-politician in its entirety; in fact, it just captures several moments, milestones or events that eventually shaped her life. The first half usually meanders from her troubled relationship with her mother and starting off really young as a Heroine to her much spoken about romantic liaison with superstar MGR (played by Arvind Swami). How a completely besotted Jayalalithaa dedicated her life to the only love of her life, and how MGR’s ideals and principles brought out the inherent Amma becomes the entire crux. The film opens with the infamous Parliamentary scene where Amma was violated as a woman, by several other male ministers. “Ab yaha par Chief Minister banke hi loutungi,” Jayalalithaa roars and the story unfolds.
While the story has a lot of meat, the direction and screenplay could have been way better. In fact, the director fails to capture the essence and emotion behind a few important moments, that invariably loses its charm when you see it on celluloid. The whole song-and-dance nostalgia piece where Kangana grooves exactly the way Amma did back in the day, makes you smile and also shows her terrific hold over the character. But the director takes too much time to set the whole story up. In fact, beyond a point, the first half becomes a drag and the second half is where things pace up. The music is passable with no song staying on with you, even before you leave theatres. There are abrupt cuts in between scenes where the film literally jumps from one shot to the other, without much of a reference and that gets a little confusing and a lot more annoying as the movie progresses. Another thing that become a huge obstacle for the biopic is the overbearing dialogues at times. Most of them are hard-hitting but some seem to be just for effect and doesn’t draw the desired claps or whistles. Beyond a point, it becomes a true blue South Indian masala potboiler and fails to rise above that, which is sad. While the performances are top-notch, what lets the film down is the absolutely shoddy dubbing. It might possibly be because of the pandemic situation in which the film was dubbed, so we give it to the team but unfortunately, there are many scenes where the dubbing fails to match upto the level of the terrific acts, especially from Kangana and Swami.
Coming to performances, both Kangana and Arvind Swami shine right through. Needless to say, Kangana is effortless in all her scenes – she dances like Amma, you feel for her when she’s heartbroken and lovelorn and you definitely root for her when she eventually takes over. The transformation you see on screen, even in terms of physicality is kaabil-e-tareef, because it is indeed a difficult space to be as an actor. But she plays Amma to perfection, with consummate ease. The Draupadi scene in the Parliament is a stunner and she hits a complete homerun during MGR’s funeral scene. She delivers another fine knock; we just hope the editing and dubbing complemented her powerful act!
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Arvind Swami is outstanding as MGR and one wonders why he hasn’t been doing films anymore. But it’s the dubbing that works against him as well. Although it’s a film on Amma’s life, he owns every frame he is and his chemistry with Kangana is lovable. Raj Arjun as RM Veerappan (MGR’s PA) is brilliant. You hate him, you loathe his tactics and it’s his takraar with Kangana that draws the maximum cheer. But veteran stars like Madhoo and Bhagyashree who return to the scene with this biopic are completely wasted. Bhagyashree’s role could have been far better etched but the entire focus becomes MGR and Jayalalithaa’s love story that consumes almost an entire half of the film. I would have loved to see more scenes between Kangana and Bhagyashree because the little we saw of them, was very good and likable.
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Overall, I feel Thalaivii is a good homage to the life that Jayalalithaa lived and the untold story behind Amma. But the faulty direction and dubbing brings it down a bit. Nevertheless, Kangana Ranaut and Arvind Swami’s powerful acts are enough to arrest your attention. So, give it a watch!