D Meera Chithirappaavai
Thalaivi is a film based on the illustrious life of actress-politician Dr. J Jayalalitha. A life story as eminent as hers comes with a bunch of challenges when one attempts to recreate it onscreen. Be it the challenge of giving the extensive story a form with an effective screenplay order or the casting that can make the depiction close to reality, a biographical film isn’t an easy one. Does director AL Vijay’s effort surpass the challenges?
Read through to arrive at your version of a convincing answer.
Personal life stories hold in them beautiful realism & graceful nuances. The narration only needs to ensure it brings out its essence effectively. This process starts with the makers digging deep into details. Thalaivi begins & ends platonically. The weightage given to MJR & Jaya’s affair in the story engulfs so many other components that could have thrown more light into the life of one of the greatest women political leaders of the nation.
Actress Kangna Ranaut puts out a rather desperate performance that in many parts lacks a natural flow. The constant & tiring attempt at portraying the title character makes the viewing experience unconvincing. On the other hand, Arvind Swami as MJR appears to have studied Dr. MGR’s character elements well & the preparation & planning has paid off onscreen. Samuthirakani & Nassaer as RM. Veerappan & M. Karunaithi respectively deliver an earnest job with their respective roles. However, Nassar’s attempt at mimicking Karunathinithi’s voice could have been avoided.
A large part of the list of complaints begins with something as basic as lip & sound sync. Many portions lack finesse in the edit & sound department which distances the viewer further away from the narration. Biographies based on popular personalities come with an advantage of familiarity but the disadvantage of a non-intriguing storyline. While filmmakers gain strength from the advantage they are compelled to plan a gripping narration to outdo the disadvantage. In the case of Thalaivi, writers Vijayendra Prasad & Vijay have drowned themselves in exploring the familiarity factor but have taken it too lightly in the narration front allowing the disadvantage to take a win.
Films that revolve around a particular period need good musical backing to establish the mise-en-scene. GV Prakash’s work for the film only graces over a safe line & it wouldn’t be wrong to tag it as a “missed opportunity”.
Special mention to a few scenes in the first half that portray iconic scenes from old & popular movies starring MGR & Jayalalitha. The effort put towards achieving precision while the recreation of these scenes is commendable.
To summarise, Thalaivi is a superficial biography that is deficient in impact & experience. The screens have seen better biographies despite the complexity of the story & Thalaivi does get lost in translation. The beloved "Amma" deserved a better biography for all that she’s been through to become the person she became.
Thalaivi - A lukewarm attempt at recreating a magnanimous story - A missed “golden” opportunity.