Thalaivii is a film about the late J. Jayalalithaa, an actress who became a politician and served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu six times. Thalaivii is not, however, a political film. At its core, it’s a love story.
With politics as a backdrop, the film takes us on a journey of the rumoured romance between MGR and Jayalalithaa. MGR’s “Ammu” was Jayalalithaa. She hoped to live with the matinee idol, who was 31 years her senior and already married. MGR and Jaya were such a hit in Tamil cinema that they appeared in over 40 films together between 1966 and 1970, with roughly 28 of them being blockbusters.
The first half of Jayalalithaa is dedicated to her as an actress, and the second half is dedicated to her as a politician, but neither of them deserves the 150-minute runtime. I didn’t mind the length because it was a “journey” story; the issue arises when you want it to go in a different direction than other B-town biopics.
Despite the fact that she is focusing on a single phase of her life, Thalaivii appears to be debating the concept of paying an ode to the leader. However, certain stories require more time if fully invested, and this is entirely dependent on audience desire.
Even with that constraint, filmmaker Vijay packs in enough layers of drama and emotion, with just the right amount of wit and light humour, that we are constantly anxious to know what happens next at every point of this wonderful screenplay written by K. V. Vijayendra Prasad, Madhan Karky (Tamil), and Rajat Arora (Hindi). The filmmakers have stuck to the timeframe and haven’t tried to exaggerate any of the events.
With this film, A. L. Vijay ventures into dangerous territory, giving a taste of “what it could’ve been” if the story, dialogues, and screenplay had been stronger. Vijay’s seamless direction appears to be ‘grand’ throughout.
When certain sequences make you assume it’s her biopic, Kangana Ranaut was the obvious choice. You won’t believe it if she’s playing a different role since she’s so natural on film. This is definitely a one Kangana Ranaut show thanks to a commendable shift in accents, looks, and physical qualities of a single character.
MGR, played by Arvind Swami, has the arduous task of capturing the charisma and aura of yet another renowned artist in front of the person on whom the film is based. Despite being heavily reliant on Jayalalithaa’s character, Arvind assists MGR’s character in finding his own footing. Nassar’s casting as Karunanidhi is spot-on, yet the material is wasted.
Bhagyashree gives a stunning performance as Jayalalithaa’s mother. Raj Arjun, the Secret Superstar’s surprise package, still knows how to stand out in a sea of excellent performances. As R. M. Veerappan, MGR’s cold-hearted lieutenant, he shines brightly. Due to her short screen time, Poorna’s performance as Sasikala is underutilised.
None of G. V. Prakash Kumar’s songs entice you to listen to them again outside of the movie. He gets full scores in the category of “background score,” offering several polished pieces.
Watch it to remember Jayalalitha’s rise from an actor to a leader to finally becoming Amma, and to see Kangana Ranaut’s devoted portrayal bring it to life on screen.