Jayalalithaa’s life makes for an interesting narrative. The bold woman’s life has been marked by spectacular highs and tragic lows. She was a misfit in an unforgiving career who evolved into an iron-fisted politician. Director AL Vijay’s Thalaivi has consistently made headlines, partly thanks to Kangana Ranaut, who plays the late politician and keeps the hype alive.
Thalaivi, depicts the life of an actor-turned-politician, Jayalalithaa (Kangana Ranaut), along with her relationship with the renowned M. G. Ramachandran popularly known as MGR played by the legend Arvind Swami and her turbulent climb to prominence as Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister.
Jaya had everything except respect in the initial stage of her political career, as she was seen as the ‘other woman’ in MGR’s life, who got things easy as she was his blue-eyed girl. She marches on with her head held high despite being surrounded, slut shamed, and humiliated on several occasions. The film’s central theme is her unwavering determination to earn her position in society.
“The story we all know, the life story we don’t know.”
Kangana, who portrays the eponymous role, harnesses her inner rebel and uncompromising self-assurance to make a point: no one comes second to her. In a manner, her movie role imitates her real life in this situation. She gives a stunning performance as a lovelorn lady who continues rising from the ashes like a phoenix.
With calm resolve and a commanding presence, she transcends the formulaic screenplay, deftly not imitating Jaya but nailing the tone and subtleties of her role. She is remarkable as a woman rejected for loving boldly and profoundly.
It’s likely that we’re missing Jaya’s empathic nerve because it lacks a feminine vision. When it comes to addressing the thoughts behind the rumours that circulate when a female superstar enters a male-dominated political zone, the film appears to be superior. However, bringing attention to Jayalalithaa’s tribulations is simply a verbal act.
On the other hand, the film features a number of excellent performances. Nasser and Thambi Ramaiah did an excellent job in their roles, but this is more of a MGR-Jayalalitha narrative with RN Veerappan on the other side of the triangle. Samuthirakani does an excellent job as RNV, however I wish the character had been fleshed out more in the middle, rather than just the beginning and conclusion.
When Kangana is on screen, the background score is ear-splittingly loud and dramatic, and it constantly plays triumph music, which is a bit superfluous.
Is Kangana’s performance in Thalaivi her finest to date?
No. However, it chronicles the life of a leader whose path has been inspirational (and occasionally questionable) for a generation unfamiliar with Tamil Nadu and its politics.
Thalaivi depicts Jayalalithaa’s life in broad strokes. The best elements include some dramatic moments and outstanding performances from the key actors. However, it devolves into a hagiography and becomes a skewed biography.