STORY: The film chronicles the life of actor-turned-political Jayalalithaa (Kangana Ranaut), her relationship with the legendary M. G. Ramachandran (Arvind Swamy) and her tumultuous rise to power as the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
REVIEW: An iconic figure in Indian politics, Jayalalithaa’s political journey is known to most. Director Vijay attempts to unravel her icy cold persona and look at her as a woman passionately driven by love. Make no mistake. A woman’s fight for self respect and battle against patriarchy are integral to the story. However, what lies at the heart of the tale is her unconditional love for MGR. The purity of their love stayed intact even as murky politics, power struggle and people were hellbent on parting the two. The bond between the two is deeply felt. The scenes where you see the two indulging in quiet phone conversations with not a single word exchange but hearts speaking loud enough to convey the feelings are heartbreaking. Vijay gets the love story right and it is the crux of his movie.
Kangana Ranaut in the titular role channels her inner rebel to make a point — she plays second fiddle to no one. A classic case of her screen character imitating her real life in a way. She renders a powerful portrayal of a lovelorn woman who keeps rising like a Phoenix from the ashes. She elevates the detailed but formulaic script with quiet determination and powerful presence. She doesn’t mimic Jaya but gets the tone and nuances of her character right. Kangana finds a perfect companion in Arvind swamy as MGR, her mentor and love, the wind beneath her wings. He brings in a certain calm to the storm that engulfs Jaya. Swamy is impeccable in his mannerisms and body language. There couldn’t have been a better actor to play the Tamil screen icon and people’s leader.
While a lot of ‘dialoguebaazi’ and slowmo walks populate the stretchy political second half, the film’s strong point lies in its heartachingly poignant love story. A former filmwali heroine rising to power doesn’t go down too well with the men and that point is conveyed in a repetitive and theatrical manner. Shoddy editing and a loud background score is another issue.
Dialogues are painstakingly written and hit the right note. “Mahabharat ka dusra naam jaya hai” sums up Jaya’s life perfectly. A scene where Jaya tells her ailing mother that people only remember you when they need you, her mother righty argues, “Bina Matlab ke log bhagwaan ko bhi yaad nahi karte.” When Jaya is told that everyone reveres MGR and that she is no different, she says, “Krishna ko sab pasand karte the, phir bhi Radha ki sab mein ginti nahi hoti.” Neeta Lulla’s costumes are detailed and effective. From Conical bras of the 60s and 70s to the winged eye makeup and props, the recreation of a bygone era is done well.
Thailaivii pays a resounding ode to Jaya-MGR’s poignant love story. The political portion feels reverential and lacks objectivity.