STAR WARS – THE FORCE AWAKENS: A GLORIOUS RESURRECTION

The preternatural anxiety surrounding the release of the George Lucas spectacle climaxed last night with the Seventh installment of the iconic Star Wars series being premiered. Only this time the wait has been exacerbated by a thirty year break which for some hard core fans has been just too long to tolerate. Directed by J.J.Abrams, “The Force Awakens” does not disappoint and does more than just living up to expectations. Without nursing a sadistic intention of mercilessly dousing the enthusiasm of Star Wars freaks and fanatics, let me construct an extremely broad and simplistic overview of the plot characterizing “The Force Awakens”.

Luke Skywalker has vanished (yes you read that right) leaving no perceivable clue as to his whereabouts. While concerted searches for him come to a frustrated nought, an insidious force terming itself the “First Order” prepares to wreak wanton destruction on the Rebel forces led by Leia Skywalker a.k.a General Leia Organa by employing a machine of Death and annihilation, capable of putting even the Death Star to literal shame. The First Order decides to hunt down Luke with the intention of obliterating the existence of the sole remaining Jedi Knight. The Republic on the other hand, pulls all stops to ensure that the unthinkable does not materialise. Will the Republic be able to ward off this seemingly unstoppable peril? Will the First Order be successful in spreading the perverse influence of the strong and vile Dark Force across the Galaxy?

The movie blends an eclectic mix of exuberant old faces and egregious new and young characters. The cliched mix of youth and experience combines to deliver a performance worthy of acclaim. Right from the moment the omnipresent theme music signals the commencement of events “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away”  till the appearance of the ending credits, the movie keeps one engrossed and riveted. Among the old suspects, the peripatetic Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) holds the  movie aloft with an impeccable exhibition of effortless acting. Combing gallows humour with a gullible filial emotion, Ford breezes through his sequences in a manner which is inimitable, unique and incapable of being mimicked.

Carrie Fisher as Leia is dignified and almost minimalist as the situation demands. Her loss at the disappearance of her dearest brother and savour makes her taken on a weather beaten yet determined appearance, a paradoxical combination of resignation and resoluteness. The taken-for-granted ebullience is replaced by a quiet and knowing elegance. The perennial Chemistry between Hans Solo and Leia Skywalker is unwavering and electric. Their interactions are pregnant with meaning and premonitions. Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca evokes smile and sorrow in equal measure. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren manages to distinguish himself well in a role cleverly designed to invoke scores of surmises and conjectures amongst a  perplexed audience, while John Boyega as Finn puts in a creditable performance. However the star of the show is undoubtedly Daisy Ridley. Donning the role of Rey, a Space Scavenger, Rey is a central character in the movie and disappoint she doesn’t! Without resorting to overtly extravagant acting exaggerations, she smoothly weaves in and out of sequences with the dexterity of a seasoned veteran. Rey will be the central element and unavoidable focus of all ball room discussions, board room deliberations and booze induced debates until George Lucas demonstrates a willingness to appease the inveterate curiosities of a zillion fans by bringing out the eight portion of the franchise.

There is much to cheer in this extravagant offering by J.J.Abrams. The Millenium Falcon is back to ply business as is the inseparable combination of R2D2 and C-3PO. The light sabre duels pitting the red against the blue are back and how! But the most telling point made by J.J.Abrams lies neither in the awe inspiring Computer Graphic Imitations nor in the breathtaking action sequences, but in the scintillating tug and pull of syncretic human emotions. Deceit and devotion; Resilience and Revenge; Slavery and Sycophancy all conflate, collude and collide to produce a myriad mix of both predictable and unpredictable outcomes. Power metamorphoses into vulnerability while weakness transforms into determination. There are no long drawn out, enervating talks for stillness and silence constitute a powerful medium of expression. There are a couple of twists and turns capable of bringing a tingling chill up the spine of the viewer. The usual blend of dry humour and wit is present albeit in a degree that is disappointingly subdued. This is the sole aspect of the movie that evokes some consternation as the generally conspicuous element of thought provoking punchlines is unusually inconspicuous.

On the whole, “The Force Awakens” is a brilliantly conceived culmination of a prolonged wait of thirty years. It’s time to sit back, let your hair down, relax and watch the fated conflict between good and evil; darkness and light; Jedi Knights and the dark forces and more than everything, between truth and deceit.

Watch out for a killer of a climax though! The final minute is capable of making one’s hair at the nape of the neck stand and bristle!

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – The Glorious Resurrection of a Buried Saga!

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH US ALL

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI – AN EXERCISE IN INTENSITY

Intense; Taut; Gripping; Edge of the Seat Thriller. Michael Bay’s adaptation of Mitchell Zuckoff”s 2014 book “13 Hours” must surely rank as one of his best ever offerings till date. While the plot is unerring, its execution is near flawless. Although a wee bit lengthy at 144 minutes of running time, 13 Hours leaves you reeling and enervated by the time the credits roll out.

The year is 2012. The much despised despot Muammar Gaddafi has been brutally deposed by his own countrymen. However, Libya is in a state of dangerous flux. Insurgents and separatists clash openly on the streets causing wanton mayhem not to mention about the destruction of people and property. Amidst this raging inferno of civil unrest, all the foreign embassies shut shop and flee to safety. Only the United States mans a Special Mission in the dangerous city of Benghazi, along with a ‘supposedly’ secret CIA outpost, not so imaginatively termed the “Annex”. The Annex is guarded by a team of Private Military Contractors.

In an act of foolish optimism and misplaced confidence, the US Ambassador to Libya, J.Christopher Stevens decides to arrive in Benghazi to further the fabric of diplomacy between the two nations. The Ambassador makes the Special Mission (Embassy) his temporary residence paying little heed to the fact that the security at the Mission is to say the least, sparse. All hell breaks loose when the Embassy comes under brutal siege, courtesy a Group of rampaging Libyan fundamentalists. The CIA Annex, alerted to this catastrophe makes desperate calls to various US military bases and air support pleading for help. As all their impassioned pleas go in vain, a meagre and motley band of six Soldiers are forced to hold at bay, armed militants teeming around their place of refuge like savage predators.

The courageous deeds of the six brave hearts who went many a mile beyond their call of duty forms the spine and substance of the movie. James Badge Dale as Tyrone “Rone” Woods puts in a compellingly power packed performance stealing both the show as well as the adulation of the audience. John Krasinsly as Jack Silva, a former Navy SEAL plays able second fiddle to Dale. David Constabile as “The Chief”, the Benghazi Chief of Base, CIA both exasperates as well as enthuses, in equal and alternative measure.

The most engrossing part of the movie is the depiction of the pitched battles at ground level pitting six no hopers against a massive aggregation of hate filled barbarians. The action sequences are deeply penetrating and endearingly meaningful. Although the historical accuracy of the facts as portrayed in the movie has been clouded by some  controversy, there is no denying the fact that the Director who enthralled us all with fare such as “Armageddon”; and “The Transformers” series is back at doing what he does best – entertain. But this time the entertainment does not involve any juvenile trying to ram a cube into a metallic chest of a gigantic monster. This time the entertainment is engaging, inspiring and for real.

Watch out for the last 30 minutes of the movie and if you can refrain from gripping the handle of your seats until your knuckles turn white and demolish a third of your fingers along with the nails, you would have accomplished a commendable feat of restraint!

As the real names of the six brave hearts roll out at the end of the movie, you are left with nothing but a feeling of respect for the selfless soldiers who did not even bat an eyelid before putting their own lives on the line to keep their brethren out of the vicious jaws of death.

13 Hours – Michael Bay’s marvelous tribute to the magnificent men of Benghazi!

KABALI – OVERCOOKED YET UNDERDONE

First it is time for a confession. I am not a Rajini fan; I am a THALAIVAR FANATIC! So much so that when the legend was in Malaysia for shooting the very movie which I would be reviewing below, I hunted him down like a bloodhound for 3 days playing Russian Roulette with fate before the latter gave up its obdurate stance, yielded and contrived to bestow upon me my life’s greatest privilege– a private audience with the Superstar for 15 minutes and an autographed personal copy of Living With The Himalayan Masters!

Now that the facts are out of the way it is time for an unbiased, impassioned and candid review of Kabali, the directorial offering of PA Ranjith. The hype surrounding the movie (as is the case with any Rajini release) was close to unprecedented with Airlines vying with jewelers to nudge themselves into the maniacal marketing pyramid. The last time Rajini wore the mantle of a full fledged gangster was in the immortal and eponymous epic “BAASHA”. Hence it was with great anticipation and unbounded expectations that I rushed to view the premiere screening of Kabali at an archaic shopping mall in KL which boasted a theatre imaginatively named “MY Cinemas”. MY Cinemas’ desperate and urgent need of a makeover mirrored the lacuna that is the feature of Kabali! Yes you read it right! Kabali is 150 minutes of unmitigated disaster! If Manick Baasha was the Don Vito Corleone of Indian cinema, Kabaliswaran a.k.a Kabali is an abstruse saviour of the downtrodden Tamil populace in Malaysia. Kabali leaves his ardent fans ambivalent, agonized and asking “WHY?”

While Ranjith leaves a lot to be desired and more, the following are the 7 primary and gaping reasons why Kabali does not strike a chord with even the most ardent of Rajini worshippers

1.       Total Absence of a formidable Foe

A Rajini movie is invariably made memorable by the presence of an antagonist who duels with the protagonist in an unrelenting and gripping way. While Manick Baasha squared off with the evil Anthony, Padayappa found his feminine nemesis in Nilambari. The Luddite Annamalai had to test his skills against Ashok while the king of Style Shivaji/”MGR” had to contend with the devious and ruthless Adikeshavan. Even Lingaa faced a low profile albeit impactful enemy in M.P.Nagabooshan. More the stellar cast of villains, more memorable the movie! The late Raghuvaran, Ramya Krishnan, Suman, Prabhakar and Jagapathi Babu all combined to enhance and embellish the aura that surrounded Rajini.

What or who do we have in Kabali for the ultimate face off? A Chinese gang lord going by the ill conceived name of Tony Lee (Winston Chau) who has a coterie of Indian lackeys to do his hacking and haggling! The incomprehensible mumbo jumbo of Tamil spoken (or miserably attempted to rather) by Winston Chua jars the nerves and makes for some extremely painful viewing. With no actor of repute to essay the most vital role of an anti-hero, Kabali disappoints immensely in all its confrontational sequences.

2.       Zero Punchlines

The punch lines of Rajini constitute the lifeline of his movies. Even a Rajini fan to whom Tamil sounds like a customized version of Greek and Latin would more often than not be successful in proudly hollering “NAAN ORU THARAVAI SONNA NOORU THARAVAI SONNA MAADHIRI” or “EN VAZHI THANEEEE VAZHI”. Kabali however does not have a single comparable punch line of note to offer. The dialogues are subdued, the challenges mellow and the narrative damp. What is a Rajini movie without a proper punch line? The answer – KABALI

3.       When Magizhchi does not actually mean good

When the official teaser of Kabali hit You Tube, one phrase attracted the viewers no end – Rajini elegantly folding his palms and saying “Magizhchi”. This captured the imagination of millions and the word almost found a welcome revival in the Tamil Lexicon. However in the actual movie, a total hash has been made of this term. It has been over employed to the extent constituting abuse. One would be tempted to ask for a ban on using “Magizhchi” in movies more than 3 times! The beautiful word has been over laundered so much that it resembles a shirt that has been carelessly albeit repeatedly washed by a Dhobi before his donkey chews away a good part of it!

4.       Rajini Laughs

Thalaivar has a laughter that is distinctive yet ominous. Whenever threatened with dire consequences, Rajini first breaks into a hearty laughter with an ominous ring to it, before wading into a stream of powerful riposte. PA Ranjith either has not seen BAASHA, PADAYAPPA, MOONRU MUGAM, & ENTHIRAN or has no clue how to manipulate this unique laughter. What happens with Magizhchi gets extrapolated to this laughter. Needless laughter punctuates many scenes thereby taking the life out of many potential winning sequences.

5.     Free Life Foundation

The less said the better!

6.       Who the hell is Ranjith’s Target Audience

The popularity of the Entertainer of the Decade and one of the most influential and adoring personas of Indian cinema is encapsulated in a powerful dialogue by Lakshmi in Padayappa. She says that Padayappa has the characteristic traits of camphor. A ball of camphor immediately lights up irrespective of whether the hand striking a match to it belongs to an affluent individual or a poverty stricken wretch. Rajini transcends both class and mass. His is an inimitable stratosphere which to the other aspiring and established actors will always remain a distant and unreachable dream. Fans of Rajini straddle all social, economic and cultural strata. This precious tenet is rend asunder by PA Ranjith in Kabali. With many scenes having been shot entirely in the language of Bahasa Melayu, the official language of Malaysia, and the audience is left reeling having to cope with disjointed moments which resemble a crude cut and paste job on a word document . PA Ranjith seems to be at a loss to decipher whether this movie is meant solely for the Malaysian audience or for the consumption of the global public.

7.       Where art Thou THALAIVAA?

In Samuel Beckett’s celebrated play “Waiting For Godot”, two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot. After the first 10 minutes of Kabali, following the introduction of Rajini (a crude take of Nicholas Cage exercising behind bars in Con Air), the devoted fan is left – thirsting like a man with parched lips desperately scouring for an oasis in the middle of a scorching desert – waiting for his demigod to appear on the screen. The regal and magisterial presence that unmistakably looms large and overshadows every other actor is unfortunately non-existent.

Like Vladimir and Estragon, I also waited – waited for my Thalaivar with a heart swelling with pride and blood pumping and coursing through my veins. Alas! PA Ranjith, – woe betide the man – never gave me the unbridled pleasure of experiencing him!

While Radhika Apte and Dhansika do veritable justice to their roles, Nasser impresses with a cameo performance.

Neruppu Da leaves a lingering note in the ears long after the movie is done.

It is time for Thalaivar to get rid of the avant garde young guns and revert to the proficiency of the big daddies. We want the Thalaivar verve, the Rajini Swag and the Superstar Style to knock us sideways and senseless – yet again!

Place that SOS call to Shankar and get CHITTI 2.0 off the Production Line NOW!

INFINITY WAR – VULNERABILITY REDEFINED

Marvel in their latest, biggest and in all probability the most philosophical rendition of the Avengers series, capitalizes on what is arguably the most poignant, abhorrent, and inescapable emotion permeating the mental make-up of humans, super humans and supernatural forces alike – vulnerability. When a pantheon of Gods, super heroes, mystiques and intellectual geniuses are reduced to a shambolic coterie of helpless and hapless puppets in the hands of an unstoppable force of evil, the assured sheath of invulnerability is pierced to its innermost recesses.

“Infinity War” boasting a phalanx of characters begins where “Thor Ragnarok” ends. The ship ferrying a group of Asgaardians through space (and sheltering Thor as well as Loki) is subjected to a fierce and brutal assault by Thanos, the formidable face of doom and perdition. Thanos is in the quest of obtaining the six Infinity Stones, a feat which will make him the unparalleled master of the universe. The pursuit of such an objective, leads to Thanos engaging in a merciless plunder and ravaging of many Planets. The only people capable of stopping Thanos in his tracks represent a smorgasbord of courageous individuals who in their armoury possess a blend of guile, strength, super powers and arts of mystique.

The primordial battle between good and evil, that is the cornerstone of all the Avengers series reaches its pinnacle in “Infinity Wars”.  As the ultimate war reaches a boiling point, it is time to count casualties, rue over losses and ponder the thought of finding oneself in a point of no return. While in the normal parlance and in adhering to natural laws, the sum of parts is greater than the whole, there are circumstances posing a daunting exception to this rule. As is to be expected, with a power packed cast, there is a cramped balance of visibility and prominence for all involved. Robert Downey Jr is the tried and tested blend of arrogance and innate rationality; Mark Ruffalo however is reduced to a dithering, blabbering joke as Hulk shorn of his usual prowess; Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange sizzles, justifying every minute of his suave, refined and sophisticated presence; Chris Pratt is his urbane, cool and irascible self; Chris Hemsworth as Thor has a very vital role to execute which he does with effortless aplomb; Zoe Saldana as Gomora offers some heartbreaking moments; Dave Bautista is refreshingly engaging. However, Infinity Wars is all about Thanos a.k.a Josh Brolin. Towering over the rest, literally, symbolically and metaphorically, Brolin steals the show as an antagonist par excellence! Fueled by a dark and devastating ambition that tries to be unsuccessfully tempered with an ingrained emotion,

The movie also has its usual quota of gallows humour and laugh inducing punch lines interspersed with moments of introspection. The fight sequences are elaborate and enthusiastic, especially the one that takes place in the lush plains of Wakanda. The movie is quite lengthy running over a length of 140 minutes.

All in all, Infinity Wars is a dizzying concoction of hate, heartbreak, humour and hope.

GO WATCH IT!

KAALA –Voice of the Proletariat

Revenge of the Proletariat, rage of the bourgeoisie, a polysemous reference to the legitimacy of Jean Jacques Rousseau ‘s social contract all layer over one another and fold backwards before forming an interesting pastiche of a common man’s revolution in Ranjith’s latest Rajini flick, “Kaala”. I personally am not aware of Ranjith’s political inclinations, but with characters named after Lenin, and veiled references to the usurping of power by the haves over a repressed community of have-nots, I am not willing to bet on the fact that he is derisive of the proclamations of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

What the Rajini-Ranjith combine struggled to deliver in Kabali, has been seamlessly and flawlessly accomplished in “Kaala”. This, without a semblance of doubt is the most ‘un-Rajini’ like movie which paradoxically results in the Superstar delivering one of his most powerful, indelible and relevant performances. While all along we have been used to viewing, admiring and appropriating a larger-than-life, monarch of all he surveys demi-God personified Rajini, Ranjith’s “Kaala” is a muted although influential powerhouse who bides his time and plots his strategies with a finesse usually reserved for a revolutionary. A subdued Rajini however does not mean a subservient protagonist. “Kaala” is a low profile arsenal, every barrage of which has reverberating ramifications.

“Kaala” begins with a depiction of the history of mass repressions in India, pioneered by the colonial British Raj, whose riches were accumulated on the back of a poverty that was institutionalized and a bureaucracy that was internalized. The voice over concludes stating that such draconian and antediluvian measures continue even to this day. The movie begins with an altercation between people who are trying to evade forced eviction from the sprawling slums of Dharavi by an aspiring politician. When heated debates and deliberations boil over to form traces of violence, the folks realise that there can be only one soul whose presence can bring relief to a community in peril. Enter Karikaalan a.k.a Kaala! With an unmistakable swagger, uninhibited style and unmatched screen presence, the Thalaivar of a teeming masses is introduced to his irrepressible fans!

This sets off a fated feud between Kaala, the savior of the down-trodden and Haridev Abhayankar a.k.a  Hari Dada (Nana Patekar), a dreaded criminal-politician who will brook no obstacle to convert the slums of Dharavi into a hot bed of modern architectural marvels. The tussle is the proverbial battle between the purveyor of hope and the peddler of darkness with only one possible outcome. It is either deliverance or doom. Two of the most admired actors in Indian celluloid history go against each other in a no-holds barred manner regaling a multitude of eager fans in the process!

Rajinikanth exudes hope, while Nana extolls in his evil Avatar. The scenes of confrontation between the warring personalities is to put it very mildly, exhilarating! Fluently alternating between Hindi and Marathi, Rajini and Nana are two incendiary joys to behold! Although bereft of the usual histrionics and pyro technique characterizing a usual Rajini fare, “Kaala” has its fair share of patented Rajini moments. The elaborate pre-interval fighting scene leaves none in doubt that “THE BOSS IS BACK”! The expected and anticipated slow motion sequences do ample justice to the contextual passages. However, one telling change is the complete absence of the “Thalaivar Punch Lines”. There is neither Padayappa’s “Thani Vazhi” or Baasha’s “Naan Orudarava Sonna…”, nor Arunachalam’s “Aandavan Sollaran…”. Instead what you get are measured dialogues which double up as missives revealing the future political ambitions of the South Indian phenomenon. A scene in a police station bears monumental testimony to the versatility of Rajini the actor when he leaves the audience in splits with a repeated drunken monologue.

Nana Patekar, is his is forte holds his own stupendously well and is in engrossing lockstep with Rajini. With a flowing dialogue delivery and blood curling expressions, Nana the consummate villain steals the show in more scenes than one!

Eswari Rao as “Selvi” is the epitome of innocence in the form of Kaala’s beloved wife. Huma Qureshi (“Zareena”) in the role of Kaala’s former lover and a social activist more than just holds her own. Samuthirakani (“Vaaliyappan”) essays the role of an endearing, but perpetually drunk brother-in-law of Rajini. He is the surprise package (refreshingly so) in the movie, excelling both with his wit and emotions. Dileepan (“Selvam”) as Kaala’s trusted son and lieutenant in chief performs brilliantly and provides on of the most poignant moments in the movie. Sayaji Shinde however is wasted in a low-profile role.

Finally, the climax of “Kaala” is something which is both unanticipated and unique. This is as far as one can get from a novel and normal Rajini climax. Watch out for it!

“Kaala” is a marvelous confluence of Ranjith’s aspirations and Rajini’s ambitions. More than everything, this is a movie where the Director offers an exquisitely crafted niche for a seasoned actor intent on donning the garb of an unseasoned albeit powerful wannabe politician. What the Director offers, the Actor grabs greedily and gleefully.

KAALA – THALAIVAR DA!!!

LINGAA – RAJINI REDUX

Humaniform Robots have served their time well. However the time has come for the mechanical marvels to step aside and for flesh and blood to step up and hold its own. Exit Chitti (till an equally admirable ramped up version is conceived), Enter LINGAA! A legion of loyal and impatient fans have been waiting with immense and restrained patience for their Superstar to don a new Avatar and quench their passionate thirst. In the intervening period they have also had to undergo the travesty of watching their idol mutilated, courtesy an animation flick going by the exotic name of ‘Kochadaiiyaan’.

But the agonizing wait has ended and the intervening lull has been obliterated by a blistering storm – a storm that is LINGAA! Three hours of uninterrupted ‘Thalaivar’ magic makes this latest release a veritable feast for Rajinikanth fans flocking to see him sizzle and set the silver screen on fire. There can be few accomplished Directors expert in getting the best out of Rajni than the irrepressible K.S.Ravikumar. And he does just that in LINGAA. Desisting from flipping the conventional bird, Ravikumar sticks to the tried, tested and never-stale “Rajini Formula”. A minimalist and uncomplicated plot embedding within the facets of delectable humour, delicately choreographed emotions, no-holds barred stunts and a riches-to-rags melodrama all contrive to produce an offering that leaves the Rajini fanatic drooling for more.

LINGAA the character is an intrepid thief accompanied by a loyal coterie of friends. During a daring heist LINGAA inadvertently becomes aware of the exploits and endurance of his grandfather – a grandfather whom he has been loathing all through his life. What follows is a refreshing breeze termed RAJINI! A roller coaster ride alternating between the past and present.

Looking fitter, eager and energetic, Rajni mesmerizes with his brilliance throughout. Neither tepid nor over-the-top, the Emperor of entertainment creates a perfect balance that has over the years become an unrivaled hall mark of his profession. Essaying the dual role of an ingenious and resourceful thief and his more enterprising and industrious grandfather, Rajni seamlessly makes the transition between a period protagonist and a modern con-dilettante. Presence destroys pretense and style is coterminous with substance. The Rajini worshipper is given a glimpse of stupendous things to follow at the very beginning of the movie. The abruptly mellow introduction scene of ‘Enthiran’ is passé and an electrifying substitute reminiscent of the ‘Style’ song in ‘Shivaji The Boss’ catches the willing watcher by the scruff of his neck and transports him into the realms of ‘Rajinidom’. Twirling eye shades, a flick of the jacket and a foot tapping number by ARR and – the show begins. It never lets up at anytime!

K S Ravikumar’s patented style rears its head on more occasions than one. The inevitable snake resumes its tryst with the Superstar after a long hiatus post ‘Chandramukhi’. Traces of poignancy and spiritual evocation highlighted to perfection in ‘Muthu’ are unmistakably evident in the latter half of the period character’s life.

Anushka Shetty holds her own as LINGAA’s match while managing to look phenomenally appealing. Expending minimum effort she creates maximum impact. Sonakshi Sinha as a village belle, while honest is none-too-impressive. Making her repeat a particular phrase time and again has a jarring effect on the nerves of the audience. Jagapathy Babu as the antagonist does justice to the role assigned although the dubbing could have been a bit gruffer. Vijaykumar and Radha Ravi execute the roles with minimum fuss and effort. Santhanam in his role as the witty sidekick of Rajni carves out moments of his own with some astounding comedy. With his timing and dialogue delivery he has punched above his weight in the movie. Pointer: Look out for a temple scene which is the epitome of hilarity. However the surprise packages are Falk Columbo (donning the mantle of a greedy British Collector) and R Sunderrajan, as Falk’s stooge. Brahmanandam’s role is completely wasted. Sabu Cyril’s work is breathtaking while A.R.Rahman maintains his usual jest with a couple of enthralling numbers.

However, sans any speck of doubt, the heart, soul and spine of LINGAA is Rajni. Blending élan with effervescence, mixing verve with versatility and coalescing suaveness with sagacity, Rajni carries the movie on his wonderfully able shoulders. Making an absolute mockery of his age, he singularly and spectacularly succeeds in bestowing to his unwavering worshippers a gift to savour on his birthday. The ‘Stylist’ in ‘Shivaji’, the intellectual scientist of ‘Enthiran’, the unrelenting optimist that is ‘Arunachalam’ all merge to form an unforgettable portrait of LINGAA. Made-to-order dialogues, ‘Rajiniesque’ stunt scenes (in particular the one atop a running train), and tailor made special effects compete with one another to create a stellar effect, total in its impact and magnificent in its sweep. Watch out for the climax which could easily be mistaken for one scripted for the flawless Jackie Chan. It is where ‘The Armour Of God’ meets ‘Mission Impossible’.

He is a philanthropist with a boon bestowing hand and also an adorable thief with cart loads of trickery. He is a scheming opportunist looking to make a quick buck and also a paragon of nation building; Above all he is a phenomenon – he is RAJINI!

LINGAA – RAJINI!