First things first: I am not a Rajni fan; in fact I am a self-confessed admirer of Kamal. However, that is not to say that I don't enjoy Rajni movies - I think Padaiyappa, Annamalai, and to a lesser extent, Baasha, were some of the finest examples as to how a masala movie should be made. However, that does not mean that the superstar is not beyond criticism; I hated what they made of that Mohanlal classic Manichitrathazhu, which was very clearly a case of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. There are some fanatics out there who praise every Rajni movie out there, even if its of the same standard as any other Suryah or TR movie - I don't conform to that POV. Rajni is the biggest star there is, and a superstar movie should look and feel like one.
The story? Seriously? You shouldn't be reading this then, mate!
My trip to the NJ theatre was laborious, to say the least. Bogged down by traffic, we reached the theatre exactly when the interval started. Although most of the reviews seemed to suggest that I hadn't missed much, it was still a terrible waste of money. However, I certainly wasn't going to come all the way again just to catch the first half, so I settled down in the front row, alongside my wife who was giving me the kind of looks that suggested that I was grounded for approx 2 weeks!
The first thing that struck me was the atmosphere - there was none. Which was very strange for a Rajni movie on the third day - even in the US (I mean, this was NJ for chrissakes!). Earlier I'd promised Smitha that watching a Rajni movie in a theatre was a great experience; her countenance somehow didn't make me believe that I'd be watching any more movies in a theatre in the near future!
The positives first: Rajni is a little less nimble on his feet, but his charisma clearly hasn't waned. This is quite easily the best he has been presented, and its fun to have him wear some good clothes for a change. And there are not many stupid scenes here (like the bull scenes from Padaiyappa, for instance), which I, for one, was thankful for. The Athiradikalam picturization, the whole tonsured look (and I really did dig the whole Morpheus-like outfit in the finale), and the reference to MGR really worked for me. And for the record: Shreya/Shriya is the hottest thing to have hit TN after the agninathathram, she was absolutely curvealicious! The action scenes were awesome, the most stylish I have seen in a Rajni movie for sure. And the whole mimicry - voice recognition track really cracked me up.
Ok, now the brickbats: Shankar once again resorts to the corruption angle. Yeah, this time its money laundering - big difference! Doesn't this guy have any other tales to tell? Same old dosai, different batter is all. After Jeans, Boys and Anniyan, Sivaji is certainly another directorial letdown from Shankar. And Suman has got the be the wimpiest villain ever. At the jail scene, where he pleads saying he is so sensitive and all that crap, I was in hysterics. And to think they approached AB, Mohanlal etc for this role - no wonder they turned it down. I also did not like the picturization of the Sahara song, esp those extras dressed like fairies flapping away to glory! Sivaji, without Rajni, is a huge, huge letdown from Shankar. Heck, even Anniyan, corny though it was, had a more cohesive screenplay. Rajni salvages the movie to a great extent, but not completely (at least not for a non-fan like me). Shankar needs to select his scripts with a lot more care, and avoid vigilantism like the plague.