Standing tall in the list of India's best cinema are some films such as Mani Ratnam's Nayagan and Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar. In the opening credits, director A L Vijay pays tribute to these legends for inspiring him, but one wouldn't have guessed at this juncture that Thalaivaa would turn out to be a rehash of aforementioned films with some style.
The story is set in Mumbai, and it is about a local messiah of the masses played by Sathyaraj, while his son, played by Vijay, is living happily in Australia, unaware of the happenings back home. After introducing us to the short back story of Sathyaraj and his rise to power, the story shifts gears and takes us down under.
In Australia, Vijay is seen as a dancer and also the owner of a mineral water bottling plant. He falls in love with a fellow dancer essayed by Amala Paul, who joins his troupe, and all is well in their love story until Vijay returns to Mumbai.
Back home, circumstances force Vijay to rise to the occasion and become a leader. He steps in his dad's shoes and what follows forms the crux of the story.
We've seen and heard this story several times, haven't we? And yet Thalaivaa manages to impress momentarily, but where it fails is in engaging on the whole due to its extended screenplay, which clocks almost three hours.
Thalaivaa is mostly shot in Mumbai, where Vijay's Thuppaki was earlier filmed and there was definitely a feeling of deja vu. In both the films, Vijay comes to Mumbai, and happens to get himself involved in some kind of mission to save mankind.
Thalaivaa, like any other recent Tamil film, follows a tested pattern of storytelling. Make a highly entertaining first half that ends with a pre-interval bang, followed by a second half with a twist and lot of action. It's also one of those films where a common man rises up to the occasion to walk around with an entourage and eventually treated like a don.
The first half is packed with some good fun. Santhanam's comedy and the eye-capturing cinematography in Australia, laced with the chemistry between Vijay and Amala Paul, especially in one of the dance sequences, is something to watch out for. This is followed by a slow and stretched second half, which portrays Vijay in his 'mass avatar' written almost on every frame.
The film's biggest letdown is its dragged narration that never wants to end. And when it is finally about reach its end, we are tortured with an additional song. If only director Vijay had trimmed the film by a good half hour, Thalaivaa wouldn't have earned the wrath of the audiences as well critics.
Nirav Shah's cinematography is top-notch as he successfully translates the beauty of Australia on the big screen, while capturing the frenzied atmosphere of Mumbai to perfection. G V Prakash's work only gets notice in the background score as the songs only end up breaking the flow of the narrative.
A L Vijay has completely gone haywire since Madraspattinam, which still remains a path-breaking film in his career. In his effort to make films with superstars such as Vikram and Vijay, he only ends up churning half-baked products.