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Movie Review of Sivaji by someone who doesn’t understand a word of Tamil

July 2, 2007

For the first time in my life I saw a movie without understanding a word of what was said. But I couldn’t help it. I just had to see what Sivaji and Rajni were all about. The movie is a runaway hit, and not just in India. In Britain ‘Sivaji: The Boss’ has apparently beat Hollywood films like the ‘Fantastic Four’, ‘Ocean’s 13′ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 3 in its opening weekend and its the first time that a Tamil film got into the UK Top 10 at No. 9. In India too the movie is a hit, inspite of the fact that people from just two states understand the languages of Tamil and Telugu. In fact in Chennai, halls are still going housefull and its difficult to get tickets. In India the movie is expected to rake in about Rs 150 crore just from ticket sales.

In Mumbai it was easy to get tickets, and in fact more than half the hall was empty. Even though I didn’t understand a word and missed all the funny dialogues, it was fun watching the movie. There is a lot of action, plenty of comedy, good cinematography, excellent music and ofcourse – Rajni’s style. Not to miss.

The story is not difficult to understand. Good verses evil. A foreign returned Sivaji takes on the political establishment single handedly and in the process sets up what you can almost call a parallel government, complete with swipe cards! He also spends a considerable amount of time playing loverboy, trying to woo a girl (Shriya) who is probably less than half his age. Amazing that Rajni can get away playing a 30 year old, inspite of being all of 57. He doesn’t ofcourse pull it off (looking 30) but great efforts were made to achieve the illusion of youth and in some scenes Rajni does manage to look around 35.

An interesting scene is one when the girl he wants to marry taunts Sivaji about his skin colour. This prompts him to go on a mission to whiten his skin. It was hilarious to watch Sivaji take beauty treatments, all in a desperate bid to become fair. He actually succeeds, and computer trickery (apparently this took a year, 9000 frames!) created an illusion of a white Rajni. All for fun ofcourse, because the fair damsel takes one look at him and tells him that she prefers his old dark self!

Once she is won over, Sivaji is its back to bashing up the bad guys. The fight scenes portray Sivaji as a superman…the way he manages to overpower scores of goons at one go is quite unbelievable as he is not endowed with superpowers…

What jarred in the movie was the message that fairness personifies beauty. Two very dark girls are ‘shown’ to Sivaji by a hopeful father-in-law, and this has Sivaji running for cover. Its supposedly funny, and the treatment is much like how Hollywood portrays fat people or people with braces. As ugly wannabes.

About Rajni’s acting, he isn’t too bad. His role does not really call for him to show great emotion. He is an action guy and he does good…plus he has style and brilliant comic timing. The man steals the show.

True, its a masala film meant for the masses, but if such films are well made I enjoy them. Films are after all supposed to entertain…and Sivaji does that. The music ofcourse was a critical factor. AR Rahman was absolutely brilliant and I am thinking of buying the music although I don’t understand the lyrics.

To sum it up, Sivaji has everything…song and dance (fantastic music) good fights, torture scenes, romance….and well, it also has a story. Sure, the story is nothing new (a hero wanting to uplift the poor) but I quite liked the way the director went about it. Everything was larger than life, literally blown out of proportion and this illusion is maintained throughout.

Finally, its the box office which counts. And the box office has spoken. Bollywood now doesn’t just Hollywood to worry about, they have to worry about Rajni as well.

Related Reading: Rajni: an Indian movie phenomena

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Phantom permalink
    July 3, 2007 3:43 pm

    Nita…..i haven’t seen the movie, and seeing that i dont speal Tamil…i’lll wait for it come out on DVD.

    I too felt irked by the emphasis on fair skin being a precursor to beauty. It constantly amazies me how hypocritical people in the south can be…..by constantly fixating on fair skin. For a region in which almost half the population has a slightly darker complexion….it is self-demeaning and pathetic that even today this ugly fixation still exists. And the media doesnt exactly help the situation.

  2. Prabu permalink
    July 3, 2007 8:35 pm

    Actually, I think you got it wrong about the “dark” girls in the movie. If you watch the movie carefully, there is no comment by Rajni or Vivek about the girls except Rajni saying he only likes the other girl. What happens is that the audience laughs in that split second when the girls are shown to Rajni – this is more of a commentary on what the audience feels than what message the film delivers.
    I thought they treated the aspect of complexion in the movie qutie well, eg., Rajni says that he doesn’t think Shriya is someone that would give importance to colour when she turns him down. Rajni tries all sorts of methods to get white but fails to and once she says that she prefers him dark, Rajni basically says that he applied flour to look fair and he failed in all methods to get fair. I thought Shankar subtly delivered a message that despite using a boat load of Fair and Lovely, one’s color can’t be changed. Surprised that F&L did not sue Shankar for this!

  3. July 3, 2007 9:11 pm

    Prabhu, I gave a thought to what you said, because I did not understand the conversation between Rajni and the girl. However I did get the meaning that she preferred him as dark-skinned – finally. In that sense it was an education for the public…but the irony is that she was fair. You know that in our country the fairness preference applies more to women. Men want to marry pretty (fair) girls and women will compromise on this if the man has a good career. This is really the reality of India. If Sivaji had been shown to prefer a dark girl over a fair skinned one, then ofcourse that would be a real education…but its not important. Its a light movie and these things are not to be taken too seriously!
    About the two girls, it was clearly a joke at the expense of the two girls. If you look at them carefully you will see that they are not as dark as they are made out to be. They have applied some soot or make-up to make them look darker. Its very obvious. Now, why should any director want to apply make-up on the women to make them look darker for the scene? Think about it.

  4. soorajrox permalink
    July 4, 2007 11:22 am

    I was reading another blog about the review about this movie. There was this quote pointed in that blog….Sivaji is not just another rajini or Tamil movie, It is a cultural event. Now I been thinking about this comment and thinking how true this is in the state of Tamil Nadu.

  5. Arun permalink
    July 4, 2007 2:12 pm

    Nita, good that you liked the film even though you do not understand Tamil.
    I feel Sivaji is one of the well made Rajini movies in recent times. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Even I felt the same when the 2 dark girls appear. It was not in good taste.
    Apart from that, the first half was very funny, especially when he tries to change his skin colour. And a few scenes like Vivek speaking the punch lines, before the music shop fight, Rajini standing before the train trying to commit suicide and Rajini dancing like yesteryear heroes, Sivaji and M.G.R and like Kamal Hassan etc are really funny. (it was changed suitably for the telugu version)
    His style in the movie is impeccable. It is Rajini all the way in the movie. The athiradi song (sung by A.R.Rehman) is picturised beautifully and is my favourite. Every time I see that song, I’m more impressed with Rajini. And all the songs were picturised lavishly and are treat to your eyes.
    On the down side I felt that in the opening number, Rajini was not able to cope with the fast tunes. And the fights (especially the last one) could have been a bit realistic. But nobody cares, it has Rajini in it, which is sufficient for his fans.

  6. rohit permalink
    July 10, 2007 7:27 pm

    sivaji is an excellent movie which should be accepted by every one,since he is the hero in real life also ,doing lot of service to poor people.You would know it if you peep into his life.

    I question every one who else is doing so?

  7. July 10, 2007 9:38 pm

    The movie really rocks, i have seen it and enjoyed it.. Your review is really crisp and to the point.. By the way don’t miss the song title song ‘Style’ its really cool.. enjoy it here http://onlyhits.blogspot.com/2007/06/style-sivaji.html . Rajni too has acted very good..

  8. Manjula permalink
    July 11, 2007 2:51 pm

    Even, I was wondering about the treatment of ‘fair’ skin in the movie. I like the fact that Shankar has established that being dark does not matter -(for the guys that is) But cud you please do something for us girls as well?
    Actually in tamil nadu.. It’s considered macho for the men to look dark. But for women it’s an entirely different affair. Fair=feminine, The heroine has to be fair because it is so deeply embedded in the public (Tamil nadu) mind that fair is an ideal quality for being feminine. But the issue is not as black and white as you may assume. But the fact that 90% of the population in dark is not ignored. Dark women are considered to be stronger. Dark women can be beauiful as well only they’d be considered not as ‘feminine’ as a fair woman. I thought the director seemed confused himself about how to present the 2 dark girls. Because he wasn’t telling us exactly what he was trying to say.. Dialogues from that scene in english
    -The Father proudly tells sivaji that his daughters have 2 beautiful names, angavai and sangavai.
    (vivek takes a dig at their complexion and says-(‘pongavai’-chutinga)- did you let them boil for too long (that they turned so dark).
    But at the same time he turns to Sivaji and asks him” IF the girls are alright for him?-like he cudn’t see anything wrong with them otherwise.
    Sivaji says he’d prefer the other girl (becos he’s already fallen for her)
    I think the director made the girls darker becos making them really black excludes a huge percentage of tamil girls. If ppl in the north of India consider all tamilians to be dark ppl within tamil nadu differentiate themselves according to how dark or light they are. And with women using fair and lovely in abundunce it’s not difficult to avoid the complexon of the 2 girls.–is wat I think.
    –Waiting for a movie with a heroine who’s complexion matches the dark hero’s.
    tick tick tick
    But I really wish this mentality would change and ppl be more comfortable with themselves. I’m all for healthy gleaming skin, black or otherwise.

  9. April 28, 2008 11:07 pm

    Superstar Rajnikant rocks not only India,also the whole world,mind it.

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