Movie Review – Thalaivi

We watched the much talked about movie on Jayalalitha – Thalaivi. The movie chronicles Jayalalitha’s life from the time she reluctantly entered the movie world as a 16 year old till she becomes the youngest Chief Minister of TamilNadu in 1991.

Our one word review is – Underwhelming.

There is no apparent problem with the movie. Its a fictional account of a real life Thalaivi and it has been made like a regular “masala” movie with not much of research. Some things are a plus – Nassar looks almost like Karunanidhi and Arvind Swamy does justice to his role as MGR (mentioned as MJR in the movie). My biggest grouse is with how Jayalalitha is portrayed.

Thalaivi poster

Thalaivi ….

When we speak of Jayalalitha, we need to remember that we are speaking about an uber successful, highly paid female actor of the 60’s. She never had to struggle or scheme to get paired opposite Sivaji, MGR, or any leading star of her times. The director has completely missed Jayalalitha’s body language – she wouldn’t sashay down the corridor nor would she roll her eyes when she didn’t like something :(. The mannerisms are totally unlike her.

Jayalalitha was a class act – not just a beautiful woman. She was a polyglot and could speak Hindi, English, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam fluently. Her diction was impeccable … why didn’t they use a good dubbing artiste to dub the dialogues in Jayalalitha’s voice? The latter half of the movie is bearable as Jayalalitha is shown as slightly older and mature.

Her brilliance and her stunning beauty can never be captured fully, but I expected Kangna to portray her authentically, which didn’t happen except in flashes. It was Kangna that I saw, not Jayalalitha.

The youngest chief minister in the history of TamilNadu; the first woman chief minister; A woman who had enough courage to take on “anything” is shown as an insecure, coquettish and scheming young woman. None of those words apply to Jayalalitha !. She may have been corrupt as a politician, she may not have lived upto her potential, but she was no schemer and certainly no coquette.

The choice of sarees and jewellery pissed me off … Jayalalitha’s choice of colours were very different and Kangana wore a very different colour palette. The jewellery was more North Indian than South Indian :(.

It is sad that enough research was not done on someone who has been in the public glare for nearly 50 years. There are enough people around who have known Jayalalitha closely and could have shared their views, to make the portrayal authentic. The stupid songs that pop up every now and then, could have been avoided too.

Kangana’s acting talent has been wasted. She is a brilliant actor but needs a good script and a well fleshed out character to render a role. I also think, Nassar and Arvind Swamy had the advantage of knowing Tamil and being in the same “environment” as Jayalalitha. Kangana needed some acclimitization to bring out the nuances of Jayalalitha’s personality and that didn’t happen.

There are some factual errors too, but am not going there.

Like I said before, the movie Thalaivi is sadly underwhelming….

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