The hype: Sivaji released yesterday in 52 countries, amidst electric expectations of the combination of superstar Rajni, and prolific director Shankar. With a top secret plot, astoundingly hummable songs by Rahman, and the crowd pulling stature of Rajni, this was bound to create the wave it has. This broke all records for an Indian film in the UK, with back-to-back shows in five Cineworlds in London alone and upto two dedicated screens, in Cineworlds all over the UK. And boy, does the crowd love Rajni? In Milton Keynes, which has less of the Indian diaspora than other bigger cities in UK, I could get only the first day - third show, and many people watched standing. And once I came out, what do I see, the entire South Indian populace of our company and elsewhere making a beeline hours before the show, to get a good seat. Never before in my six months of Cineworlding (watching movies just for the heck of it) have I seen such a thing!!!
What's the Story? Just for this one movie, I will not reveal the story here - there are a lot of you guys out there who haven't got tickets yet, so won't kill your enthusiasm. :D
What's good in it: Shankar, like in Anniyan and Mudhalvan, again relies on his favourite plot of his protagonist fighting against a dishonest system - and does justice to it. The make-up artists have done a tremendous job, and Rajni looks much younger, younger than in Baba. But his age shows in his fight sequences. However, his mannerisms touch a new high - the way he bounces chewing gum into his mouth, the way he tosses up a coin and makes it land into his pocket etc. There are no particular punch dialogues though, like "Khatam gatam" or "Naan oru thadavai sonna, nooru thadavai sonna madiri". The closest which comes to it is "Coool".
Vivek, with his humour, provides excellent support to Rajni, and Shriya looks exceedingly beautiful. Suman is believable in his role as Adiseshan, and Manivannan stands out in his limited scope. Sets are artistically done for the songs, and Rahman provides superb music, the pinnacle being "Wah ji Wah ji Wah ji, en jeevan Sivaji".
Reco: If you go to watch it as a movie, you might be a tad disappointed, but if you go to watch it as a "Rajni movie", you will come out whistling and dancing "Dhingi-chaka-dhingi-chaka"!!!!
"Respect" and craze for the superstar was such that for the thirty-odd seconds where S-U-P-E-R-S-T-A-R R-A-J-N-I flashes across the screen at the beginning, the four screens nearby could have heard the cacophony of the whistles and cat-calls. I thought people would throw change as well, but they didn't. (I would have - I had even collected a sizeable number of 1p and 2p coins - I just got late, and forgot to pick them up)
Update: Don't miss the comment by Beryle here.