Sivaji delivers exactly what one expects from a combination of Rajnikanth and
Shankar - a larger-than-life Rajnikanth improving society in a simplistic but dramatic manner while
romancing Shreya, goofing around with Vivek and participating in rich, elaborate song sequences and
graphics-filled fights. It is weak on logic but Rajnikanth's style, charisma and screen presence
have been exploited to the fullest extent to make that easier to overlook.
Shankar's record at the box-office proves that he knows the pulse of the viewer well. Sivaji
seems designed to prove that he knows the pulse of the Rajni fan just as well. An all-out, unapologetic
tribute to Rajni's star power and solely intended to showcase his ability to carry a movie
single-handedly, the film is the work of a director who fully understood Rajni's image and set out
to depict it in the grandest way possible. In that, he has succeeded. For Rajni(and Rajni fans!),
Sivaji is gonna be a tough act to follow.
Sivaji(Rajnikanth), a sofware engineer in the US, has returned home for good and is determined to do
good for the people. He decides to open universities to provide free education and hospitals to
provide free medical services but finds the process rooted in corruption every step of the way. Setting
aside his own misgivings, he bribes the concerned people and finally gets the permission to set up his
foundation. But problems arise in the form of Adiseshan(Suman), a powerful businessman who sees the
foundation as competition to his own empire. Meanwhile, Sivaji falls for Tamilselvi(Shriya), a pious,
timid girl but she and her family don't warm up to Sivaji and his family so easily.
The film is unabashedly aimed at Rajni fans. The one liners, the slo-mo shots, the multiple hair styles,
costumes and get-ups(including dressing up like MGR, Sivaji and Kamalhassan) and the references to past
movies(note the professions Suman asks Rajni to consider when he is down on his luck) are all designed to
elicit cheers and whistles from the actor's huge fan base. Rajni ofcourse rises to the occasion, carrying
it all off with elan. Looking young and dashing in some fantastic costumes, he plays to the gallery
as only he can. The actor and comedian in him peeks out in the first half (he has some funny lines
and he is very convincing when he is frustrated about the roadblocks to his plans) but it is all
style in the second half. Starting off with the fantastic teakadai confrontation with Suman,
it is a one-man show all the way. Armed with new gimmicks like the coin toss and the bubble-gum pop,
he reminds us once again why is the real original as he takes on Suman and his cohorts.
For his part, Shankar picks his favorite 'social vigilante' theme but the whole thing seems very watered
down here. The first half describes the problem(corruption) while the second half suggests a way out of
it(use the black money hoarded by the rich to fight it). It is a topical issue sure but is handled in a
superficial way that prevents it from making an impact. Sujatha helps lay out the issue in a short and
crisp manner but the sequences where the plan is put into action are mostly outlandish. Creating sequences
allowing Rajni to be bombastic and larger-than-life has obviously been Shankar's only consideration and
so logic and realism take a big hit.
The movie doesn't start off strong. Rajni's introduction scene is pretty weak(inspite of a strong
build-up). Ballekakka... kicks off rather abruptly and the song sequence itself, inspite of
the grandeur and a slim and great-looking Nayantara, is disappointing. The technique of painted
surroundings is a Shankar trademark by now and so fails to wow us and the fast steps for the song
are a bit too much for Rajni to handle.
Inspite of the fabulous make-up that makes Rajni look almost half his age most of the
time, we know that Shreya is way younger than him and any lovey-dovey sequences between them would
have been quite uncomfortable. But Shankar cleverly sidesteps this by making the entire romance a
comedy and that makes it easier to accept. Rajni's family wooing her family is different
from the usual boy-girl routine and the entire sequence where they visit Shriya's house is hilarious. The
comedy is definitely loud, juvenile and slapstick but it works. Vivek has some fantastic lines and
Pattimanram Raja is an inspired pick for the role of the harassed, exasperated father. The segment
where Rajni turns fair is also very funny(and clever since Shankar brings it in without making Shriya
seem superficial) and the comic undertone makes the Style... song sequence work a lot better
than the photos suggested. The location is great and Rajni has some great steps and moves(who else can
make a simple move like taking off coolers to reveal plain glasses underneath, so stylish?!).
One of the big reasons for Chandramukhi's success was the flashback
sequence that allowed Rajni to appear in a different get-up as Vettaiyan Raja. Shankar has learned
well from that and tweaks the screenplay to allow the same here too. Rajni's look in the last segment
is exhilarating and a good surprise (Oh, how I wish those pictures hadn't been leaked!). He gets to
introduce a new style, utter some crowd-pleasing punchlines and participate in a stylish, good-looking
Shriya looks suitably mellow as Rajni's love interest. She looks gorgeous in the song sequences and is
probably the only Tamil heroine among the current crop who deserves the description 'hot'! Considering
the clean nature of the rest of the film, she could have been clothed a little more in the songs though.
Suman plays a suave, sheep-in-wolf's-clothing kind of villain. He does a good job but his character is
obviously very ineffectual and that affects our impression of him. Vivek has almost as much screen time
as Rajni if you disregard the song sequences and has some hilarious lines.
Athiradee... should count as one of the best Rajni song sequences of all time. Lavishly mounted
in a great setting with great ideas, bright costumes, superb choreography, it is one of the high points
of the movie. Vaaji Vaaji... and Sahana... are more noticeable for their grand sets. As
far as fight sequences go, Shankar spoils them by being too ambitious. The music store fight is nicely
done but the comedy hurts its effectiveness. The car chase at the drive-in is plain ridiculous with
SUVs flying off in all directions as they are swatted by Rajni's vehicle. But it does end on a nice
note though. The climactic fight is saved by style with the billowing coat on Rajni adding to the
atmosphere. The small fight at Suman's godown and the fight inside the rundown building end up being
the best of the lost since they are more realistic and down-to-earth.