I still remember going to a planetarium holding on to my father's hand to see the constellation. It happened long, long ago but the memory is still fresh in my mind.
I was in a dark auditorium -- there were glittering stars in the dark sky and I looked at them in awe. There were bright stars, and not-so-bright stars; some of them were together, some far away from each other. I jumped up in joy when I spotted a bright star. I clapped when I felt a star was smiling at me. It was a spectacle, an unforgettable spectacle.
Today, after so many years, I am reminded of that particular night inside the planetarium. And what triggered off this memory was Rajnikanth's Sivaji. Inside the dark theatre, I was treated once again to a spectacle for more than three hours. As I watched, I was extremely happy and most of the time, the child in me got very excited.
The first one and a half hours of Sivaji was like looking at a sky full of stars. Do these stars tell you a story and entertain you? Yes, the story is about how a lone man fights a battle against the corrupt system in society. It may be the hospitals that squeeze money from the poor patients; it may be the colleges that extract a lot of money from the students. Joining hands with corruption are the elected representatives. The story is about how this man wins the battle in the end.
It all starts with a person being taken to the jail with his face covered. As the story unfolds, we see an NRI called Sivaji (Rajnikanth) coming to India from the US to serve his country. He wants to open hospitals, schools and colleges for the poor. There are hurdles galore in front of him especially in the form of an avaricious man called Adiseshan (Suman).
Now, which is the brightest star in the dark theatre?
It is this star, the suave Adiseshan, in a spotless white dhoti and shirt and a slight swagger that impressed me the most. Everything about this star is imposing and the 'real big star' pales in the first half.
The second star that made me happy with his one-liners is Sivaji's uncle, played excellently by Vivek. In the first half, it is Vivek's show all the way, and whenever he utters those funny one-liners with a straight face, one cannot but laugh out loud.
The third star is Sujatha, the man who wrote those funny lines. The story is as old as the old wine which the director of the show, Shankar himself has often said. Sujatha makes it up with his sharp and witty dialogues.
Art director Thotta Tharani creates stunning sets for the songs.
Am I impressed with the camera of K V Anand that picturised the stunning spectacle? Yes. Am I impressed with the songs and dances? Yes, with most of them. A R Rahman's songs sound and look definitely better with the dazzling visuals.
As the film progresses, Sivaji gets married to Thamizhselvi (a beautiful Shriya) after wooing her and winning over her family and making us laugh in the bargain.
Flashback over and Sivaji is in jail. Adiseshan and his cronies in the bureaucracy continue to harass him. But Sivaji escapes from their clutches and comes back as M G Ravi Chandran aka MGR. Thus, Sivaji becomes MGR.
And, what an entry it is! From this moment onwards, there is only one star in the sky, the brightest of them all: Sirius. And, that is Rajnikanth. With his bald head, long coat and mannerisms, he is style personified. In the second half, Rajni the star rises like a phoenix and makes up for the lacklustre performance in the first half. The stars of the first half pale in front this star in the next half.
And you come away from the dark theatre impressed with the spectacle composed by Shankar.