Pavithra Srinivasan writes Tamil film Rajapattai is just an actor's quest for superstardom, and is a disappointing fare.
By rights, PVP Cinemas' Rajapattai (literally, The King's Road), has everything going for it: National Award winning actor Vikram, a pretty heroine, a neat art director in the form of Rajeevan, cinematographer Madhie, hit-maker Yuvan Shankar Raja and a director who has handled off-beat themes to much critical and commercial success, Suseenthiran.
But this is a commercial venture, and that raises expectations, of course even if the theme, land-grabbing, and its political fallout, have been dealt with a dozen times. You expect a fantastic movie but what you do get is a travesty that leaves you gaping at its extreme blandness.
The beginning, at any rate, is mildly interesting: you have Anal Murugan (Vikram), a gym instructor who wants to become a movie villain at any cost. He eats, sleeps and dreams his ambition. He also fights, yells, saves people (and dances while he does it, inspired, maybe, by Dabangg) all while wearing cool shades, strikingly colourful clothing that would put Ramarajan to shame, and multi-coloured beard and hair.
His behaviour and attempts at comedy actually remind you of Jackie Chan's early films except that Anal Murugan is nowhere near that funny or exciting.
The Good Samaritan that he is, he runs into, and saves an old man Dakshinamurthy (K Viswanath), persecuted by his own son about a children's home that he owns. Then begins an elaborate sequence that demonstrates the affection between them, ranging all over from romantic advice to taking care of family that bores you to the point of tears.
Seenu, who has come up with the story and dialogue-writer Baskar Shakthi seem to be at least 15 years behind times, as they laboriously try to construct a romance between Murugan and his love interest (Deeksha Seth). It takes a good while, thus, for the land-grabbing plot-point to make any headway, as the hero is too busy swaggering around the city with his cohorts.
And if you still can't guess exactly where this story is heading and its climax, you have no business watching a commercial pot-boiler anyway.
What surprises you is not the mainstream movie itself; there have many such before, and Vikram has been very successful at some of them. This one, however, sinks into a morass of insipidity with its half-baked scenes, characterizations that belong in the 1960s and ridiculous villains. If it's meant to be a parody, that doesn't work either, as the makers have obviously taken themselves too seriously.
This is definitely not the best of Vikram's performances. At no point is he the character, Anal Murugan, a gym-boy who aches to succeed. There's very little, in fact, of his career and he's always Vikram himself: drawling, swaggering, hurling punch dialogues and squinting; there's no acting involved whatsoever. It's sad to see an actor of his stature take on a role such as this, in the name of commercial cinema.
Even more disheartening is director Suseenthiran's work. Making an interesting mainstream movie is no easy feat, and it's obvious that his heart was not in it. There are one or two places where you can see his touch, but that's it. When it comes to plot, characterization and screenplay, there's very little that's actually worthy of being salvaged.
Perhaps realising the futility of the project, Yuvan Shankar Raja hasn't troubled himself to provide great songs.
If anything, it's K Viswanath who brings a smile to your face, with his expressive acting and knack for comedy. The rest, including Deeksha Seth and Thambi Ramaiah, are all side-lined in Vikram's quest for superstardom.
For that's what it is: one man's quest to reclaim his star-status, both on and off-screen.
This Rajapattai doesn't offer much to entice the public.