At the cost of disappointing Vijay fans, says Divya Nair, I can safely say that Master is watchable for Sethupathi and Das.
Days before I was asked to review the film, I was discussing with my cousin why Kollywood continues to make masala films like Master which are declared blockbusters even before the film has hit theatres.
And then there are films like The Great Indian Kitchen that tell an important story. but struggle to find a spot on mainstream platforms.
Before I talk about Master, already declared one of the top-grossing films of 2021, I must also confess that I am not a great admirer of Vijay (Joseph)'s films. But I still wanted to watch this one because of the other Vijay -- Vijay Sethupathi.
I was interested in knowing how a mass hero like Vijay with zero acting skills but oodles of swag and dancing skills will take on an immaculate actor like Sethupathi who doesn't even bother losing weight for a role because ultimately, he knows he will customize the character to suit his persona.
Directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, Vijay plays JD, a drunk but popular and selectively aware college professor who reluctantly takes up a job as a teacher in a juvenile reformatory prison.
Master, as he is popularly addressed through the film, is unaware of the workings of this new workplace where rules are conveniently bent and boys under the age of 18 are offered incentives of drugs and other vices so Bhavani (Vijay Sethupathi) and his men can manipulate them and turn them into approvers for the crimes he and his henchmen commit in the race leading to the elections.
The film spends a great deal of time explaining how a teenage Bhavani was falsely accused after his parents were killed.
He is sent to the reformatory home where he rewrites his destiny and plots his revenge and comeback in true villain style.
Unfortunately, we don't get to indulge that much in JD, what shaped his thoughts or why he took to alcohol.
Also, we don't need to know where he gets so money to buy expensive Jack Daniels because we are told he is an orphan and he's mostly suspended from college because of his indiscipline or addiction.
Whenever someone tries to dig up his past, he comes up with stories from popular love dramas of his competitors (Vaaranam Ayiram, Premam, to name a few) which some of his fans may approve, but to me, appeared more like a mockery coming from an actor whose love dramas didn't make a significant impact as much as his Ghilli or Pokkiri where he plays the larger than life hero.
JD who can't shed a tear or sleep peacefully at night, is shaken out of his inebriated, careless state after two boys in the juvenile home get murdered because he was irresponsible.
He quits alcohol, turns over a new leaf and challenges Bhavani that he will avenge the two boys' death.
Like any other Vijay film, if you are willing to let your brain take a vacation and take logic along with it, maybe you can sit back and enjoy the way our hero makes a swagger entry, dances to kutthu songs at random occasions, does gravity-defying stunts in buses and metros while chasing goons who mess with his students.
Science professors, will either regret watching the fight and chase sequences or have a good laugh.
There are lots of kai-thattu (applause) moments for Vijay fans -- like when he talks about changing the attitude and lives of juvenile inmates or using politics as a reference to inspire social awareness among the youth. But what I really enjoyed is Lokesh's treatment of JD.
Unlike in most Vijay starrers where he is the be-all and end-all, in Master, our mass hero is allowed to take a backseat more than once.
Like when his student Savitha (played by Gouri Kishan) calls truce with her opponent Bhargav (Shantanu Bhagyaraj) and avoids a possible altercation and similarly when Charu (played by Malavika Mohanan) is saved by the presence of mind of a young boy, not our hero.
It's Vijay Sethupathi who clearly shines in his role as Bhavani the antagonist. His innocence is robbed away much early, he's got no mercy and he's only hungry for power.
Even as the anti-hero, Bhavani transcends JD in terms of dialogue delivery, screen presence and character without trying too hard.
He doesn't try to look menacing, doesn't grind his teeth, show anger or make tall claims. A man of few words, Bhavani is a man of action who knows his priorities.
Through subtle references and body language, Bhavani unleashes his evil side. The sequence where he makes a threatening phone call to JD while having a bath and styles his hair into horns deserves special mention here.
Arjun Das is equally powerful as Das, the leader of the reformatory, the underbelly of Bhavani's crimes. I'm just a little disappointed I couldn't enjoy his deep baritone in a theatre set up.
His expressive eyes, voice and body language could easily make you quiver and he deserved a meatier role than Lokesh's Das.
Overall, Master has the near-perfect recipe for a commercial entertainer -- there is a Vijay entry song, a trending song, a pretty heroine, emotions involving kids, and an ambitious message to society.
Yet, at the cost of disappointing Vijay fans, I can safely say that Master is watchable for Sethupathi and Das.
Apart from violence and drugs, there are no intimate scenes or sequences that will embarrass you, which makes this Vijay starrer eligible enough to be watched with your family and elders.
But is this a film to be celebrated or worth remembering? Definitely not!
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com