Sivakarthikeyan lifts an average film
There’s pretty much nothing in Rajini Murugan that will even startle you, let alone blow your mind. It’s everything you’ve seen already, but you know the thing that differentiates stars from actors? They’re able to take your mind off the silly story; they’re able to make you forget that the plot is flimsy, that the songs are excessive, that the love story is regressive. Rajini Murugan makes it amply evident that Sivakarthikeyan, as he has done earlier in his career, is quite capable of making a below-average script seem average… sometimes, above-average even. Perhaps that’s why dozens of little stars come together to form the title.
It’s perhaps then appropriate that he is named after the biggest star of them all. Rajini Murugan (Sivakarthikeyan) is so named by his father’s dear friend, a diehard superstar fan. So serious is he about his admiration for Rajinikanth that when he wishes to warn his daughter, Karthika (Keerthy Suresh), against falling in love with Murugan, he simply plays a clip of Annamalai that has Rajinikanth advising his daughter in similar circumstances. At one point, Karthika’s father even says, “Nee oru dhadava sirichaa, nooru dhadava sirichaa madhiri.” That’s Baasha , of course. There’s more Rajinikanth referencing when Murugan imagines himself as a rich, gracious man, and you’re shown an imaginary sequence in which he’s dressed up as Rajinikanth in Pedarayudu (the Telugu remake of Nattamai ), as he distributes money to the hapless, poor villagers. In another scene, he goads Karthika’s father by playing Rajadhi Raja ’s ‘Mama un ponna kudu’. I didn’t really mind any of these bits. There’s plenty of such silly comedy in the film, mainly featuring Murugan and his friend, Thothathiri (Soori). Like when they test-drive an Audi and Thothathiri refers to the car’s airbag as a balloon. Also, like in many Rajinikanth films over the years, Murugan stands up for Indian culture, and makes a statement against NRIs who don’t find the time to visit their parents.
Only actors of the mould of Sivakarthikeyan, who enjoy tremendous fan-following in interior Tamil Nadu, could make these films work. Ponram is well aware of this, and smartly allocates quite a bit of time to romanticising Madurai’s culture. Grand functions are organised when a girl attains puberty. À la Kaadhal . There’re panchayat fights that threaten to spill over into violence. À la Virumaandi . And perhaps because Ponram also remembers his original promise of keeping the film free from violence, no scene is really allowed to get too serious, despite the presence of a conventional villain in Ezharai Mookan (Samuthirakani). For instance, just as a panchayat scene seems set to spill into bloodshed, Murugan makes a joke and the whole scene backtracks into comedy territory. In another scene, a man ends up dead, and just as you wonder if it’s all becoming too serious, he wakes up. Later, a lorry is on course to running over some important characters, but at the last minute, an innocent dog comes in the way. The director allows himself to get carried away by the masala action template now and then, only to stop himself at the last minute and seek recluse in comedy. And that’s one of the chief reasons I couldn’t really summon too much dislike for Rajini Murugan , despite a horribly written love track in which Murugan follows the mind-numbingly mundane technique of standing outside a girl’s house until she budges. In this film, he actually takes it a step further and sets up a tea shop, so he can make some money while staring at her house’s windows. It’s worse when the girl is shown being sympathetic towards his cause. “He’s set up a tea shop just for me,” she dreamily tells her friend. Oh, a tea shop. What a romantic gesture. Perhaps a public restroom would’ve been more romantic?
But do not at all be surprised if Rajini Murugan , like Ponram’s earlier film with Sivakarthikeyan, Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam , turns out to be commercially successful. It’s on account of the star; not so much the film. Tamil cinema has, forever, been obsessed about unearthing the next Rajinikanth. Dhanush’s name has been thrown up often. Simbu’s name has come up too. But there may well be an underdog slowly sneaking up on them. And he can even dance.