Kangana Ranaut, playing the titular role Thalaivii, now streaming on Netflix, is a four-time national award winner and four-time Filmfare award winner, testifying her acceptability among both the class and mass for her acting prowess. However, she is found wanting in giving a consistent performance in Thalaivii. But she shines as a longing lover.
The film begins with Kangana Ranaut, as the leader of the opposition, being humiliated and trampled upon in the Assembly for questioning the powerful and much-respected chief minister Karunanidhi enacted by Nasser. She vows to return to the Assembly as CM and that is how the film ends.
In between, Jayalalitha forays into the world of cinema, with a resolute unwillingness to bow even before the all-powerful and much-adored superstar MGR, to the consternation of everyone around. MGR, however, brushes aside her attitude as childishness. But a humane act of MGR during a shoot dramatically changes her attitude towards him, eventually drawing them closer to each other. Yet, when she is dropped from a film, she can’t take it, and in a vengeful way, announces her collaboration with the other superstar Sivaji.
She is mollified by MGR with a double role. MGR had by then made a mark in politics even as a reluctant Jayalalitha was drawn into it. When the party leaders brought to MGR’s attention that Jaya was playing political games she was silenced with an MP post; the idea was to keep her away from state politics. In Parliament, she gave a convincing speech in her convent-educated English, impressing even Indira Gandhi who gave her an immediate appointment, which was hard to come by till then. Thus, a coalition was formed.
On MGR’s death she insisted on being the political heir even with other party leaders opposing her. By then she had been the darling of the masses and fought her way with her shrewdness.
Kangana Ranaut could not carry well the hot-headed youthful bubbliness, the sophisticated charm, the cunning and the aura of Jayalalitha.
Raj Arjun gives a standout performance as her adversary. Yet, it can be said that the saving grace of the film is Arvind Swamy as M G Ramachandran. Kudos to the makeup artist for giving a near-perfect look. Script by Bahubali fame Vijayendra Prasad holds the film together but could have lengthened the role of Karunanidhi enacted by the thespian Nasser, and references to mythological characters, which sounded hollow, could have been avoided.
Thalaivii is all about Bharat Ratna awardee MGR who is shown as being warm-hearted as opposed to Thalaivii Jayalalitha who is mostly cold-hearted.
The film should be viewed for projecting the defining period in Tamil Nadu politics, the period that also saw the assassination of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.