Is there any actor who can make you smile, clap, admire and glue you to the screen for almost 3 hours at the age of 69? Only one can – The Super One “Superstar” Rajinikanth. I think Karthik Subburaj would be only the second director in last 2 decades, who made maximum use of Rajini after Shankar. Petta is all about what people here in Tamil Nadu call “Thalaivar Dharisanam”. Rajini does everything right from comedy, romance, stunts, trademark swags like flipping a cigarette (yes, but with a disclaimer) / shades / guns, spinning the chair, be it the way he walks, talks, see’s, laughs / dances and hold your breath – a stunning Nunchaku act too (have you noticed that Bruce Lee background in the trailer?) Its complete “Rajinism” from the title cards till end credits !! For all those who missed watching his movies like Annamalai, Baasha or Padayappa in theaters, this is an opportunity to live through that experience called Rajinism, preferably in a local theater nearby.
The story line of Petta is simple. Petta Velan has to safe guard his friend Maalik’s family from the villain and take vengeance for what happened to his family. Now this line can be scripted in many ways and probably seen in some old movies already. But Karthik Subburaj gives it a surreal treatment, intentionally scripting/presenting each scene differently and at the same time revolving around Rajini’s charisma and screen presence. After what we have seen in Linga/ Kaala and Kabali, it was almost confirmed and written off that no one can bring old Rajini back on screen. But here Karthik starts off the movie with Rajini asking the audience “Naan Vizhuven Endru Ninaithayo? He looks stylish throughout and makes other actors earn for their screen presence throughout the film.
Nawazuddin, as villain excels in the flashback scenes but does not have much to do otherwise. His lip sync could have been better. I found Vijay Sethupathi completely lost in the film except for few dialogues and the scene where he comes out of the van along with Rajinikanth. He was in surprise mode throughout probably admiring Superstar's performance in real. There are no heroines in the film and all four women characters (played by Simran, Trisha, Malavika and Megha) have blink and miss roles (which has been a concern for some reviewers though). Having said that, Malavika had one scene to excel and she does justice to that. Simran adds some charm to the proceedings in the first half. Other supporting actors like Bobby, Sananth, Adukalam Naren just deliver what is expected out of them. Chinni Jayanth and YGM are included in the cast just to give that old Rajini film attachment.
Technically the film is brilliant. The larger credit goes to Anirudh for his blasting background score which elevates each and every scene (includes some bits of old Ilayaraja classics too). All songs are catchy and shot well. “Thappad Maara” song is missing in the film though. Cameraman Thiru is at his best – using various hues, shades and background lighting which elevates Rajini’s charisma. The hill station shots are amazing and picturesque. The sets are realistic, be it the interiors of the hostel (no idea why it resembles an old church though) or the lanes / houses shown in UP, it looked realistic and appropriate for the action sequences. The film has many fight sequences, the one before interval being the best. At the same time, its not exaggerated and done very sensibly.
On the negatives, the movie could be clipped by 10 minutes in both 1st and 2nd half which would have made it a highly engaging watch. Vijay Sethupathi’s and Nawazuddin’s characters could have been detailed little more. Honestly, Vijay Sethupathi looked too old to play Rajini’s or Nawaz’s son. There is no detailing of Petta Velan’s life after the flashback scenes or how Singaaram from Madurai became Singaar Singh of UP. Few scenes to substantiate this would have helped. Further the scene where Petta Velan discuss the killing of Singaaram’s brother with his friend and wife is exaggerated and not conventional. The shoot-outs in the second half is too lengthy and may not go well with family audience. The climax fight reminded me of Kabali and the scene where both Petta and Singaar Singh talk in the end could have been shot in a different way (both Kaala & Kabali had similar confrontations)
While the story ends like a regular revenge drama, what makes Petta different is the overall treatment and the climax twist (Karthik Subburaj style) which gives it a new age cinema feel. Inspite of the huge star cast, you just remember Rajinikanth when you leave the theater and that’s the magic he spins around us. The movie has an open ending where Rajinikanth asks his fans “Intha Aatam Pothuma Kozhundhaai ?” leaving you to wonder if there will be a sequel.
My Rating – 3.75 / 5
P.S – I am a Rajini fan and hence you may find this review biased! Nevertheless, keen to read your experience too.