The style that spawned a fan following of millions, 50,000 fan clubs, innumerable memes and a mini industry of dubbed Rajini films in Japan, is back in full swing. Rajinikanth returns as the mass hero of the 80s and 90s. To put it differently, Rajini returns to the genre that was spawned out of the ‘superstar’ persona in him.
The ‘hero entry’ that is preceded by a beautifully delicious build-up of dialogues and voiceover extolling his superhuman strength; the opening song that’s upbeat and positive all the way and which is TOTALLY centred on the Superstar; and of course the generous dose of nostalgia in every scene.
Petta isn’t a remake of an old Rajini film. Nor does it pay tribute to his old hits. It’s a completely current take of an old genre. Like with Bond films, where Pierce Brosnan took over from Roger Moore. And Daniel Craig revamped it to a different level.
Because this is Rajinikanth, he’s a genre unto himself. And so, Petta is the Casino Royale of the genre.
OPENING THE GATES
Visually, Petta is a treat to watch. There’s something pleasing about watching misty mornings in a hill station on screen, from an equally misty Chennai, where the steam from my filter coffee mingles with the mist on screen.
By avoiding the usual sepias and warm tones, the story automatically feels current, although the plot isn’t ‘new’ or ‘different’ in any way. That’s the beauty of The Rajini Genre; the surprise isn’t in the plot twists. It’s in how Thalaivar deals with them.
ANIRUDH’S MUSIC IS RAJINI’S BEST FRIEND
A Rajini film with bad music is like a horror flick with bad sound. Petta is an aural treat through and through. The background score is bang on every second. Each villain has his own unique BGM. Nawazuddin’s entry reminds you of the off-rhythm score that made Amrish Puri hate-worthy in Thalapathy.
Simran’s comeback is a nice respite to the plot and leaves one wanting a bit more. Trisha too is in the film. That’s about everything that can be said about that!
Nawazuddin Siddiqui doesn’t look like a Hindi speaker. As the most cowardly arch nemesis in Rajinikanth’s career, he’s also the most dangerous. The scene where he revels and dances on the bodies of children and women he bombed to death is especially chilling.
Vijay Sethupathi plays himself and is as likeable as ever. But there’s little screen time left for him to chew on after Nawazuddin and Superstar’s ‘Padayal’ (feast).
Rajinikanth’s on screen persona of forgiving the enemy. Even in Padayappa, he was willing to let bygones be and give Neelambari a chance to live her life. Sure, Nawazuddin is way more sinister and worthy of death, but still...
Baasha, Arunachalam, Annamalai and Padayappa all reinforce faith in God and use religion or spirituality to further the plot. Petta refuses to acknowledge this aspect of the superstar. There’s more food in this film than in a year of Tamil films put together. But no religion or faith save in oneself. ‘Trust in Petta, and down with violent hindutva.’ That’s about it.
Petta gets 4 stars out of 5. It’s worth multiple binges and there’s enough for Rajini fans and others (the negligible 0.1%) to make for an entertainer that doesn’t weigh heavily after.
I’d walk out five minutes before the climax though.
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