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Master: To Slur, With Love

Master(Tamil, Amazon)

Starring Vijay, Vijay Sethupathi

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Directed by Lokesh Kanagraj

Rating: ***

It takes  a Vijay to  bring them back to the theatres. Covid be damned, Master  has proven  a monster blaster at  the  boxoffice in the South. Now two weeks later it comes to us  on the streaming platform. But the fire-and-brimstone  impact  of  a demi-god striding  across  the screen as he takes on the  vile villains ,is lost at home.

To enjoy a Vijay starrer  you have to watch it with his  fans as they shriek their approval  every time he breaks a bone or breaks  into a dance. This  time  I have to admit the script  supports  the Tamil  superstar’s iconic  image with  twists and turns that are frenetic but  neither  incoherent nor disjointed. 

There is  none of that disdain for rules of  storytelling that we’ve seen  in the other recent Vijaystarrers. On the contrary  I’d say this is  the superstar’s  first genuine stab at a socio-political  relevance.At one point Vijay smirks  and says, “Some  here may not like me. But there are  millions out there  who  do,” drawing  attention to his  popularity  that  threatens  to  seep into politics.  

Vijay plays  JD(no idea what it stands for) a college lecturer hero-worshipped  by his students even though he is  notorious for his drinking habits.After  6 pm, he  is out of his senses, boast his admiring fan-pupils speaking of him in folklore  fashion, as though alcoholism was a form  of meditation. Which if you are Vijay,  it probably is.

 It takes a Sethupathi to snap the  hero out of his stupor.  This lengthy  never-dull screen-adrenaline’s  biggest USP is  Sethupathi  as the cold-blooded brutal   antagonist, a crimelord who uses  children  from a remand home to do his dirty deeds. 

The plot structures itself  as a spiraling combat between the two Vijays. But the film  never  feels like  a pretext  to showcase  the two actors’ superstardom. There  is a  solid story to tell here.And director Lokesh Kangaraj isn’t  willing to let  go of a single  moment to milk the  enterainmentquotient. There is  an exceedingly riveting chase sequence on a Delhi’s metro train early in the film.But the climactic pow-wow between the  two Vijays looks  a bit hurried. What  comes  in-between  is a gala  feast  of fists  and fast-paced  action sequences punctuated with just the right dramatic pauses to  instill  that dual sense  of thrills and  emotions served  up at  dhoomtemperature.

  While  both the Vijays  have a terrific time provoking each  to  a climactic  release, Sethupathiwith his  dark  chilling villainy has an edge. Vijay  on the other hand is not afraid to  seem  vulnerable  on screen. His  emotional breakdown  after  a tragic  turn in the plot, is a welcome  departure from the  big-boys-don’t-cry brand of machismo propagated  in our films since  time immemorial.

The female characters, however, are abysmally  under-represented. This  was  also true  of  the director’s previous Tamil  film Kaithi. The cinematography  by Sathtam Sooryan  captures  the tension of  campus politics  and the  grime of the world  of  crime equally  effectively. But the  music  by Anirudha Ravichander including a strange rap number titled ‘Kutty’s Song’ strains to be relevant. This, the  film’s hero , never has  try for.

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