Petta Is The Best Rajinikanth Film In Years


Starring Rajinikanth, Vijay Sethupathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui,Simran, Trisha

Written  &  Directed  by Karthik  Subbaraj

Rating: *** ½(3 and a half stars)

In what  seems  like an unwanted political intrusion in an out-and-out formulisticentertainer,  Vijay Sethupathi—who has  a pivotal role to play  in propelling the  plot forward—is attacked in a  cowshed  by  goons who accuse him of  being a beef  carrier.

Well, to be honest, Sethupathi does have  quite  a beefy role . In fact it’s the most powerfully written secondary part  I’ve seen in any  recent Rajinikanth starrer. Seethupathi  plays Jeetu, a sleazy hitman  in Uttar Pradesh who ends up being horribly  confused  about his parentage. In  fact  the script  turns his parentage  into a bit of a savage joke.

But director Karthik Subbaraj knows when to pull back the punches. He  lets the 3-hour  marathon  masala  fare  roll on like  a steamroller that knows exactly how to run its course without  plundering any of the tropes  in a  Rajinikanth starrer. Petta  is  a film that satiates both the  Rajini devotees and the  non-devotees. While it harks back to his most famous screen  avatars  it gives  a  fresh fecund flavourful  twist  to  every  manoeuvre that brings the  plot closer  to its nemesis.

To begin with Rajini is  a boisterous hostel warden who plays  Uncle  Cupid to  a young couple. While  aiding the  courtship Rajini  falls in love with a spiritual hero(Simran, looking lovely).This  part of  the film is  light to the touch, frothy and  tantalizing  in  a  cute kind of way.

 In  the second half the plot simply  takes  off  , creating a badland of  bloodshed and  retribution  where  bullets  and bombs pelt down  in  a devastating tale  of caste and communal wars. The clannish  violence is cannily constructed  to highlight  Rajinikanth’s  stage-capturing image. He has never looked so young in the past decade . He  performs  the action sequences and the  dances with a disarming relish and his character  doesn’t shy  away  from killing the enemies.

It all adds up to a visually  rich drama replete with twists and  turns that are  not only unforeseen but also deftly  written to accentuate  Rajinikanth’s image .And yes, NawazuddinSiddiqui makes a formidable adversary . The  confrontations between the two leading  to  a  bloodied finale  leaves  no room for the audiences to exhale.

When was  the last time I had so  much fun watching  a Rajinikanth film? The last  few years topped by the appalling 2:0  last  month have been pretty abysmal . Pehaps the Thalaiva, as he’s called by his devotees, had begun to take himself  too seriously in his  recent films.

In Petta Rajini doesn’t allow his  swagger to be weighed down by responsibilities.  A  genuine sense  of fun runs through the  taut  plot. Except for a few stretches where the  director seems  to lose grip(for instance the early scenes  in the hostel are way too flighty ) this tale  of   a father-figure fighting to save  a young boy(Sananth  Sethi) from  murderous  enemies is just what the  Rajinikanth image needed at  this  juncture.

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