Thalaivii

Thalaivii (transl. Female leader) is a 2021 Indian biographical drama film based on the life of Indian actress-politician J. Jayalalithaa. The film stars Kangana Ranaut as Jayalalithaa and Arvind Swami as M. G. Ramachandran.[5] Shot simultaneously in Tamil and Hindi, it is directed by A. L. Vijay and written by K. V. Vijayendra Prasad, Madhan Karky (Tamil), and Rajat Arora (Hindi). Thalaivii is produced by Vishnu Vardhan Induri and Shailesh R Singh of Vibri Motion Pictures and Karma Media And Entertainment respectively. The film also features Nassar, Bhagyashree, Raj Arjun, Madhoo, Jisshu Sengupta, Thambi Ramaiah, Shamna Kasim and Samuthirakani in supporting roles. The music, background score and the soundtrack for all three languages is composed by G. V. Prakash Kumar.

Thalaivii
Thalaivii poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byA. L. Vijay
Written byK. V. Vijayendra Prasad
Madhan Karky (Tamil)
Rajat Arora (Hindi)
Produced byVishnu Vardhan Induri
Shailesh R Singh
Brinda Prasad
StarringKangana Ranaut
Arvind Swami
CinematographyVishal Vittal
Edited by
Music byG. V. Prakash Kumar
Production
companies
Zee Studios
Vibri Motion Pictures
Karma Media And Entertainment
Gothic Entertainment
Sprint Films
Distributed byZee Studios
Release date
  • 10 September 2021 (2021-09-10)[1]
Running time
153 minutes[2]
CountryIndia
LanguagesTamil
Hindi
Budget₹100 crore[3]
Box office₹7.75 crore (first week)[4]

The film was launched officially on Jayalalithaa's birth anniversary in 24 February 2019. Initially the film was titled Thalaivi in Tamil and Jaya in Hindi and Telugu languages, but the makers later planned to release it under the title Thalaivi in all three languages.[6] Principal shooting began on 10 November 2019 and completed in December 2020.[7] The film release was postponed due to rise in COVID-19 cases and lockdown in Maharashtra.[8][9] It was later rescheduled to release on 10 September 2021, with the new title Thalaivii.[1]

Made with a budget of ₹100 crore Rupees, the movie earned ₹7.75 crore in its first week at the box office.[4] The movie had potential to do better at the box office, as it received critical acclaim, but was stopped by multiplexes like PVR and Inox who refused to screen the film in their theatres. Also, the movie was released during the covid-19 pandemic. Though, the movie has already made profit according to the producers, through market and ott platforms.

PlotEdit

The film opens with a scene where Jaya (Ranaut) is entering the state's political session where the current Chief Minister of the State (Nasser) is presenting the budget. Jaya interrupts him and wants explanation of the corruption charges leveled against her apart from her phone lines being tapped. She demands his resignation. She defends MGR (Swami) stating he gave his life for the services of common man. However, the opposition questions her relationship with MGR resulting a brawl at the session. There is an attempt to outrage the modesty of Jaya. Referencing to the Mahabharata, Jaya says she was treated like the character “Draupadi” and would return to the session after becoming the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

In a flashback Jaya is indtroduced as a budding actress, filming songs at AVM Studios, Madras on February 12, 1965. Whilst filming, it is shown how MGR is idolized by the film industry and politics where his paired lead actresses are advised to limit themselves professionally. In one such incident, Saroja’s (Cassandra) film career is sabotaged as she tries to forge her relationship with MGR. Kanappan (Virral Patel) for MGR takes the call to end Saroja’s career by burning the script written for her. Jaya (also hailed as Amu) is accompanied by her mother Sandhya (Bhagyashree) on film sets. Jaya replaces Saroja and when MGR visits Vijaya-Vauhini Studios, Jaya disrespects MGR by not acknowledging his presence on the set and her mother warns that such behavior can affect her film career. Finally, the next day she pretends acknowledging each and every person at the studio, including the stray dog on the set. At a rehearsal, she is touched by MGRs quality of respecting a crew member hurt on the set, offered immediate help. Through original songs written for MGRs’ films as well as for Thalaivii, the film highlights the growing fondness between MGR and Jaya. Kanappan continues similar behaviour with Jaya but she’s intelligent enough to not let him succeed. Jaya is hurt knowing that she’s the other woman as MGR is married to Janaki (Madhoo). This happens when MGR was shot in the neck and hospitalized. As MGR recovers, the coalition of party wins. Kanappan hires another heroine for MGRs next film and offers full and final settlement to Jaya to stop her continuous lead pairing with MGR. Jaya tries to discuss with MGR but he brushes of saying it is matter of one film. Meanwhile, Jaya is paired in fresh films with Sobhan (Jisshu Sengupta) and the films are hit. On the contrary, MGRs films were flopping.

There arises a controversy on MGR and Jaya’s life being eyed by public and press alike. It affects the reputation of the political party where they refuse to make MGR the Education Minister. Karunanidhi and MGR enter in a verbal tiff on importance of latter's career in films or politics. MGR meets Jaya to tell her he has chosen politics over career in films and leaves with Kanappan. Meanwhile, Sandhya's demise affects Jaya to a great extent. Onboard a flight, she is seated beside MGR only to know why he couldn’t attend her mother’s funeral. Jaya says she cannot be the other woman in his life anymore and shall take the baton of their relationship ahead.

MGR wins the election to be the Chief Minister again while Jaya is offered film for playing the character of an elder sister. However, disrespectful, she refuses. Jaya accepts a stage performance at a government event in Madurai, where MGR is the guest. He meets her backstage to discuss their memories. By whistling, he takes a moment to appreciate her performance in privacy and wants her to join politics. However, she refuses initially because politics parted MGR from her.

Touched by the condition of girl child education and schools, Jaya highlights the mid-day meal services under MGRs name by serving him the unhygienic food at his office. MGR inspects the mid-day meal service himself. He advises Jaya to take up the mid-day meal service program for the state to which she agrees and forays into politics. She is fondly called “Amma” by locals. She markets the food scheme door to door and continues to partner with MGR, politically. Jaya takes the portfolio of education, also. Meanwhile, elections are around the corner and a saint is killed. The opposition takes advantage of the situation and says the current political party has “no man left” as they are under Jaya’s influence in the party. In a political address to clear the air, stones are pelt at her. To stop the pelting, she speak in opposition of MGR. However, the propaganda goes well to assign her the secretary to MGR, a new position which was not favoured by many in the party.

In a Rajya Sabha session, Advani (Rajiv Kumar A.) requests the speaker to let Jaya place updates of southern part of India especially the Kalpakkam electricity project and people welfare. Dazzled by her bold representation, she was invited by Indira Gandhi's (Flora Jacob) office. However, she creates an alliance with the Congress that was heard by MGR through news. This alliance was considered detrimental to the party. Meanwhile, MGR is flown to the USA for health treatment. Though Jaya was expelled from the position of secretary, however, Rajiv Gandhi calls up Kanappan to let Jaya campaign for the party currently bereft of MGR. The campaigning saves the party and it continues to stay in force. On his return from USA, MGR and Gandhi discuss on how Jaya kept the spirit alive. Impressed again, MGR plans to meet Jaya on a dinner, prepared at her home. Jaya awaits MGR overnight only to know in the wee hours that he is no more. Post MGRs demise, Kanappan wants Janaki (Madhoo) to take the responsibility of MGRs position but they lose it to Karunanidhi. Also, Janaki accepts her defeat saying Jaya is accepted by the people. Janaki steps back from politics.

The film returns to the opening scene. Later, Kanappan plans Jaya’s car accident where she is advised 5-6 months of bed rest due to spinal injury. Gandhi says that the party can’t fight the elections, however, a determined Jaya with the health condition, fights the election only to emerge victorious as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. As she takes charge of the state, she recalls words by MGR after seeing his photo in the office: “If you give love to the people of the state, they’d return you back the same”.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

Vishnu Vardhan Induri decided to make a film based on the life of AIADMK's former general secretary J. Jayalalithaa, who served six times as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for more than fourteen years between 1991 and 2016. Producer Vishnu Vardhan Induri approached A. L. Vijay in early 2018, to direct the film.[14] Vijay and Vishnu researched extensively for eight months to come up with the story. To make the writing more effective, Vishnu brought in K. V. Vijayendra Prasad for the script who further developed the script.[15]

The film will focus on the journey of a woman who has been successful in a male-dominated world. The most beautiful thing about her is that she has a powerful mind and is very strong willed; she is an inspiration for many. There will be honesty in the biopic, not drama.

— A. L. Vijay, on directing Thalaivi in an interview with The Times of India.[15]

In August 2018, Vidya Balan was reported to play the lead character when the film initially came to news. However, when the project was launched on 24 February 2019 (Jayalalithaa's birth anniversary), under the title Thalaivii, the makers had approached Kangana Ranaut to play Jayalalithaa's role, as Vijay stated that her role will be apt for the film.[16] Ranaut officially confirmed her part in March 2019,[17] with the shooting being supposed to held in July 2019.[18]

As per Kangana, there will be two parts of the film. The first part focuses on life of Jayalalilthaa from 16 to 40. There will be a second film, where her life from 41 to her death in 2016 will get covered.[19]

Casting and charactersEdit

Ranaut started preparing for her role in May 2019.[20] In September 2019, prosthetic specialist Jason Collins, who worked on Captain Marvel (2019), was hired to design Ranaut's looks and it has been reported that she will sport four looks in the film.[21] Both Ranaut and Vijay headed to Los Angeles to undergo the prosthetic sessions.[22][23] Ranaut also trained under dance master Gayathri Raghuram to choreograph Bharatanatyam sequences for this film so as to suit for the character.[24][25] The second round of look tests were held during October, which led Ranaut to spend nearly two months for the preparation of her role.[26][27] She also gained 20 kilos for her role in the film.[28]

In October 2019, Arvind Swami was roped in to play the role of M. G. Ramachandran.[29] The very same month, the makers approached Prakash Raj to play the role of DMK politician M. Karunanidhi, although he donned a similar character inspiring the politician in the 1997 film Iruvar.[30] Vijay Deverakonda was reported to play the role of Sobhan Babu, Jayalalithaa's close aide,[31] before Jisshu Sengupta was finalised.[32] Similarly, Priyamani was approached to play V. K. Sasikala,[33] but, she could not allot dates for the film and the role went to Poorna; Madhoo essayed the role of V. N. Janaki.[34]

FilmingEdit

Principal shooting began in Mysore on 10 November 2019.[35][36] A huge set for a song sequence was erected at a studio in Chennai, and began filming on 1 February 2020, featuring Ranaut in a Bharatanatyam attire.[37] During the song shoot Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, whom Ranaut worked in Panga (2020) made a visit to the sets.[38][39] Production was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with major portions being filmed, Ranaut stated not to resume shoot as the climax scene requires more than 3000 extras and is to be made on a large scale.[40] After multiple delays, the makers filmed the climax scene in mid-November 2020, with production being completed in December 2020.[41][42]

SoundtrackEdit

Thalaivii
Soundtrack album by
Released10 September 2021 (All languages)[43][44][45]
Recorded2020
GenreFeature film soundtrack
Length25:35 (All languages)
LanguageTamil
Hindi
Telugu
LabelLahari Music
T-Series

The music for the film is composed by G. V. Prakash Kumar and lyrics written by Madhan Karky (Tamil versions) and Irshad Kamil (Hindi version) and Sira Sri, Bhaskarabhatla, Ramajogayya Sastry, Krishna Chaitanya and Kalyana Chakravarthy (Telugu versions). The music rights are acquired by Lahari Music and T-Series.[46][47][48]

All lyrics are written by Madhan Karky.

Tamil
No.TitleSinger(s)Length
1."Mazhai Mazhai"Saindhavi Prakash3:22
2."Unthan Kangalil Ennadiyo"Nakul Abhyankar, Niranjana Ramanan3:28
3."Kannum Kannum Pesa Pesa"Saindhavi Prakash4:00
4."Unakaana Ulagam"K. S. Harisankar, Ananya Bhat5:03
5."Vaa Thalaivii"Nakul Abhyankar5:48
6."Tugalai Tugalai"G. V. Prakash Kumar3:54
Total length:25:35

All lyrics are written by Irshad Kamil.

Hindi
No.TitleSinger(s)Length
1."Chali Chali"Saindhavi Prakash3:22
2."Teri Aankhon Mein"Armaan Malik, Prajakta Shukre3:28
3."Nain Bandhe Naino Se"Saindhavi Prakash4:00
4."Hai Kamaal"Shankar Mahadevan, Parul Mishra5:03
5."Aa Thalaivii"Amit Mishra5:48
6."Tukuda Tukuda"G. V. Prakash Kumar3:54
Total length:25:35
Telugu
No.TitleLyricsSinger(s)Length
1."Ilaa Ilaa"Sira SriSaindhavi Prakash3:22
2."Nee Kannullo Emunnado"BhaskarabhatlaNakul Abhyankar, Niranjana Ramanan3:28
3."Nandhalala"Ramajogayya SastrySaindhavi Prakash4:00
4."Kumari Idhi Nee Daari"Ramajogayya SastryAnurag Kulkarni, Ananya Bhat5:03
5."Ra ThalaiviI"Krishna ChaitanyaAnurag Kulkarni5:48
6."Visirey Visirey"Kalyana ChakravarthyNakul Abhyankar3:54
Total length:25:35

Marketing and releaseEdit

The first look and teaser released on 23 November 2019,[49] received positive response praising Ranaut's transformation.[50] However, a section of audience expressed disappointment over the "terrible" prosthetics and initiated a troll fest through Twitter.[51][52] Some netizens claimed that any other actor should have done better in place of Ranaut and further upset that she could end up "tarnishing Jayalalithaa's image through this film".[53] However, Ranaut's sister Rangoli Chandel defended the actress, saying that "those who got eyes can see the fantastic work done by the prosthetic team".[54]

The film was initially scheduled for a theatrical release on 26 June 2020,[55] but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in India.[40] In June 2020, the team announced that the film will have a theatrical release and may not have a direct OTT release.[56] The film was then scheduled for release theatrically on 23 April 2021 in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu languages.[55][8] As of April 2021, the release date of film was indefinitely delayed due to rise in COVID-19 cases and lockdown in Maharashtra.[9] It was later rescheduled to release on 10 September 2021, with the new title Thalaivii.[1] The film will be available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video simultaneously, four weeks after its theatrical release.[57]

The makers of Thalaivii announced a two-week window for the Hindi version and a four-week window for Tamil and Telugu versions of the film before its release in the OTT services. Multiplex chains PVR Cinemas and INOX have expressed their disapproval over this policy and appealed for a uniform four-week window across all the language versions.[58] Ranaut responded they could a find a solution with the talks so that "the Hindi version can also find love and appreciation on the big screen."[59]

ReceptionEdit

Box OfficeEdit

Made with a budget of ₹100 crore, the movie earned ₹7.75 crore in its first week at the box office.[4]

Critical receptionEdit

Trade Analyst Taran Adarsh gave Thalaivii a rating of 4/5 and called it one of the most powerful biopics to release on Hindi screens. He praised Ranaut by calling her performance in Thalaivii her career-best act and the most demanding role of her career. He further praised the writing and the screenplay of the film and wrote, "Writers Vijayendra Prasad and Rajat Arora encompass pertinent episodes from Jayalalithaa’s life and weave a captivating, sharp screenplay that highlights her struggles, obstacles, apprehensions and eventual triumph". He concluded his review by praising the direction of the film and wrote, "Vijay’s direction is top notch; He balances the love story and dramatic moments seamlessly and also captures the bygone era with precision and delivers a film that has soul, scale and style".[60]

Renuka Vyavahare from The Times of India gave Thalaivii a rating of 3.5/5 and wrote, "Thalaivii pays a resounding ode to Jaya-MGR’s poignant love story. The political portion feels reverential and lacks objectivity". Praising Ranaut's performance she wrote, "Ranaut in the titular role doesn’t mimic Jaya but gets the tone and nuances of her character right". She also praised Swami's performance and further wrote, "Swami is impeccable in his mannerisms and body language. There couldn’t have been a better actor to play the Tamil screen icon and people’s leader".[61]

Sonil Dedhia from News 18 called Thalaivii an "enjoyable film" and praised Ranaut's performance by stating, "Kangana doesn’t try to modulate her voice or pick up a Tamil accent is a wise decision; With deft nuance and the assistance of minimal makeup, she effortlessly transforms into this actor turned politician and delivers a pitch-perfect portrayal".[62]

Monika Rawal Kukreja of Hindustan Times wrote, "Thalaivii isn't about Jayalalithaa's journey as a politician but how she transformed into a formidable Amma to millions; The Kangana Ranaut-starrer is packed with solid performances and an attention to period detail, but is let down by its length and an incomplete-feeling story". Calling Ranaut's performance in the film "solid" she further wrote, "Kangana's performance as Jayalalithaa deserves applause. She doesn't imitate Jaya, yet leaves an impact".[63]

Bollywood Hungama gave the film a rating of 3.5/5 and wrote, "Thalaivii is a well-made and well-written political saga that is embellished with yet another award winning performance by Kangana Ranaut". Praising Ranaut's performance they further wrote, "Ranaut lives the role and is fantastic to say the least; as the heroine of the bygone era, she is completely convincing and even as a fiery political leader, she rocks the show. In short, this is yet another award worthy performance from the National Award winning actor".[64]

Syed Firdaus Ashraf of Rediff gave the film a rating of 3.5/5 and wrote, "The beauty of Thalaivii is the chemistry between Arvind Swamy and Kangana, which Director A. L. Vijay weaves so well". Praising Ranaut's performance he further wrote, "No other Bollywood actress can do justice to Jayalalithaa's life like Kangana; Thalaivii proves Kangana is the Queen of Bollywood".[65]

Shubhra Gupta from The Indian Express gave the film a rating of 3/5. She praised Ranaut's performance and wrote, "Kangana Ranaut play this version of Jaya in Thalaivii with a perfectly-judged mixture of vulnerability and hauteur. Kangana inhabits this very complex character like skin in Thalaivii.[66]

Ambica Sachin of Khaleej Times gave the film a rating of 3/5 and wrote, "Thalaivii is a movie that plays out as a feminist parable of the rise of a strong single woman, who had to fight her way to cult status". Praising Ranaut's performance she further wrote, "Kangana doesn’t try to mimic the iconic leader but rather delves into the spirit of a woman whose journey from Ammu to Amma, a figure revered and reviled in equal measures by those who knew her, is the stuff of folklore".[67]

Baradwaj Rangan of Film Companion described Thalaivii as a "larger-than-life movie told in an almost mythical masala mode" and wrote, "Scene after scene, the achievement of the film is how there’s always something new that keeps your eyes riveted, even though you already know these stories". Praising Ranaut's performance he further wrote, "Kangana’s terrific because she does not try to channel or mimic Jayalalitha; Instead she channels and mimics the lack of power, the frustrations, the disappointments and the fact of what it meant to be a woman in politics back then".[68]

Film critic Bhawana Somaaya gave Thalaivii a rating of 4/5 and wrote, "If Kangana’s ensemble team of hair/ makeup/choreographer and stylist Neeta Lulla dress up the body of Jayalalitha, the soul comes from Kangana’s sparklingly, uncompromised, flawless performance; Ranaut is riveting in every frame and you cannot look at anything while she is on the screen".[69]

Stutee Ghosh from The Quint gave the film arating of 2.57/5 and wrote "The writing and dialogues severely let down Thalaivii. It is the kind of film that wants to dictate what we should think or feel at any given point of time and that can prove to be very frustrating. However, the casting adroitly helps it stay afloat. One is willing to go the distance for Kangna Ranaut's performance".[70]

Koimoi gave a rating of 2.5/5 and wrote "Thalaivii has a lot of good things going in its favour but it remains half-baked only for the reason of what it could’ve been?".[71]

India Today gave a rating of 2/5 and wrote "Kangana Ranaut's mediocre act is no match for J Jayalalithaa's tenacity and said the film attempts to capture her journey from being an actress to a politician, but fails to do so".[72]

Firstpost gave a rating of 1.5/5 and wrote "The film begins and ends where it is convenient for the filmmaker not to indulge in political complexities. It stays true to real events, doing little work by way of writing. It does little to explore the inner journey of any of its characters. It exaggerates events for dramatic effect so much so that if we made two-three more biopics like this, we would end up giving Jayalalithaa sainthood".[73]

NDTV gave a rating of 2/5 and wrote the movie is "Botched by massive missteps, Thalaivi is the Amma of all misfires.", "Bollywood biopics, be they hagiographies or hatchet jobs, rarely get their act right. Thalaivi does nothing to change the scenario It hurtles around aimlessly - and futilely - in search of a plank that can hold its weight".[74]

Legal issuesEdit

The producers initially received permission from Jayalalithaa's nephew Deepak Jayakumar in his request to make it as "an honest portrayal of her life".[15] However, Jayalalithaa's niece, Deepa Jayakumar, in November 2019, registered a complaint against the film's makers through the Madras High Court. She asserted that she was the legal heir of Jayalalitha and that before making a movie or a web series about her life, the creators of the film should have approached her. She also said that the film makers have no legal right to make a film about the life of Jayalalithaa, which could affect the privacy of her aunt and her family. Deepa also demanded that the whole script be sent to her well before movie comes to the theatres.[75][76] The Madras High Court gave Deepa approval to take legal action against director AL Vijay, film producer Vishnu and Gautham Menon who also made a web series about Jayalalithaa's life titled Queen.[77]

ReferencesEdit

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