A. L. Vijay directed the film
G. V. Prakash Kumar composed the music.
The release date is set for September 10, 2021.
Rs. 100 crore
4.75 crore in the box office (first week)
The film follows the life of actor-turned-politician Jayalalithaa (Kangana Ranaut), her relationship with the legendary M. G. Ramachandran (Arvind Swami), and her turbulent rise to power as Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister.
Most people are familiar with Jayalalithaa’s political journey as an iconic figure in Indian politics. Director Vijay tries to peel back her icy cold exterior and reveal her as a woman passionately driven by love. Make no mistake: a woman’s struggle for self-esteem and battle against patriarchy is central to the story.
The story’s central theme, however, is her unconditional love for MGR, despite society’s contempt for her. She faced the wrath of his devoted followers, who saw their extramarital affair as illegal and a stain on his noble reputation. They became each other’s strengths and weaknesses as the days turned into decades. The purity of their love remained intact despite murky politics, power struggles, and people hellbent on separating the two. The scenes in which they engage in phone conversations without saying a single word, allowing their silence to speak for them, are heartbreaking.
The film is primarily successful because of its moving love story. Jaya was perceived as the ‘other woman’ in MGR’s life, who got things easy because she was his blue-eyed girl, and she had everything but respect at the start of her political career. Despite being repeatedly cornered, slut shamed, and humiliated, she marches on with her head held high. The film’s central theme is her unwavering determination to earn her place in society.
Kangana, in the title role, channels her inner rebel and unflinching self-assurance to make a point: she is not second fiddle to anyone. This is a classic example of her screen character imitating her real life in some ways. She gives a powerful portrayal of a lovelorn woman who rises from the ashes like a phoenix. She elevates the formulaic script with quiet determination and a commanding presence, deftly not imitating Jaya while nailing the tone and nuances of her character. Kangana is outstanding as a woman scorned by others for loving fearlessly and deeply.
Arvind Swami as MGR, her mentor and the wind beneath her wings, is the perfect companion for the actress. He brings some calm to the storm that has engulfed Jaya. Swami’s demeanor and body language are flawless. There could not have been a better actor to play Tamil cinema’s icon and people’s leader.
The long political second half is filled with dialogue baazi and dramatic slow-mo walks. A former ‘film wali’ ascending to power does not sit well with the men, and the misogyny is conveyed in a rather theatrical and repetitive manner. The combination of sloppy editing and a loud background score is disconcerting.
The execution demonstrates a lack of restraint and objectivity. The filmmaker’s approach to storytelling and his observation of the lead character is one-dimensional. Jaya is either mocked or revered. There is no middle ground. The treatment becomes more reverent, especially in the political sections. The chink in Jaya’s armor does not have an exit.
Conversations are carefully published and create the right note. “Mahabharat ka dusra naam Jaya hai” pretty much sums up Jaya’s life. Her mother correctly continues to argue in an incident in which Jaya informs her sick mother that people only know you when they need you. When she tries to tell him that everybody worships MGR and also that she is everywhere, Jaya responds, “Krishna ko sab pasand karte the, Phir bhi Radha ki sab main ginti nahi hoti.” The outfits intended by Neeta Lulla are complicated and useful. From the cylindrical bras of the 1960s and 1970s to the feathered eye liner, curls, and antique kudos, the reproduction of a past era is sufficient if not differentiated.
Thailaivii pays a heartfelt tribute to Jaya, heartfelt MGR’s love story, a connection without identifiers. The legal system manifests itself as an expositional, quarter, or one. What sticks with you will be the case of a woman who defied expectations and wrote her own destiny.