Dec 15 2014


Published by at 10:55 pm under Review,Tamil Cinema


With a serious illness leading to the cancellation of his film Rana and the long-delayed Kochadaiiyaan not performing up to expectations, the 4 years since the release of Enthiran could be considered a low phase for Rajnikanth professionally. For his comeback Lingaa, he has once again teamed up with K.S.Ravikumar, the director who delivered two blockbusters Muthu and Padaiyappa with him. Ravikumar delivers a story with two characters tailored to fit Rajni’s strengths and those strengths help overlook the film’s formulaic story and occasional slow spots.

Lingaa(Rajnikanth), a thief, hates his grandfather Lingeswaran, a king, for squandering all his wealth and leaving him penniless. Trouble from the police forces Lingaa to accompany journalist Lakshmi(Anushka) to Solaiyur, where the people are waiting for Lingeswaran’s rightful heir to reopen the temple built by the king. Lingaa plans to steal the temple’s emerald idol but changes his mind when he learns the truth about his grandfather(Rajnikanth), who opposed the British and built a dam that saved the villagers’ lives.

The film starts off in light-hearted fashion with Rajni as a thief. Santhanam as one among his gang of thieves makes some of his trademark quips and there are some funny jokes, particularly when the gang pawns a stolen chain. The centerpiece of the these portions is an elaborate heist. It also puts more focus on humor and brains rather than action and is staged quite well with some clever moves(and a nice punchline) making the whole thing both plausible and entertaining.

A large portion of the film is devoted to the flashback. It follows the template of Muthu‘s flashback in both the overall trajectory(rich man helps people and is betrayed) and in smaller details(cheating involving land allotted to villagers) but the period setting and the dam construction project make things different. Though the scale of the project doesn’t come through very well, enough issues, both with the British and among the Indian workers, spring up for Rajni to tackle. The plans by the British collector to bring him down are devious enough but this also works against the film as the multiple levels of treachery are quite confusing and also drag the film out.

Rajni has never been much of a romantic hero but as he has become older, his interactions with his heroines have become quite chaste and that continues here as there are barely any opportunities for sparks to fly between him and his 2 heroines. The close quarters that Rajni and Anushka are stuck in during the heist allows for some flirting between them. That serves as the lead-in to a duet and is pretty much the only romance that happens between them. But that’s still more than the chemistry between Rajni and Sonakshi, which is limited to her serving him food and helping him collect some important papers flying away in the wind.

K.S.Ravikumar’s films have always been more about drama and emotions but probably to meet the benchmark set by Rajni’s last two live-action films, both of which were directed by Shankar, he has adopted a more grand style in Lingaa. The grandeur is there visually with a very exotic feel to Rajni’s introduction number, expansive shots of the dam construction that highlight its grand scale, the opulence evident in Rajni’s royal lifestyle, particularly in the palace and the party hosted by him, and the lavishness in the En Mannavaa… song sequence. The stunts are also mounted on a bigger scale. The fight on and inside the train is spectacular with the location and the slo-mo shots working really well. The climax(which includes a bike, a hat-air balloon and a bomb) starts off in the same grand vein but some over-the-top masala and poor CGI make it quite silly towards the end.

But Lingaa‘s biggest drawback has to be the complete lack of those standout Rajni moments that make up the high points of any of his movies. These are scenes(the don reveal scene in Baasha, the Hotels Association president scene in Annamalai, the oonjal scene in Padaiyappa, the tea kadai scene in Sivaji to name a few) where his star power shines the brightest and sparks fly as he takes on his foes. None of the scenes in Lingaa where he clashes with the British collector have that kind of an impact. The film also lacks any memorable lines or punch dialogs. There are the usual fan-targeted double entendres about Rajni’s personal appeal, political possibilities and mass appeal and Rajni delivers some good messages in the nice scene where Radharavi and co. visit him when he is down but there are no catchy lines or phrases that reach the level of “Idheppadi Irukku?”, “Naan Oru Thadavai Sonna…”, “Chumma Adhirudhilla” or even “Dot”.

Lingaa deserves to be India’s entry for the Oscars in the Best Makeup category based on how young and dashing Rajni has been made to look. He is playful in the initial portions but the flashback brings out the best in him as he exudes the power, arrogance and confidence to make the character work. Nobody else makes an impact though. Anushka and Sonakshi, restricted to the time periods they appear in, have a duet apiece but do little else. Jagapathy Babu’s politician character is on screen for such a short time and his actual plan is known so late that he barely registers as the villain. Santhanam gets a few good lines but Karunakaran does little more than hang around with his wide-eyed look.

Like KSR, Rahman has also delivered a templatized soundtrack for a Rajni film. Mona Gasolina… is the album’s highlight with some fun, high-energy singing by Mano and Tanvi Shah. The set design in the song sequence catches the eye as three different settings(a pirate ship, an Old West town and a hi-tech room) are presented. Hey Nanbaa… is also fast and catchy and provides an energetic start to the movie. Indiane Vaa… is the typical inspirational song sung by Rahman himself and provides a suitable background for the dam construction. En Mannava… is a melodious duet while Unmai Oru Naal… is immediately identifiable as the song that accompanies Rajni’s fall from grace.

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “Lingaa”

  1. ram says:

    BB, looks like you were more than happy to see your thalaivar (live action) after 4 years. I don’t think I enjoyed the movie nearly as much as you did. I did think that KSR kept things at a snappy pace and so, the movie was never boring. But what you said about the lack of punch really lowered the movie several notches below baasha, annamalai and padayappa, three movies where rajni’s star power shone brightly…wish they had paid more attention to the dialogues – it was all the more surprising since ksr/ramesh kanna and team are known to pay a lot of attention to punch lines n strong dialogues…wish they had hired the services of say a balakumaran…he would’ve made the flashback more arresting with some powerful lines…
    i saw in a comment in BR’s blog that both the key/magnet sequence and the air balloon sequence were copied from english movies…surprised at the air balloon sequence all the more coz kamal already did it – and did it twice! – in the climax of aalavandhaan…
    overall, this was a middling effort, neither rising to the heights of baasha nor sinking to the depths of baba…

  2. Nima says:

    Balaji sir you are back. just a bit worried, why no posting for a long time?

  3. Vimal says:

    Heartily awaiting your Kaaviya Thailaivan review…seems like a good one

  4. Lingaa is a flop in Kerala. After the first show itself word spread that this film was no patch on Padaiappa or Baasha. The mosam reviews made the cinemas kali.

  5. KXS says:

    I thought Lingaa was a terrible and outdated movie. The general reviews are not positive either and it seems like the movie is fizzling at the box office after a (naturally) strong opening weekend.

    The only USP in the movie are Rajinikanth and AR Rahman. I’m glad to see Rajini back after his health scare. He seems to be enjoying himself, especially in the flashback role.

    The story is cliche. The screenplay is poor. The movie is long and dragged for too long (I can’t see people watching this one twice). The casting could have been better. And the climax was over the top that it seemed like Rajini was doing a parody of himself!

    I would respectfully disagree with the notion that Rajini looks young or dashing in the movie, especially in the 2014 scenes. Even with the excess make up he still looks old enough to be Santhanam or Karunakaran’s father! Even with the make up it seemed clear the he is in the age bracket of Radha Ravi, Vijayakumar and co.

    I understand why Rajini signed this movie. He was trying to do a third movie with KSR for almost a decade but something keeps happening. I get it that he wants to show KSR some gratitude. Plus, Rajini himself stated he wanted to act in a project that would take 6 months to compete after Kochadaiyaan. He was not going to get that with any of the trendy directors.

    Looking forward, if Rajini wants to continue acting he should play the lead role in slightly more mature characters. In an era where we have Ajith being comfortable with salt and pepper hair and Vijay playing a 37 year old in Kaththi, Rajini does not need to act young. In his mid 60s, the Super Star can easily play a charismatic strong character that is in his 40s. People would watch it, people would love it.

  6. Harish says:

    Let’s move on. Waiting for your “I” trailer review. I thought it was pretty awesome

  7. Arun says:

    Very disappointed, use the same template for the 3rd time after muthu and padaiyappa? It shows that KSR has taken the audience for granted and has lost his creativity, time for Rajini(he needs a beard, come on BB he looks young in some angles thats it) to work with Murugadoss. ARR just followed suit with the director, everyone just showed up on set like it is a hit already. On top of it KSR raises comparisons with Superman/Spiderman, yes Rajini is superman for indian movies but that no way takes away anything from the international ones that were well made.

  8. killer says:

    Off-topic request: an American friend came across Agni Natchathiram songs and really liked them. She asked me to suggest other 80s synthy Tamil soundtracks. Personally I avoid that sort of thing, so wondering if anyone here could give me some good suggestions?

  9. Chandramohan S says:

    Hi Balaji
    It feels so good see you back here…you don’t know how many of us kept hitting the refresh button on your website…i haven’t had a chance to see Linga yet…will share my comments after seeing the movie…

    I like the viewpoints KXS has shared here…

  10. KayKay says:

    Killer, the ’80s are littered with killer (sorry, no pun intended) Raja soundtracks. Just off the top of my head, his brilliant “urban scores” from that period:

    Udhaya Geetham
    Idhaya Koil
    Ninaivellam Nithya (my personal fav)
    Naan Paadum Paadal
    Payanangal Mudivathillai

  11. KayKay says:

    BB, you must have been extremely busy, as the review of a Rajini movie proper is usually preceded by a write up on what your expectations of such a movie would be.

    Since I’m bereft of creativity, I’m just gonna copy and paste what I wrote in Baradwaj Rangan’s blog:

    Dear Lord, what an interminable borefest! Not since Baba has the pacing of a Rajini movie felt so….off.

    A 3 hour movie that felt like 6. The entire dam building sequence felt as long as it would take to build an actual freaking dam! Didn’t the economic narration of earlier Rajini flicks merely require a song length to build monuments, amass millions and age a decade? And did the movie really need to be book-ended by a “present day” narrative, replete with an embarrasing heist sequence that seems to go on and on and on and…….

    For the type of clout Rajini commands, why does this movie seem put together like an ’80s Rama Narayanan quickie with all the narrative velocity of an Adoor Gopalakrishnan Arthouse feature?

    Hacks like KSR make me appreciate directors like Shankar all the more, especially when the picturisation of the “Mona Gasolina” and “En Mannava” songs look like reheated leftovers of :Athiradi” and “Vaji Vaji Shivaji” respectively.

    The villains are embarrasing and the heroines only ever capture your attention when they break into periodic Baywatch runs.

    Rajini’s Lingaa= Flaccid.

  12. Ramesh says:

    Killer, you can add Anjali definitely. IR’s synth hits are other wise scattered across movies, you’ll have to make a collection. Try Paattu enge from poovizhi vaasalile for starters.

  13. Prasad says:

    Waiting for your annual countdown posts..! And another trivia I was wondering… 2015 should actually see the release of 3 Kamal’s movies and I guess we all know what are they. Since most of them are either done or in PP mode, there is definitely a good chance to see all of them released in 2015, unless of course some business decisions come into play. And about Thailaivar, since Lingaa didn’t really match up to the hype, I believe he would want to make a strong come back. Which ideally makes me believe it can be Enthiran-II. Now that Shankar is done with I, there is a sure chance of it. But again, if it does materialize, the movie will see the light only by 2016 since Shankar will definitely need more than an year. Well, I’ve put in lots of assumptions. If by any chance they do work out, 2015 will be awesome..!