Director: Karthik Subbaraj
Cast: Rajinikanth, Vijay Sethupathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Simran and Trisha.
Petta marks the return of Superstar Rajinikanth as the unstoppable force and immovable object that he is. From the get-go, director Karthik Subbaraj makes his intentions very clear: that he is one of superstar’s biggest fan, and this film is a giant canvas on which Rajini can paint whatever he fancies. It doesn’t matter how many enemies are thrown at him, the weapons they posses, the workload required to take on battle after battle, and the wits needed to keep the crowd on your side - Rajini oozes them at every scene and in every frame. Such amounts of focus on one character would normally be deemed ‘overkill,’ but after the experimentation of Enthiran and the slew of lukewarm Rajini releases that followed (Kabali, Kaala etc.), Petta feels like a fresh blast from the past.
Kaali (Rajinikanth) joins Saint Woods College at Dehradun as a hostel warden. He sets about putting the miscreants of the campus in their place, which includes not just students, but also the staff. He fixes the romantic issues between a young couple Anwar & Anu (Sanath and Megha Akash) and Anu’s mother Mangalam (Simran) while not missing an opportunity himself to flirt with the lady of the house. All the while, he effortlessly improves the quality of the entire institution altogether. There is a violent past to him though, and enemies of yesteryear do not just disappear without a final swing of the blade.
Singhar Singh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a thug and politician in UP. He along with his son Jithu (Vijay Sethupathi) terrorizes the local populace across the country with their ultra right-wing rhetoric and suppression tactics. In one such outing at the college campus, they come face to face with Kaali and are thrashed to the point of embarrassment. Any gangster worth his salt would not walk away from this incident with the intention of lying low, and Singhar doubles down on his efforts to rid of Kaali. The movie enters into flashback mode now to Madurai, giving insights in to Kaali aka Petta and his relationship to Singaaram who is now Singhar Singh.
Who is to be feared more: a wealthy politician with an army of thugs to do his bidding or one man with a stick, a nun chucks, a gun, any or no weapon for that matter? The question is just rhetorical and the second half is a bloodbath with one clear winner.
Petta is Rajini all the way through. The veteran actor is clearly having a lot of fun in playing his glory day action role. His inimitable swag, punch lines and mannerisms has Rajinified the audiences. Although his physique might not match the results on screen (bunch of dead enemies) he nevertheless instills enough psychological fear to sell the performance. Everyone else has very minor roles. And unlike Subbaraj’s earlier flicks that had strong portrayal of women, here both the lead ladies Simran and Trisha have very limited screen space. It seems they grabbed this opportunity to be featured in a superstar movie before it’s too late.
Vijay Sethupathi is just a prop to be used as the director sees fit: nobody flinched at his attempts of rowdyism and not a single pity was given when his character went all sentimental. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is relegated to reacting to the stream of bad news. Sasikumar as Malik, Bobby Simha, Sanath and Megha Akash are adequate. The rest do their bits to add some comedy and provide more superstar action. The film has heavy shades of Rajini’s evergreen classic Baasha.
Although most of the film is viewed through the lens of ‘good fun’ (as opposed to expecting a timeless classic,) Petta could have easily been cut short. The college campus scenes went on for too long, and for a while, one couldn’t be blamed for wondering whether this would turn in to a teen movie. Anirudh’s music is catchy and BGM is massy, but couple of the songs could have been removed. The story feels like a fantasy from another world, but that’s a sacrifice the director has to make if he is to go full Rajini mode. Likewise, Karthik Subbaraj is left to showcase more of his technical prowess.
Tirru’s cinematography is dark and moody. It fits the nature of the film very well. Vivek’s editing is crisp and keeps the focus on Rajini that extra second more. Produced by Sun Pictures, Petta is vintage Thalaivar with all the tropes that we love. Good entertainment for the upcoming holidays....