Cast: Vijay, Nayanthara, Jackie Shroff, Yogi Babu
Bigil is a larger than life sort of film where sports are seen as a pathway to upliftment from poverty and unlucky backgrounds. Directed by Atlee and featuring our topmost star Vijay playing a dual role, the movie is perhaps a blueprint for the giants of Tamil cinema, where money and market have to balance with story and other compromises. The formula being to play a mass hero where the spotlight falls on doing good for those who deserve all the attention.
Football is a lifelong passion of Captain Michael Rayappan (Vijay) and at one point, he was such a good player that he was deemed as the pride of the nation. But due to personal issues and the violence that engulfed his life, he gives up the sport and goes on a downward track. A bad situation ends up being a turning point when his friend Kathir (Kathir), who is also the coach of a women’s football team, is severely injured. This gives Michael aka Bigil an opportunity to make his life something more worthwhile than about himself. All the girls in the team are from disadvantaged backgrounds, and there’s nothing more Bigil’s father Rayappan would have wanted than his son to lead them to victory through tough times.
The first half of Bigil is a patience test as you weave through one mass element after another before getting to any actual content. Atlee is at a loss as to whether bombard you with more Vijay or get some story in there. As it progresses, Vijay gets into the groove and decides that he might as well just stop pretending and play to the audience. He’s at his best while playing the coach, and has a lot of fun when his love interest Angel (Nayanthara) comes on screen. One does wonder though why that part was even required, as Bigil’s dating life makes zero headway towards the overall feel of the movie. Couple of the villains played by Jackie Shroff and Daniel Balaji seemed a bit lost.
The second half is when things become less of a strain. There are actual football matches that make you interested. And more than action, passions and emotion take center stage as you begin to cheer for the players. Bigil is troubled non-stop by his antagonists. There is drama on the field and in the middle of a game. Against all odds, he needs to make the dreams of his father come true.
The footballers played by Indhuja, Reba, Amrita, Indraja and Varsha are good albeit their characters are underdeveloped. While Yogi Babu evokes laughter in few scenes, Vivekh has been wasted in a minuscule role. A movie with a budget of more than ₹180 crores is bound to have a star performance in more than just the acting department. AR Rahman’s music is stirring as usual. The choreography especially is a spectacle to behold. Some of the songs just go all in on the mass elements and cinematographer GK Vishnu captures all of it in eye-catching manner.
Bigil could have used a lot of trimming, especially in the first half. It is a deliberate attempt to convert the fans expectation of Vijay into a story about women’s empowerment. There’s of course the usual white knight complex, but at least it’s a start for Vijay to play more mature roles. Hope he does more of such script driven characters. Perhaps Atlee should have taken a more gritty and realistic approach where the villains are discrete and the problems more complex than they seem. For a while, you need to force yourself to sit through this one. Eventually, you do walk away feeling good that the applause were for the footballers involved....