Petta movie review: Rajinikanth of the 90s returns, riding this Karthik Subbaraj time machine
Director: Karthik Subbaraj
Cast: Rajinikanth, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vijay Sethupathi, Bobby Simha
If we go by the million Rajinikanth jokes powering online sites, Thalaivar can do anything. Stopping and reversing time, it seems, is a breeze for the star. The doubters need to buy tickets for Petta where director Karthik Subbaraj ‘Rajinifies’ you with cigarette flicks and deep throaty laughs. There is that signature sunglass flick too – it is officially 90s again and we are here to partake in this fan feast.
Karthik called his film a celebration of everything Rajinikanth, and that is exactly how it plays from its first frame to the last – specially the climactic frame. Petta is a film made by a Rajinikanth fan, for Rajinikanth fans.
“Vayasanalum, un style um azhagum, unna vitta pogala (Even though you have grown older, your style and beauty has not left you),” said Neelambari in Rajinikanth’s Padayappa and in Peetta’s entry scene, with his signature deep laugh, it does feel we are back in time. This feat is achieved not just by the superstar, but by the entire cast and crew. From the title card, to the songs that Rajini loves to listen on his old radio – it is pure nostalgia packaged as a film.
Watch Petta trailer:
The film’s plot revolves around a hostel warden named Kaali (Rajinikanth) who is here to set things right. As he sets about tackling college politics and more, it is clear there’s more to the man that what meets the eye.
An interesting aspect of Petta is how the colour tone of the scenes symbolises where the lead character is in life. Initially, the scenes are shot in the dark, in a church with bright hues of red highlighted. Red could signify blood, lust or violence and as the film proceeds, we see a lot of fog, signifying how Kaali is shrouded in mystery. Not just Kaali, even Jithu (Vijay Sethupathi) and Singaram Singh’s (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) scenes are painted with a heavy hand of saffron.
Petta is almost three hours long, but the time spent on setting the right tonality is well worth it. It may be seen as an indulgence, but there is enough substance here that sets the mood of the film.
It is the women who get the short shrift though. While the roles of Simran (Mangalam), Megha Akash (Anu) and Malavika Mohanan (Poongodi) feel important, they soon disappear as the plot thickens and violence takes the front seat. However, the way Kaali qualifies the disappearance of Mangalam and Anu is interesting.
Petta begins as a film celebrating Rajinikanth but its climax has Karthik Subbaraj written all over it. Without giving any spoilers, it will be suffice to say that the treatment of revenge is novel here.
The film gets a lot of heft with the performances by Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vijay Sethupathi. The dubbing of Nawaz could have been much better. Another niggle is the conversation between Rajini and Nawaz in the film – if not exactly underwhelming, it is not charged either. Perhaps, the director wanted to save all the mass elements solely for Kaali’s character.
Vijay, meanwhile, is working at the top of his game. Other than one stray scene where he loses his footing, he is magic on screen. He matches Rajinikanth step to step as the film’s villain. Petta wouldn’t have felt right any other way.
Petta feels like a true tribute to Rajniisms -- his cool glass flip, the cigarette flip, his look, his laugh and the title card that embodies all of this. The fans will go home happy.
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