Director P. Vasu has done it again. He rehashed a borrowed story with skill and crafted a movie daringly deviating from the usual Rajini potboiler.
The film is about Rajini himself and his mass image without typical mass elements which are essential ingredients of his films. There are no punch dialogues. There are no stunt sequences like those in any of his earlier films. It is perhaps the first film that Rajini has no villain to fight with and vanquish.
It is a story of human bondage, touching sentiments and deep emotions. Watching Rajini play a superstar in the film is all together a new experience. Rajini’s tremendous screen presence overshadows the fact that he appears on screen only towards the end of the third reel and for less than an hour. (Mammotty appears briefly in the original Malayalam hit “Katha Parayumbol”).
Rajini occupies the centre stage in his extended ‘guest’ role in “Kuselan” and is projected as a man of the masses in real life too. The film also serves as a platform for Rajini to answer some of the questions which he has ducked till now. Why his annual Himalayan sojourns? Would he ever take the plunge into politics? Why has he chosen to do only commercial movies? You get the answers through the Sundara Rajan character. There are two songs showcasing him though they have no bearing on the theme of the movie. One of them is “Cinema, Cinema” in celebration of the 75 years of Tamil cinema. He appears in 12 different costumes in this song.
The plot revolves around the bond of friendship between a barber (Pasupathy) and a reigning superstar (Rajinikanth).
Balakrishnan alias Bala (Pasupathy) lives in penury at Marayur village with his wife Sridevi (Meena) and three children. He becomes the butt of ridicule by the villagers.
Ashok Kumar, the superstar comes to the village with Nayanthara and other artistes for a film-shoot and there is excitement all around. Since Bala and the superstar are boyhood friends, Sridevi and the children wished to meet Ashok Kumar and be photographed with him. But Bala is not willing as 30 years have elapsed since they were friends and Ashok Kumar would not even recognise him.
At one stage, the authorities of the school where Bala’s daughter studies, comes to know from her that her father and Ashok Kumar are boyhood friends. This changes the school management’s attitude towards Bala and started treating him with respect.
The villagers also hold him in high esteem. The school authorities request Bala to use his friendship with Ashok Kumar and bring him to the school silver jubilee celebrations. Pressured by the school management, Bala goes to meet Ashok Kumar, but the security guards stop him at the gates. A crowd waiting outside was chased away by the police and in the stampede, Bala gets injured. As he fails to bring Ashok Kumar, the villagers doubt their friendship and turn hostile. The head of the school and teachers meet Ashok Kumar and bring him to the jubilee celebrations. In his address charged with emotion, Ashok Kumar tells about his poverty when he was a boy and how Bala came to his help. What follows is a 30-minute melodramatic sequence towards the tearful climax.
Rajini’s introduction is dramatic. He comes riding a horse as the hero in “The Mask of Zorro”. In every frame he dazzles. His pleadings with the police, his school speech, and other dialogues are typical of his character.
It is a challenging role for Pasupathy of “Veyyil” fame. He plays the character of a poor barber with certain amount of adroitness. He shines in the shadows of Rajini.
Though Meena makes her appearance after a long gap, her performance is as refreshing as before when she played the lead with Rajini. Her role as the caring wife of a poor barber struggling for survival is well nuanced.
Nayanthara as Nayanthara exudes glamour in abundant measure. She is featured in the song “Chaaral” eulogizing the superstar.
Vadivelu’s comedy is almost on the lines of that in the Malayalam film. In some scenes he brings the house down.
Prabhu, Livingston, Santhanam, M.S. Bhaskar, Geetha, Fathima Babu, Brahmanandam, Chinni Jayanth, Mamtha Mohandoss form part of the huge cast. The “Cinema, Cinema” features a host of stars including Kushboo, Sneha, Surya and Soundarya Rajinikanth.
Cinematographer Aravind Krishna and music director G.V. Prakash provide good support to Director Vasu in making yet another film that can be rated as high as “Chandramukhi”.