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Cast: Rajinikanth, Vijay Sethupathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Simran, Trisha, Sasikumar, Bobby Simha, Sanath Reddy
Director: Karthik Subbaraj

There are directors such as Pa Ranjith and Shankar who had translated their visions into films starring Rajini and there are also directors like Karthik Subbaraj who ‘make’ a Rajini film. Though I liked Kabali, Kaala and 2.0 from the former category, I must say, I enjoyed the latter’s Petta more thanks to a phenomenon the film’s team is referring to as Rajinism. If the reviewer and science lover in me can define the film together, Petta’s plot is similar to that of a Hyperloop carriage while this Rajinism is the vacuum that makes this carriage travel at breakneck speed.

It’s pretty obvious that Petta’s story and screenplay will remind the audience of Rajini’s previous cult classics and from the looks of it, it sounds like a conscious decision. For starters, Pettavelan’s (Rajinikanth) pseudonym is Kali and there are at least two scenes where he opens a gate a la his first short in his first film Apoorva Raagangal. Karthik Subburaj wastes no time and the film kicks to top gear from the first frame. As the story unfolds, we’re introduced to the ensemble cast one by one and in order to not complicate it, each character gets a scene to shine following which we’re not shown that character anymore. What happened to those characters is something we’re never given the time to even think of and that’s where the almost tight screenplay comes in handy.

Kali, an extremely active and loud man joins a college as the hostel warden. While he’s seen as an embodiment of fun times, a student’s mother Mangalam (Simran), a pranic healer, tells him that there’s more to him than meets the eye. Who he really is is shrouded in mystery, similar to how the fog covers the entirety of the college’s hill station — which is symbolic of a hideout. Karthik doesn’t let us dwell much in mystery, as the answer to our questions is swiftly answered.

We get to see what we love to see in a Rajini flick — there’s the classic cigarette trick, hair swirling, swagger looks and quick moves that substantiate his Style Samrat title. And there’s more than what we asked for as well. Rajini shakes his legs more often than he used to in recent times, mouth local terms when he’s pissed, shoot bullets like they’re free of cost and even give us a nunchuck performance which is nothing short of a visual treat. Karthik has managed to make sure every actor in the film gets their due. Nawazuddin, for example, lets his actions speak louder and flashback scene where he imitates Kali is acting at its finest. He actually reminded me of his role in Raman Raghav 2.0. Vijay Sethupathi sticks to his subtle acting for his role of Jithu which happens to be one of the pivotal characters in the film.

Despite the film undoubtedly belonging to Rajini, there are a few nifty touches by Karthik. A self-confessed fan of Ilaiyaraja, the director uses a number of the composer’s hits to convey situations. The mass moments are one too many and scenes such as the one where Kali almost breaks the fourth wall are sure to send the audience in a frenzy. Cleverly written mass scenes are intriguing to watch, like this scene where Kali threatens an entire group only to come back to take his forgotten sunglasses. Even the dialogues given in the name of ‘build up’ don’t really feel out of place.

Petta’s technical crew works shine throughout the film. Tirru’s cinematography has captured the dull hill stations as well as the colourful villages in a different manner. The usage of colour scheme also makes the watching experience interesting. Anirudh’s background score elevates the mood and Vivek Harshan’s editing deserves a mention.

The flashback portions are when the pace seems to have lessened, making the almost three hours run time apparent, but even then the climax makes up to it. On the whole, Petta is a stylishly made entertainer with a decent storyline. The film, which is a celebration of Superstar Rajinikanth, has everything to satisfy anyone and the film has enough to prove why the box office records are Rajini’s pettai.

My Rating: 3.5/5


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