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Upperstall Review

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Sivaji, The Boss


Tamil, Action, Drama, 2007, Color

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An 80 crore rupee budget, the biggest in Indian film history. The biggest production company in Chennai. The biggest and most successful director in South India. And, the most popular and iconic superstar in the history of Tamil cinema...

AVM Productions, Director Shankar and Rajinikanth come together for the first time, with this heavyweight of a movie called Sivaji, The Boss. The hype has been relentless and unprecedented, and the wait has been long for the superstar’s fans with several delays in the release date. Finally, finally the movie is out and the verdict is clear. Sivaji, The Boss is a blockbuster. Released in more than a thousand cinemas all over the world, the cash registers are not merely ringing but tolling like church bells!

The 'Thalaivar’s' (leader) fans are jubiliant. Last seen as a spiritualist in the disappointing Baba (2002) and a subdued psychiatrist in Chandramukhi (2005), the fans desperately wanted the old Rajini back. Rajini, - the superhero of the common man. And that’s precisely what they get in Sivaji, The Boss. Their favourite superstar dances, fights and delivers his trademark punch dialogues with much gusto as he takes on a range of avatars to exhilarate every age group. He dances to everything from a melodic 80’s-like sounding piece to a GenX rap number. He goes from dark to fair (and blond!), fair to dark, and wears everything from traditional dhotis to Manish Malhotra designed kitchy outfits.

The raging debate among tamil cinema buffs was whether this would be Shankar film with Rajinikanth or a Rajinikanth film made by Shankar. No such doubt remains now. Sivaji, The Boss is without a doubt a Rajinikanth film from its first frame to its last. Director Shankar takes on his favourite theme of corruption once again. This time it’s black money and money laundering; corruption in education. Set against this backdrop, is Sivaji (Rajinikanth) who rises, falls and of course rises again. A successful software entrepreneur in the US, Sivaji returns to India to start a chain of institutions in the education and health sectors to help the needy. In comes the bad guy Adiseshan (Suman), an educationist who has generated enormous wealth and black money, with his friends in government. Sivaji’s efforts are thwarted repeatedly by this bunch, and eventually he finds himself on the street. Adiseshan hands him a one rupee coin, to start his life once again. Sivaji's tryst with evil and revenge begins with this coin. He decides to usurp all this black money, get it to the US, and have it siphoned back through trusts and charities, to help the needy. The subdued and light hearted Rajini of the first half, turns into his fans' favourite, angry, revengeful Rajini in the second.

In the the Tamil film world, a Rajinikanth movie is like no other. It becomes a genre unto itself, and is to be seen and experienced with no other intention but to relish the inimitable superstar himself. Cinematic considerations like story and narration become irrelevant, and even fade away as his movies unfold. It's all about the Boss! And to hold Rajini back is like leashing a lion. His movies are about him, and him alone. And that is the spirit with which to watch Sivaji, The Boss.

Director Shankar’s job must have been the most difficult one in putting the film together. He needed to incorporate his style of film making, but this time with an icon who is much, much larger than the cinemascope screen. Angry fans have often mutilated theatres if their star has not delivered to their expectation. To be fair to Shankar, he has managed to insert some of his trademark elements here and there. But above all, it is clear the biggest director in Tamil cinema is also enamoured by the superstar, so what we get is Shankar paying tribute to Rajini, and celebrating him on screen. And boy, does Rajini deliver! He does all the things his fans crave for. He flips a one rupee coin magically in his hands. He flips two pens and signs with both his hands simultaneously. He fights and grimaces angrily to a roaring audience. He flips his coolers like he always did. He moves his hands faster than the blades of a pedestal fan. And delivers those cult punch lines that fans memorise and repeat for years.

Any other character in a Rajini film is there only for decorative purposes or to fill the blanks in a non existent story. However Suman makes a strong impression as Adiseshan. The hero of Telugu cinema of the 80’s is suave, polished, and brings a new-world villainic charm to the movie. Shriya is purely decorative, and delivers her hip shakes in the songs to expectation and nothing more. Vivek as Rajini’s cousin is delightful with his unique brand of comedy, and keeps his own fan following intact.

On the technical side, the photography (KV Anand) is consistent and mercifully not flashy. The experienced cameraman is not intimidated by the sheer scale of the movie, and is in total control of his craft. The editing (Antony) is neat and clean and keeps the movie moving along smoothly without resorting to his trademark flash cuts lest it takes away from the superstar’s acting. Art Director Thotta Tharani’s sets are awesome and humungous and surely must have consumed a half of the film’s budget. But above all, AR Rahman's music is a winner yet again. The melodic Sahana Pookal Poothatho song reminds you of the glorious 80’s when Ilayaraja ruled the Tamil Film Industry. It’s picturisation too with the huge glass set is imaginative and unique to say the least. On the other end of the spectrum, the Oru Koodai Sunlight piece is dashing and contemporary, true Rahman style. It is as if Rahman has reserved that something special for a special film.

For die hard Rajini fans, Sivaji, The Boss is celebration time, and for those who have not seen much of the man, the film is a must see. As for Director Shankar, he needs to wait and make a movie with a lesser known mortal, to tell his stories the way he wants to...

Upperstall review by: Anand Subramanian

Uma Vangal 

Scene 1: Chennai Mount Road. The bus rumbles by and you take a second look at the ad on its behind – is that the superstar with blond hair? Another bus and you see a young looking Rajini reminiscent of his Johnny days smiling down at you. Is it possible for a 52 year old to look this young?

Scene 2: A net café in Chennai - two women in their thirties are giggling excitedly at the stills of Rajini and Shreya in a song sequence in Sivaji, The Boss. One loves his king get up; the other prefers his new blond look and psychedelic clothes “It’s designed by Manish Malhotra”, she coos.

Scene 3: Near Madurai temple. Balelaika is blaring on the radio in the tea shop… the shop owner nods to the beat as he continues to do his serving trick with the tea, pausing now and then to push his hair back à la Rajini.

Scene 4: The room of a teenager in Tiruchi. Three 14 year old boys are working on a comp putting together a design for the hoarding they plan to put up outside the theatre “Machan Indha Photo Podalaam; Thalkaivar Superaa Irukkaaru!” (Hey man, lets use this photo, the leader looks superb!)

Scene 5: Anna Nagar Round Tana Traffic Signal. The White Hoarding stands out with its stark black sentence: “Is Sivaji Rajini’s last film?” This has been put up by a Tamil daily Dinamalar to promote its story on the film.

Scene 6: Raghavendra Kalayana Mandapam. Several fan association secretaries have come to Chennai to meet Satyanarayana, the superstar’s lieutenant to discuss the run up to Sivaji release. There is an air of suppressed expectation.

Scene 7: The premises of a bank. The sweeper is grumbling to my sister that he needs to take the day off to see first day first show of the superstar’s film. But is confused about the date of release – May 17th or June 8th?

Scene 8: The drawing room of a retired IAS officer. He scans the Hindu report on Sivaji, The Boss that claims this is Rajini’s 100th Tamil film. He tells his son “ I thought Raghavendra was his 100th film”. Son replies “Appa, they would have taken into account all language and dubbed films then to say that was his 100th film. Now they must be strictly talking about Tamil language films only…”

Scene 9: LV Prasad film & TV Academy. The students are discussing about the fact that this is a combination that will work. Shankar, a director with a huge success track, AR Rahman with his eclectic beats that are already making waves among young and old alike and the unchallenged superstar Rajinikanth in a different look.

Scene 10: In an auto near Harrington Road. As Rajini looks down at us smilingly from a Sivaji, The Boss hoarding, the conductor announces “AVM Sollitangappa, Thalaivar Padam definite - a May 31st release.”

For a Rajini film, such scenes are run of the mill. In fact, this is just the beginning of the frenzy. This is quite usual before a Rajini film. But more so this time round since the last Rajini film Chandramukhi (2005) was seen as not really a true Rajini film. After all, for about half the film he was not on the screen. The debacle of Baba (2002) is also fresh in some fans’ minds. No one wants even a shadow of defeat to fall on this venture. Considering that many lives depend on this film and its success and many reputations are on the line including Director Shankar who has to live up to the success of Anniyan (2005), AR Rahman who needs to prove that he has to follow up Guru (2007) with a creditable score, the producer AVM who can take credit for being a vital force in building the superstar’s invincible hero image and of course the superstar himself who needs a huge hit to go out with a bang if his indications of retiring from herodom are indeed true this time.

This time, the hype and secrecy that has surrounded the movie has been enormous. Rumours abound about reshoots of several scenes and song sequences after sneak footage was released on the net as early as June last year. Three of the songs on the net were available to eager fans prior to the official release. One audio engineer died at a party to celebrate the completion of the movie in which all those associated with the making of the film took part. It was immediately speculated that he had been murdered because he had been involved in the unauthorized leak of the songs. Inspite of all this confusion, the music of the film is a roaring success with children tapping their feet to Boss and Adhiradee, the younger people swinging to Balalaika and Vaaji Vaaji Sivaji, wondering what the opening shot of the Rajini introduction scene will be, and older people enjoying the lilting melody of Sahana an Sahaara.

To those of us who closely follow Tamil cinema, this summer is sizzling with the buzz on Kamal Haasan’s Dasavatharam, with the actor donning ten roles and the Superstar looking trim and trendy in Sivaji, The Boss in a new avatar yet invoking his good old style and verve.

Shankar has a stupendous record with all his films being box office hits except the disastrous Boys (2003). With his penchant for dealing with issues that directly impact the common man in a dramatic way, the plot line of Sivaji, The Boss with the focus on Rajini as an educationist revolutionizing the education system in TN will be once again be topical and help draw in the crowds.

Rajinikanth has fuelled ideas about retirement with his earlier films such as Baba and his usual jaunts to the Himalayas. With the title of this film being his real name (for the benefit of the ones who are not in the know: Rajinikanth was born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad), whispers have begun as usual that this will be his final bow on the silver screen and he plans to do so with a bang a mega box office having ensured the buzz and all the ingredients his fans look forward too including the nubile young heroine Shreya that will reinforce his virile screen presence.

Having had previous experiences with Rajini film releases, some quite horrendous (when angry fans set the theatre on fire after the owner refused to repeat the introduction song in Arunachalam (1997) for the 12th time), city theatres are taking extra precautions to avoid any unpleasant scenes. Many smaller film producers and directors have put off the release of their film owing to the fact that most of the theatres have been booked for the superstar’s latest. Theatres are gearing up for the crowds in advance bookings and current bookings too, now that AVM has officially announced today that the film is releasing on May 31st.

The fans will plan meticulously to ensure that the release is celebrated with fanfare and paraphernalia that mark a superstar film release. There are the usual stories of groups of Japanese fans arriving for the first day’s shows. Critics will vie with each other to be the first to review and comment on the film, newspapers and magazines will continue with the onslaught of Sivaji, The Boss features and details while TV channels will go all out with Sivaji, The Boss specials and promos from now. The fun is just beginning and it looks like whatever the outcome, our sage superstar will have the last laugh. Just as the lines in the film’s most popular song Style Go, Adikadi Mudi Kalaivadhum Ss..ttt..yy..le, Pada Pada Pechum Ss..ttt..yy..Le Gada Gada Nadapathum Ss..ttt..yy..Le, Kada Kada Siruppadhum Ss..ttt..yy..le … (His hair ruffles in style, his staccato speech is style, his quick mincing steps are style, his rhythmic laughter is style for millions in TN and the world over).

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