What’s it about?
Bhavani (Vijay Sethupathi) turns into a ruthless crime lord in Warangal after facing tragedies and humiliations when he was a teenager. He uses juvenile criminals for his illegal business. ‘Master’ JD (Vijay), an alcoholic college professor, is sent to this observation home, to transform these juveniles. Charu (Malavika Mohanan) plays the catalyst in bringing him to Warangal. What ensues JD and Bhavani for inevitable clash forms the rest of the story.
Do the names of JD and Bhavani, with a story set in the backdrop of a college ring a bell? Well, any Telugu film enthusiasts would recall Ram Gopal Varma’s iconic debut movie, Siva (1989). In Tamil director Lokesh Kanagaraj’s latest film ‘Master’, Tamil superstar Vijay plays JD, a professor, and the film’s villain is named Bhavani (played by Vijay Sethupathi). And of course, the story is also set in a college.
But despite certain resemblances and similar-sounding names, ‘Master’ is not a ‘Siva’. The film has more thematic similarities with Kamal Haasan starrer ‘Professor Viswam’ (1994), the Telugu dubbed version of ‘Nammavar’.
Kamal Haasan had played a professor with a cancer problem. Here, Vijay is shown as an alcoholic, trying to overcome his demons, but we don’t get to know any explanation for this. Instead, Vijay narrates several stories of blockbusters like ‘Okkadu’, ‘Attarintiki Daaredi’, ‘Premam’ and ‘Titanic’, whenever someone asks about his flashback. Director Lokesh Kanagaraj, who impressed both critics and the audiences alike with his brilliant thriller ‘Khaidi’, has added such a nice dimension to the characterization of Vijay. He has also written a solid introduction to the villain’s role played by Vijay Sethupathi.
Lokesh Kanagaraj has paid great attention to these details, but he has faltered in an important aspect: story and screenplay. As he goes on a marathon of pleasing Vijay’s fans, with several unnecessary moments and scenes that have no relevance to the plot, the content takes the back seat. Example: Vijay is introduced as an alcoholic professor, and he doesn’t attend phone calls. So, his students bring him to the college with a band plays on. This stretch goes for nearly 12 minutes with Vijay dancing to ‘mass beats’. And then there are references to his movies and his political ideology.
All these may strike a chord with his die-hard fans, but for us, it makes no sense.
Despite some solid action blocks, and right beginning, the film gives the impression that Lokesh Kanagaraj has failed big time in writing. Like scores of regular commercial directors, he has given more importance to the image of a star hero and his antics than to the story. Even before the film comes to the pre-climax, we understand that the director has lost the ‘plot’.
Plus, the film is quite lengthy, prolongs unnecessarily.
Of late, Vijay is playing roles that connect to the masses and classes. He is stylish in his look and plays to the gallery with a lot of swag. But that’s it. As an antagonist, Vijay Sethuapthi steals the show. Whenever he appears on the screen, the film comes alive with energy. Telangana slang is given to his dialogues (written by Rajesh Moorthy).
Malavika Mohanan hardly appears in a couple of sequences.
Sathyan Sooryan (of ‘Khaidi’ and ‘Khakee’ fame) once again comes up with rich visuals, accentuates the mood with his framing. Anirudh Ravichander’s songs are a rehash of his past work. He, however, has given a riveting background score. Editing is lousy.
As a director, Lokesh has shown his mark in his places, but he has surrendered to the hero’s image and diluting his work.
Bottom line: Despite engaging Vijay and Vijay Sethupathi’s confrontational sequences and their strong performances, ‘Master’ ends not with a bang but with a whimper. It turns out to be a weak effort from the ‘Khaidi’ director Lokesh Kanagaraj.
By: Jalapathy Gudelli
Cast: Vija, Vijay Sethupathi, Malavika Mohanan, Arjun Das and others
Music: Anirudh Ravichander
DOP: Sathyan Sooryan
Editor: Philomin Raj
Producer: Xavier Britto
Written and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraju
Release Date: Jan 13, 2020