What's a typical success formula for Rajinikanth movies? A revenge story, with some punch dialogues, stunt scenes, stylish gestures, some humorous elements, a romantic tale in parallel and an equally powerful villain. Cracking this code after the days of Annamalai, Baasha and Padayappa, is Karthik Subbaraj, with the film Petta. The title actually means territory. And those who missed the 90s Rajini, let me tell you he is back into the Petta.


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After the likes of Kabali and Kaala, where every fan missed the superstar flipping the cigarette, twirling the spectacle, spinning the revolver, playing a comical role, we see all those ingredients added in the right measure to dish out Petta. The film opens establishing that Rajinikanth as Kaali is a hostel warden. He wins over the new set of students, eliminates ragging, ensures good food, and helps each with their problems, especially those who fall in love. However, one day, there are a bunch of goons who are out to eliminate Kaali and another student at the hostel. Why do they want to seek revenge? What is the relationship between that student and Kaali and how Kaali deals with them forms the rest of the story.

What works:

Those who missed dialogues like Ketta paiyan sir indha Kaali (which means this Kaali is a very bad man) from the Tamil film Mullum Malarum or Nallavana irukalaam, anaa romba nallavanaa irukka kudaathu (one can be good, but not too good) from the film Dharma Dhurai, you will find them here along with traces of Annamalai's BGM. It's a treat for those who grew up watching him beat up those goons in style, blushing in front of his lady love, and dancing with his shirt tied up over the vest. Do you remember Rakamma kaiyya thattu song from the film Thalapathi? Which Rajini fan wouldn't enjoy this?

No wonder the director of the movie Karthik Subbaraj said he didn't work on this movie as a filmmaker, but as a Rajini fan himself.

Cinematographer Tirru deserves special mention, especially for the opening scene. One: it builds the momentum for Rajini's intro. And two, the silhouette shots capturing the stunt sequence in candle light.

Performances of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vijay Sethupathi are outstanding. Trisha and Sashikumar have an infinitesimal screen time. Rajinikanth was apparently sceptical about a star like Trisha agreeing to play a small role like this. But who wouldn't want to be in a Rajinikanth film? Simran looks ravishing.


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Rajinikanth - from his make-up, hair, teeth and clothes - is just perfect even in the flashback scenes. To be honest, all of this did not fall in place after Padayappa, which released in 1999. The scene where Rajini falters when he sees Simran and calls her a biriyani dealer instead of a pranic healer or the scene where he orders a lady to get him a cup of tea while indulging in a heated argument with a baddie, just comes naturally to him.

What doesn't work:

Except for the Marana Mass song, none of the songs composed by Anirudh, seemed to fit into the Rajini league of the 90s. But, they indeed were a welcome breather after Kabali and Kaala, or even 2.0. Perhaps Rajini's dance complimented them, I'm not so sure. In some of the sentimental scenes involving Rajinikanth and Vijay Sethupathi, the superstar wasn't as convincing as Sethupathi. Rajini is unable to cry with as much ease as he powerfully screams at the villain. The second half slackens in pace, but the unexpected twist in the climax ends up being the highlight of the movie.


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I give this movie 3.5 stars. One goes for Rajinikanth completely. Two for the director Karthik Subbaraj for cracking the typical Rajini code in Petta. Three for the performances of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vijay Sethupathi. The half goes to the unexpected climax. One of the dialogues of Rajinikanth in Petta talks of how the art of using force to remain leaders begin at the hostel with ragging. There is also a reference to how one must go to war. Is Rajinikanth referring to his political avatar? Will he get into the neta mode and guard Tamil Nadu in real, just the way he set out to guard the hostel as a warden on reel? Let me know whether you think he should, or he shouldn't... in the comments section below.

Watch the review here: