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    1. #1
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      Default Master: Late Review

      Watched Master on Prime..and felt compelled to write a full review after a long time... here goes..

      There is a scene towards the end of Master where Vijay looks at the camera (not directly, at an angle) and no one else is on screen. He points out his hand and proclaims ‘there are crores out there who like me’! That is the point where it became painfully obvious that Lokesh Kanagaraj had completely sold out to the idea of a star-driven Tamil commercial movie. There were strong indications right from the beginning, but you were willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a young director making his first big movie with the weight of expectations from his previous success. But this moment, which pandered to nothing else but the stardom of the leading man, is not the product of a young naive filmmaker trying something new or different. This can be done only in complete anticipation of the claps and whistles that the fans might generously shower. Lokesh Kanagaraj sold out to ‘mass’! It’s not a crime, neither is it cinema of unacceptably low standards. But it definitely hurts to see a potential torchbearer of pure cinema turn into a candle-bearer to an actor’s stardom!
      That’s not to say all is lost for Lokesh Kanagaraj. The very beginning of the film shows that he has his fingers firmly on the pulse of the story as he introduces us to JD, the professor. The hero ‘intro’ is carefully set up, showing that the young director has evolved and learnt quickly the ropes of presenting a star on screen. But, the problem is that the screenplay does not know where to stop gaping at the star and get on with the business of telling the story. You get a stretched intro fight followed by an out of place intro jingle at the end of which the education minister (who has been made to wait until the hero arrives) gives a mini speech extolling the qualities that might have made this person (who he has not yet met) so popular with the students. When the screenplay does start motoring along the movie looks good. That exactly is the problem with Master! A fairly engaging plot punctuated with irritating speed breakers that serve no purpose, except stretch the movie to the three hour mark.
      There are things in Master to be liked. The way Vijay’s character has been set up, giving him a vice (very rare in Tamil cinema, though not non-existent, Katthi for example) of his own to overcome, make him fallible, imperfect. These are welcome changes, but the filmmaker did not have the gumption to go the whole way with it. Even with those imperfections, he is a hero among the students, speaks strongly against the establishment and has all the qualities that make the quintessential Tamil hero. When the time comes for him to look himself in the mirror change for the better, he does so with the ease of flipping a switch. Years of alcoholism gone in a flash leaving behind no signs, no withdrawal symptoms. It’s not that it makes much of a difference because he was the hero even when he was an alcoholic, just that he switched off after 6 pm. Now, he is a hero round the clock. It’s this unwillingness to go the whole way with an idea that stops Master from being truly out of the ordinary. The hero has his demons, but manages to fight them off overnight - which makes the demons seem pretty weak!
      But, Master is more the story of Bhavani than JD. Master is ambitious with it’s villain right from the beginning. There is an attempt to construct an almost mythical sort of villain figure, not much unlike Siddharth Abhimanyu of Thani Oruvan. But, while Siddharth banked more on sophistication in his crimes, Bhavani believes in savagery that none can match up to. There is a moment in the film when the hero wonders aloud about whether the villain’s genitals were not visible when he was given the name ‘Bhavani’. So much for class! And, we thought that’s as low as it can get when the villain proudly proclaims later that he was indeed in a position where his genitals were on display. You get an idea of the kind of villain Bhavani is. Ruthless, cold blooded and always willing to hit below the belt. The hold that Bhavani has over the juvenile correctional home, the workings of the nexus and the terror that Bhavani wields are well etched in the screenplay, which makes for a sumptuous set up for the hero-villain clash. But, the screenplay refuses to get to that point in any hurry. We meander through a meaningless montage of the bucket-wielding hero smashing people in the face, and sit through a Thuppakki-inspired sequence where the villain finishes off people in the hero’s friend list, a kabaddi match that seems to be there only to give us some ‘Ghilli’ nostalgia. We think that the director might have at this point run out of ideas to stretch the film further. But, he surprises us with a sequence where the hero manages to deliver a monologue that instantly reforms 3-4 convicts - we thought that thing had ended in the 2000s! Then he gives us a lorries vs arrows match which is not entirely bad because for a change it’s not the hero doing the shooting! Oh, we thought too fast. How can someone else steal the hero’s thunder for too long in a Tamil movie? Soon, we have the hero shooting arrows. The arrows which till that point were either breaking glass or puncturing tyres suddenly became potent missiles in the hands of the hero, sending lorries lunging over mounds of sand. By the time we hear the ‘kutti story’ beat come out of a container we have no patience left. But wait, the hero and villain have yet to come face to face (they do share a face to back sequence earlier).
      Vijay Sethupathi does his thing like only he can. The Bhavani character though strongly written is not anything new to Tamil cinema. The ruthless villain who strikes fear even in the hearts of his co-criminals. The villain who plunges a knife into a chest in the middle of a jovial conversation. One can see shades of Joker here. But, it’s nothing new. It’s just the amazing spontaneity of the Makkal Selvan that keeps the character fresh in our minds. One is tempted to name him ‘Brick Knuckle Bhavani’ for the punches that he throws. But, even Brick Knuckle Bhavani goes into standby mode in the final fight as the hero delivers one last monologue to his students who wildly cheer him! There is one sequence in the fight that highlights the gulf between the two actors. Both are required to sing a song after knocking the opponent down. While VJS does his ‘Jaam Bazaar jakku’ routine with such ease, mixing arrogance, nonchalance and sarcasm, Vijay stages a ‘Vazhakka bajji’ antic which will be trolled in the years to come.
      Master has proved that Lokesh Kanagaraj is a fast learner. From shooting with a very limited cast to making a mob fight on a college campus, the director has graduated to the big league in terms of scale. He has also learnt the art of playing to the gallery with slow motions and pumping BGM supplied in ample measure by Anirudh. The director might learn the fine line of balancing these mass elements as he goes along, but he has definitely overdone it by a fair bit in Master. He has also written in a cute little trait into Master’s character where Vijay keeps coming up with inane back stories explaining why he became an alcoholic. He also gives the villain character a ‘2 minute’ punchline every time he’s getting ready for action. These touches work well and tell us that behind the taut screenplays that were written for Maanagaram and Kaithi, there is also a writer who enjoys the more softer genres of cinema. We only wish the writer was able to come up with a stronger reason to connect the first hour of the screenplay to the main act. Here, it dangles by a string that the editor might have been tempted to cut had it not demanded the unthinkable act of cutting out the star’s intro fight and song. What Lokesh Kanagaraj has done well though is push Vijay slightly out of his comfort zones in terms of performance. We do not know whether the quirk of constantly pulling up his pants was the director’s or the actor’s idea, but it does add credibility to the overall unkempt nature of the character in the first hour.
      Master promised so much, mostly because of Kaithi. It’s difficult to say whether it’s unfair to judge a movie based on the director’s previous work. But, even viewing it without the weight of Kaithi is not a satisfying experience. Lokesh Kanagaraj is not caught in two minds as Pa Ranjith was when he got the chance to make movies with Rajnikanth. Lokesh decides to go full on ‘mass’ mode. But the problem is he does not have a screenplay that backs up his mass ambitions and ends up giving us a mish-mash of slow motion montages, songs and painfully obvious references to Vijay’s previous blockbusters (the TN assembly should soon pass a legislation banning the use of ‘I’m waiting’ references in interval blocks of Tamil movies. Not to forget that there is also a plain rip off Liam Neeson’s legendary threat from Taken!) with the only relief being a delightfully spontaneous Vijay Sethupathi who adds his spice to the regular villain character. Master proves that when it comes to ‘mass’, Lokesh is still an apprentice!

    2. #2
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      Hilarious review... sarcasm on point...
      Last edited by Dr.BenAbraham; 4th February 2021 at 08:18 AM.
      "Greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he didnt exist..." - Soze

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