Movie review: Superstar Rajinikanth's new film Lingaa is absolutely ridiculous

Deepanjana Pal

Dec 13, 2014 17:07:42 IST

The first song in Lingaa shows Rajinikanth flouncing his long jacket in different parts of the world and at one point, if the subtitles are to be believed, he sings, "Pal, don't lose control of your sense."

Too late, sir. This Pal lost that battle a long time ago.

To some, the greatest evidence of my lost and still-not-found sense is that I watched Enthiran twice. Like in Enthiran, Rajinikanth has a double role in Lingaa, the Tamil superstar's first release in four years. However, KS Ravikumar's film isn't quite bonkers enough to be hailed as the best Rajinikanth film. It is, however, ridiculous enough to make you burst out in giggles every few minutes for the better part of Lingaa's 175 minutes.

Movie review: Superstar Rajinikanths new film Lingaa is absolutely ridiculous

Rajinikanth in a scene from the film Lingaa. Image courtesy: Lingaa's Facebook page

Lingaa (Rajinikanth) is a petty thief and grandson of Raja Lingeswaran, who is revered in the village of Solaiyur because he built a dam and a temple back in 1939. When an engineer is stabbed to death with a deer antler in 2014, one of the elderly gents in the village says that it's imperative that Raja Lingeswaran's descendant be brought back to Solaiyur. Why? Because, dude, Rajni.

The problem is that Lingaa hates his grandfather because the raja left his descendants with nothing but poverty. This is why he calls himself Lingaa instead of Lingeswara, which is his original name. Personally, I'd wonder about any person who voluntarily chose to call himself Lingaa, given its phallic connotations, but that's just me trying to not lose control of my sense.

In order to get Lingaa to Solaiyur, KS Ravikumar's screenplay neatly and studiously copies the central trick of William Wyler's How To A Steal Million. Rajinikanth plays Peter O'Toole — and that there, ladies and gentlemen, sums up so much of the tragedy that encircles being an Indian man, woman and/or screenwriter. Our Audrey Hepburn is Anushka Shetty, who plays Lakshmi, a Solaiyur resident who is determined to take Lingaa back to the village.

After one heist and a few insane song sequences, one of which contains a mash-up of Pirates of the Caribbean, Mission Impossible and Star Trek, Lingaa along with his two buddies shows up in Solaiyur. There, he learns the truth about his grandfather.

Insert: flashback to 1939. Raja Lingeswaran (Rajinikanth, again. Naturally) is travelling by a train that looks like it has a steam engine and moves about as fast as the Shinkansen. He's reading Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This is interesting for a number of reasons. One is that Campbell's book was published in 1949, which suggests that the story of how Raja Lingeswaran came to be reading that book in 1939 could have been a sci-fi story that beats Interstellar and its wormholes hollow.

More importantly, this is obviously a reference to Rajinikanth's own heroic stature. Except he has, at best, two faces. One is the real one, which he presents off camera. The other is the unchanging, artificial one that we've been seeing in films for the last decade or so. It's actually a remarkable feat because thanks to the make up, costumes and body doubles, Rajinikanth doesn't ever betray his age. He kicks, struts and prances around with as much energy and swag as he has in previous films. Not just that, he's surrounded by actors who are decades younger than him, but he establishes an easy rapport with them. You can tell that the actor is enjoying making fun of the larger-than-life hero that he plays. The only complaint one can have with his make-up team is that they don't give him enough chapstick. The man's lips are so dry, it's as though he walked across the Sahara to reach Solaiyur.

Perhaps the only time Rajinikanth does reveal his age is when he's being earnest in Lingaa. Ravikumar's script has one sentimental but moving episode in which Raja Lingeswaran tells the gathered villagers that he doesn't want any one who is higher caste to work with him. Neither does he want a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim or someone who identifies themselves as lower caste. The only people he wants with him are Indians. It's a little moment of rose-tinted idealism that's decidedly old school and it's unexpectedly heartwarming.

Director Ravikumar may not have managed to cobble together much sense while writing the screenplay of Lingaa, but the man deserves many servings of his dessert of choice for the dialogues he's written. It's not just Rajinikanth who gets the choice lines. Santhanam, who plays one of Rajinikanth's two sidekicks, has some superb punchlines that he delivers with excellent timing. "Ideas are like chips," he observes at one point. "If you delay, you lose the crunch." Near the end of the film, when Lakshmi is running towards Lingaa, Santhanam says, "Don't run in slow motion. The next show needs to begin."

For those watching Lingaa outside Tamil Nadu, there is actually someone who tops Rajinikanth in Lingaa and that is Rekhs, the subtitlist. Lingaa's subtitles are guaranteed to spread more good cheer than a thousand Santas. Whether it's lyrics like, "With my domes, I invade your armour" or lines like, "What do you say, MP bro?", the translations of the original Tamil are legendary. Wittingly or unwittingly, they confirm Lingaa to be a comedy.

Lingaa is not a good film. Rajni films rarely are. But like so many of them, Lingaa is entirely aware of how silly it is and rejoices in this. That's what makes them so much fun to watch. I for one am planning to watch the film again just for the subtitles. To quote the film, "Hey Lingaa, let's jinga-ling."

Updated Date: Dec 13, 2014 17:10:41 IST