The film opens in the year 1988 with the death of Mumbai’s King of Dharavi (Asia biggest slum) Varadarajan Mudaliar. Following his death, the rival groups go on a rampage and we are introduced to Anna (Satyaraj) who takes the job of protecting Varadarajan’s Dharavi in his own way. In doing so he is forced to murder a rival gang leader who had attacked his house and killed his wife. He is forced to let his son Vishwa (Vijay) be brought up in Australia. Over the years Vishwa leads a dance troop and falls in love with Meera (Amala Paul). They strike up a sensational chord which is reflected in their spellbinding dancing chemistry. The two decide to tie the knot.
Vishwa decides to introduce her to his father and finalize their wedding and every thing goes according to plan but to his utter dismay she turns out to be a police officer who was tracking Anna and had conned Vishwa into giving away the location of his father who was otherwise untraceable. Within moments of his realizations he looses his father to a brutal ambush which also brings to the fore the character of Bhima(Abhimanyu Singh). He was the son of the same gang Leader whom Anna had killed and is now vying for Vishwa’s blood as well. In matter of days, Vishwa is transformed into the new overseer of the people whom his father had protected for so long. He is forced into making further sacrifices on his way into becoming the new Thalaivaa and also avenging his father’s death.
Thalaivaa is a mix of many different gangster films that we have seen over the years namely Godfather, Nayakan, Sarkar et all. There is nothing novel about the concept or the way in which the story goes. What works well for the film is the performances by the ensemble cast and the roaring action which contributes to more than 50 % of the film. Vijay is a revelation in a role which matures through time and situations. He starts off as a peppy and fun loving youngster who undergoes a stark transformation as he comes up against some extreme situations. He matures into the protector of the people who had for so long enjoyed his fathers protection and the way the chain of events take place is entertaining to look at.
The action sequences occur always as a result of heightened emotions and so is effective. The physicality of the sequences is increased by the strong emotional outburst that Vijay is able to portray. Apart from the climax which sort of falls flat a bit, the film maintains a constant flow of energy. The initial sequences will give you enough room to breath easy and enjoy the beautiful cinematography and set pieces before the action and the seriousness sets in. Amala Paul essays the role of Meera who appears as a vivacious young girl to start with and then she shows her true colors. However she has a change of heart and later helps Vishwa in his endeavors. Her part is well fleshed out and works well. Abhimanyu Singh as the badie is great and provides the protagonist with the necessary foil to showcase his muscles.
Overall, Thalaivaa is entertaining and works well for its terrific leading man and the simmering action. Vijay’s maiden directorial venture serves him well simply for the fact that he knows how to portray himself and make the most of his own histrionics. A trademark potboiler which caters enough to its target audiences and leaves everyone satisfied. Don’t expect much and you will be left with nothing to rue.