By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “Mersal”; Language: Tamil; Director: Atlee; Cast: Vijay, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Nithya Menen, Kajal Aggarwal, Sathyaraj; Rating:***(3 stars)
Vijay fans must be very happy.
There are three Vijays in his new film, all shaped, contoured and moulded into red-hot come-see-about-me avatars. So, three stars for the eminently enjoyable new Vijay starrer — one each for the three roles that the superstar embraces like lovers who won’t be parted till kingdom come. Or apocalypse dodged.
Indeed, Vijay’s self-love is celebrated by the rest of the besotted smitten cast who in true Tamil-Telugu tradition of hero-worship keep anointing eulogizing, glorifying and iconising the super-hero to a point where no criticism is permissible or even plausible.
While the entire vast cast that includes three lovely leading ladies (all three so serene and surrounding in a haze of idolatry numbness), can’t stop singing Vijay’s praise, he himself seems to be a fanA of the legendary M.G. Ramachandran. How do I know? He has MGR’s pictures on the wall and he even visits a theatre showing an MGR film.
Jayalalithaji — God bless her departed soul — would have surely approved of this, Vijay’s most fiercely political statement to date.
A simmering discontent runs through “Mersal”, cutting through the action-driven entertainment that Vijay’s devotees expect, and get. A piercing scream of protest punctuated by tender bouts of songs and poetry when A.R. Rahman takes over for a bit. Plus, a surprisingly sermon-free diatribe on medical negligence in our country, last seen in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Anand” and “Bemisal”.
Director Atlee fashions a furious fusion of headlines and fantasy accentuating Vijay’s star power with an acumen and alacrity that the Rajinikanth starrer “Kabali” achieved lately.
Indeed, Rajiniknath and now Vijay are the two inheritors of the Tamil political cinema that MGR patented in his hey-days. In “Mersal”, Vijay takes on healthcare with a blood-thirsty vengeance. There are aggressive contemptuous references to the establishment’s failure to provide medical facilities for the poor and needy.
And we have Vijay wagging his disapproving finger at the Prime Minister with the words — and I translate poorly — “In Singapore, the ill get free treatment although they charge 7 per cent GST, whereas in India they charge 29 per cent GST and still don’t provide free healthcare.”
I dare any Bollywood superstar, say Akshay Kumar whose heart apparently bleeds for the poor and the underprivileged, to be so openly critical of governmental policies. It takes guts for a matinee idol to talk politics.
Not that “Mersal” is submerged inA its own political virtuousness. Not at all! It is remarkable how rapidly the narrative moves through the lacquered lives of three Vijays, their loves and lies, grunts and sighs are all recorded with a reverberant triumph culminating in a feverish finish that would leave the matinee idol’s fans craving for more.
And even if you are not a Vijay fan, “Mersal” won’t leave you wondering what all the fuss is about.
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