Friday, December 12, 2008

Rajadhi Raja

Rajadhi Raja is the quintessial Rajni film. Light-hearted, clean, non-violent and yet entertaining, it is packed with all the elements - good clean comedy, great songs, fights and light sentiments - that people have come to expect from a Rajni movie. It was Rajni's 125th film and at the time it was released, the term 'Rajni movie' was already a bonafide genre and the release of a Rajni movie was an event. But it was also a simpler time when the hype didn't threaten to overwhelm the movie itself and the expectations about the movie were not impossibly high. Those expectations it met fully, becoming a big hit.

Raja(Rajnikanth) has just returned from the US and finds his father dead, apparently from a fall after drinking too much. Suspecting his dad's second wife(Y.Vijaya) and her brother(Radharavi) of murdering his dad, Raja asks his friend Sethu(Janakaraj) to impersonate Raja while he himself enters the household as a worker. But the villains, who uncover the truth, kill Sethu also and place the blame on Raja. Raja goes on the run and runs into Chinnarasu(Rajnikanth), who resembles him. Chinnarasu is looking for some money to wed his uncle's daughter(Nadhiya) and Raja requests him to take his place in jail while he unmasks the villains.

Rajadhi Raja is a film where everything, barring Rajni and Ilaiyaraja's music, has aged or was silly to begin with. Its story is simplistic (an age-old revenge tale solved by the simple act of recording the villains' confessions), its screenplay is amateurish and completely devoid of logic(the movie's climax has Rajni crashing into the hanging room in a jail!), the villains are caricatures(comedians one moment, bad guys the next) and technical aspects are shoddy(in the climactic car chase, you can not only see the stuntman but you can actually see him wearing a helmet in the car that is supposedly being driven by a helmet-less Rajni!). But inspite of all this, if the movie works great as a full-length entertainer, it is only because of Rajni. Rajadhi Raja is truly a one-man show and its entertainment value and blockbuster status simply reinforce Rajni's screen presence, charisma and unequaled ability to single-handedly carry a movie on his shoulders.

Ever since Thambikku Endha Ooru, the movie that gave him the template for his roles that he has followed to this day and perfected to an art, Rajni has incorporated both action and comedy into his character. Every film(barring a rare entry like Baasha) has seen him clown around either with or without a comedian in one scene, before delivering punch lines and pummelling the villains in the next. Rajadhi Raja splits up the two parts of his comedy/action persona into two separate characters. So we have Raja, to deal with the villains and Chinnarasu, to make us laugh. This gives us more of Rajni and helps avoid the compartmentalized feeling that dogs those other characters - and movies - where Rajni plays both action hero and comedian.

The film is intended as a showcase for Rajni and little more. The story is real simple and there are no surprises or shocks. Since we - and Rajni - know who the villains are, there is no real suspense or tension either. The characters of the magician and 'Vaalpaarai' Varadhan are simply more chances for Rajni to play dress-up.

In recent times, the role of Chinnarasu is probably the closest Rajni has come to a full-fledged comedy role and his performance showcases his flair for comedy. The innocence and naievete of the character are endearing and he has us in splits whenever he is onscreen. The scene where he requests a landowner for a job and the one where he has to handle both Radha and Nadiya when they come to see him in jail are a couple of the standouts. If Chinnarasu is there to make us laugh, Raja is there to make us clap and cheer. It is the more traditional Rajni role with fights and whistle-eliciting lines like the classic Oru mottai.... Needless to say, he carries it off with elan. Radha, in some particularly weird dresses in the song sequences, and Nadiya, in her last role as heroine before her marriage, are along for the ride. Radha has pretty much nothing to do other than saying a few lines that serve as lead-ins to songs while Nadiya shows some fire when confronting her dad or Anandraj. Radharavi mixes villainy and comedy in his usual style.

I think the film was Ilaiyaraja's home production and he delivers a stellar soundtrack with all hits and no misses. Malayaala Karaiyoram... is a soft, melodious number that takes the place of the now-familiar introduction numbers. Meenamma Meenamma... and Vaa Vaa... are soft numbers also. Mama Un PoNNa Kodu... is a fun number with some spirited steps from Rajni while Enkitta Modhaadhe... could well be an anthem for Rajni fans considering how well it sings his praises.

Rajadhi Raja is a film that shows us that Rajni is truly Tamil cinema's rajadhi raja!


At 9:37 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


surprise, you have not reviewed Mannan too, have you? :)

ennathan P.Vasu pidikala naalum ithu too much.

That film AFAIK is the only sensible movie Vasu ever made in his career!

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Balaji.. Would you please give a review of Twenty:20 ??

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji,yes the movie was Illayaraaja's home production.

Also in 1995,or was it 1996,when Rajini had called for a press conference at his Poes garden residence,Sun TV was showing it at 8:30 I guess after the news.

They started the program by telecasting
"Ennakku katchiyum vendaam;oru kodiyum vendaam" from the song En kitta modathe.

It was sort of anti climax for all Thalaivar fans at that time who were glued to the tv sets.

Still cant forget the image of Sathy reading the message and thalaivar sittig in a chair continously smoking,not worried about this being telecasted on the media.he did look a lot nervous though


At 10:57 PM, Blogger Raju said...

I thought u talked about Mannan... TO be honest, RR was, and still is, the worst Rajini movie in the last 20 years. Except some songs (sans 'Enkitte' and 'Maama'), I didnt find absolutely anything likable in the movie. Nadhiya was downright irritating and wasted. Radha was, sorry to say, fat and past the prime. The villains were comic. The worst was the 'Mandhiravadhi' Rajini character. The ultimate straw that broke my impression on Rajini was the climax when Rajini enters right into the hanging spot of the jail using his jeep and saves the other rajini. I had lost all my respect and hope on Rajini with this movie, and it took a long time, until Thalapathi and Mannan happened, to completely erase the 'RR' effect. And remember that Rajni had in the meanwhile hits like Panakkaran and Maappillai whose effect was nullified by Asingapiravi, sorry, Adhisayapiravi. I am not exaggerating.. I absolutely love to hate RR.

When I come to think of it, may be that's what defines Rajini's movies. So often I wonder how people could accept him as the superstar as he is now. We all know it is primarily due to style, but still for that to catapult someone to this height is something beyond me.

At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree balaji.RR is a mediocre movie.I think there is a difference between hard core movie fans who like movies and the cine going public which watches movies.Any film which is popular is lapped by them without going in to the nitty gritties of the film.On the other hand a hardcore movie fan would analyse the film from every possible angle.However even if the quality is not of the top draw repeated viewing and the need to like the movie to satisfy their tastes makes them to like the movie.

Your two thumbs up for RR and the lament for tamil cinema going down in quality vis-a-vis hindi cinema confounds me.I sense a disconnection.

Oru superstar oda lootiye thanga mudiyalai.Yesterday when i was watching simbu's manmadhan in the intro there was seal 'confirming' he is little super star..Grrr.Aargh..Rajinikanth should be doing quality movies along with masala movies.If he sets the trend using his power it would go a long way to clear the present rot in tamil cinema.

And this coming from a person who has seen padikkathavan,nallavanukku nallavan and mullum malarum countless times


At 2:26 AM, Blogger Sriram said...

Nice review. RR - as u said, a typical rajni movie.

I've written a birthday wish sort of post on rajini. If you can, please check it out.


At 6:37 AM, Blogger Bart said...

I fully agree that 'RR' is a quintessential Rajini movie.. Earthiness and thalaivar's gimmicks being the speciality. I especially remember this movie too well bcoz it came around March 1989 while Kamal's super blockbuster 'Apoorva sagodhararkal' came in April 1989. This movie made and released without much fanfare had very good run against AS which was long time in the making and arrived with lots of expectations. Being a Rajini fan, I was happy to see this movie run well against Kamal's hyped blockbuster. (ofcourse, AS is a special movie and not to be compared against RR. I grew on to like both later :))
Songs were special in this movie. It used to be a craze to decode the initial wordings for "Malayala karayoram" (silu siluvena.. ). We used to watch Oliyum oliyum and observe things like thalaivar not forgetting to pick the camera at the end of the song from the place where he leaves it initially :))
"Mannan", is actually a remake from Kannada. It was a great entertainer but RR rules for its simplicity :)

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Vee Cee said...

quintessential rajini film-nu paaththaa - won't it be Mannan. What with its
(a). hypocrisy - saying "unna maadhiri pombalai mudhalaaliyaa irukkara company-la vaela paakkaravanga ellaam luchcha pasanga, baemaaninga", but then going to work in the same company!
(b). chauvinism - "aambalainga thalai yeppavum vaanaththa paaththundu irukkanum. pombalainga thalai yeppavum tharaiya paathundu irukkanum" (not that i have a problem with that).
(c). overdose of sentiments. in this case amma sentiment - amma has promised girl that son will marry, so son marries.

Not to mention:
(d). outlandish stunts
(e). kilukiluppu song
(f). cheesy comedy

only thing missing was some ridiculous style/mannerism that will come in handy when mixing dough!!!

:-) ;-) :-D :-P

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess adults would have not liked that film. As kids, my siblings and I loved it, especially the jokes.

Whatever the technical issues, film had great music. And we felt that Radha and Nadhiya were beautiful women.

The song 'Maama, un ponna kudu' was great fun.


At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Balaji,

I completely disagree that RR is quintessential Rajini movie! Except for those wonderful songs and chinnarasu's character - the story, screenplay(!) and performances were completely irritating to put it mildly! This movie is a hit - agreed. That does not qualify it to be a quintessential Rajini movie!!

Like someone said - Mannan might come close! Except for the typical hypocritical downgrading of women (that being a number 1 successful woman is NOT what an Indian woman should be!), overdose of mother sentiments and the fact that this was yet another pee.pee. Vasu at the helm - Mannan can come close!!

To tell you the truth, after Thambikku Entha Ooru - Rajini lost my respect for him with all those unbearable movies (though Mullum Malarum being one of my all time favorties even now!).

I still strongly believe that THE ONLY FILM that MADE what Rajini is today - is Baasha. I liked him in that and enjoyed his antics thoroughly in that movie. It was very typical and ONLY HE COULD DO IT!

RR is a joke - at best! I can not believe that you thought so highly of this stupid movie. Common Balaji, you can do better!!!

Baasha Baasha Baasha Baasha.......

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


Neenga Rajini fan than, athukaaka pls dont compare AS and RR. AS is better movie and had a better run at BO.

I don't tell this because I'm a kamal fan. Ask an average cinema fan which is a better movie!

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its not just raajathi raaja...i find it very tough to sit through some of rajni's movies from the 80s that i remember enjoying at the time of their release or when i first saw them on video...
the other day i thought of checking out sakalakalaa know the film was a hit but its a film that's agedddddd...couldnt believe my eyes when i saw kamal-the villager- pose as a modern guy and what more neither ambika nor ravinder could recognize kamal, his sister or y.gee.m once they came to chennai!
oh, thank heavens for kamal himself admits, it was the success of nayagan that made him believe more in himself and goaded him to make more movies that satisfied his creative thirst...

At 9:47 PM, Blogger D.E.V said...

i watched "RR" as a Rajni fan so cant of overlooked aLL THE CONS OF THE FILM. comeon guys it's the 80's film, there are definetely lot more masala than now. just watch it as a rajni film..if u compare "dasavatharam" and it's rediculous stunts like Kamal hoping on and off on a moving train..this movie is nothing..

At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Rajini Veriyans,

Why can't you guys defend rajini's movies without talking abt kamal's movies. It's not abt bashing Rajadhi Raja for the sake of it but mentioning it as "quintessential" movie of Rajini is what is undigestable.


Jangan compare RR dengan 10A lah.
No one said Dasa is Kamal's quintessential movie.

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

movie in which knife hangs in air for 5 mins or so :-) is nothing :)

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

srivatsan, nope. just that I bought the RR dvd when I was in India and watched it recently :)

anon, wrote a couple of lines about it in the 'india trip' post. wasn't planning on writing a full review. maybe if time permits... :)

jey, hmmm... don't remember anything like that. but I wasn't in India at that time either :)

raju/sri, i haven't seen RR for a long time and was fully prepared to dislike it. bought the dvd only cos I got it for a throwaway price. but I was surprised to like it. as i've mentioned in the post, its not a great movie and has numerous faults. but I called it the quintessential rajni movie only for those points I've mentioned - clean, lighthearted, non-violent, simple and a lot of rajni. that said, i can fully understand a non rajni fan disliking it, especially when seeing it now :)

sriram, thanx. my favorite villain roles was one of the lists i was considering too initially :)

bart, phew, good to have someone on my side! nice memories there. i remember that those glasses he wear in malayala karaiyoram... became quite the rage at that time. and kamal using it in AS after RR came in handy during my arguments with kamal fans :)

veecee, still in sarcasm mode i see :)

kajan, yep, i think i was a kid then and i absolutely loved the chinnarasu character :)

apala, "the story, screenplay(!) and performances were completely irritating" - and yet, rajni made us overlook all that with his charisma and screen presence and turned into a lighthearted entertainer. hence my calling it the quintessential rajni movie. as much as i love 'baasha', i wouldn't call it the quintessential rajni movie cos it has many things that don't usually happen in a rajni movie :)

ram, i think nostalgia plays an important part in whether we feel a movie has aged or not, when we see movies from earlier time periods. as i said, RR has aged too but rajni made it entertaining :)

skanda, exactly. we need to get into the mindset of 'rajni film from 80s' before watching RR :)

kothai, have mentioned in 1 of the earlier comments about why i think so :)

anon, less than a minute, I think :)

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Bart said...

To Srivatsan :) Pls note the comments I've given abt AS in the brackets. Again, AS is not to be compared against RR. I was probably around middle of my school days and was in a rural area (Kambam, Theni) during those days.. I remember this movie stood tall against AS (would say ran better in a few) in the local theatres in those areas. Overall, a movie, as Balaji put rightly, that is pleasantly nostalgic and does not pose itself seriously while entertaining all the same.

At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading the post. With good movies nowhere in sight, I think you should consider reviewing older films now and then.

//Rajnikanth, Tamil cinema's one and only Superstar...//

If only you were not a Rajni fan, you would’ve said ‘Rajnikanth, Tamil cinema's one and only Superstar... since I was born’ :)

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


It is well known that Rajini will win the collection race 99.99% of the time.

Even his Adhisaya Piravi and Naatukoru Nallavan had good initial collections :).

Bottom line is don't judge a superstar movie by collections, and to draw crowds to your movie against a superstar movie in the
80s is not a mean feat, thats where the measurement metrics differ. You and me can make a movie out of superstar and see it past 50 days!, I'm serious. I can count by hand his BO failures since his career took off.

At 11:09 PM, Blogger Bart said...

I agree. But in school days, the metric was just the number of days a thalaivar movie runs against kamal's.. (actually manithan, a crapfest, ran better than nayagan in Theni). AS any day is a landmark Tamil movie just for Appu. However, RR was a part of glory days then in being a thalaivar's fan :) I close my counters herewith :))

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always think that R Sundarrajan was an odd choice for directing a Rajini movie. As you have the DVD you can check this out - some of the side actors' dialogues are dubbed with R Sundarrajan's voice. His 'gara gara' voice is quite distinctive. Another of those cheap production values that was overshadowed by Rajini's presence.
I also remember a kadi joke about this move. They were supposedly remaking this movie in Hollywood but retained the same title - "Raja, The Raja". What can I say...? I just remember these things.

At 9:56 PM, Blogger Raj said...

Rajadhi Rajavin thanthirangal.
Poetry directory


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