I'd really like it if you read this after watching the movie. There are some spoilers, I think. These are essentially what I felt after watching the movie, most of which have worn out as it's been a day. The men of my stories cry, just like I do. They cry when they miss people, when they see someone they love after long. They cry because that's what relationships do to you, make you go weak in the legs; make you hyperventilate. The men of my stories dream of a time when they were together, when they were happy with whom they think was the love of their lives. Men of my stories have a woman, they walk with the confidence that a woman likes them back. Men of my stories know, and live with, and for a Kumudhavalli.
I am not here to talk about the phenomenon that is Rajinikanth. I am neither an expert in analysing how he can act, nor do I claim to be someone who understands what's realism in cinema. I am here to talk about Kumudhavalli.
We don't know who she is, how she grew up, or why as someone who could have had a better life (in the man's words) than the protagonist of this movie came to be in a Malaysian farm. But I am glad she did, and he sure as hell is glad she did. I have seen many of Rajini's films and what I usually find is him being revered and him making the women fall for him. There are elements of the same in this movie as well, but they turn out to be mere glimpses.
It's the woman who makes the love story this time. She is loved, she is missed, she is longed for. When she cries we cry, and you fear for her life as much as her man does, perhaps even more; because you know they've spent several years apart. And no two people in love deserve to be apart, certainly not for so many years.
They say she's dead. You come to terms with it. You think she is going to be part of some backstory where you're not going to remember her face. Like a distant memory of holding hands and walking with someone for the first time. Something about which you're unsure because you don't really know if you're recounting the moment, or the times you've recounted the memory. You're okay with it. You only know her as someone who used to live.
They say she's alive. The man takes off in search of her. The fear decades of Tamil cinema has planted in you starts to creep in. You spend the rest of the movie waiting for her to die. Why is killing a woman the only way to show how vulnerable her man is? You know when he's the most vulnerable? When she's around. When they haven't met forever, then they do.
When they meet, they start where they left off. This is as real as it gets, because you know it is true, we've been there.
More often than not, when you remove all the elements of a Rajini film, there is very little left. But this movie has this story arc where he explains how she's shaped his life, and how she is important, and why it is important that we should get to know her. He tells us, and we get to know her, and boy are we glad we do. When they meet, you smile because you want to share the joy with them. You want to experience the happiness of meeting someone you love, someone who loves you. And when they cry, you cry with them because you have felt their separation too.
I think that's what stands out in this movie for me. Not his style, not the statements he made, not the bullets he fired, but Kumudhavalli, and her love.