The film ticks every element that’s expected out of a masala outing for the festive season…
The Diwali release Bigil works better as a star-driven popcorn entertainer than a women empowerment drama. The problem, however, is that the director Atlee seems more interested in doling out a fanboy tribute to his lead actor (Vijay). He pampers the star’s ego so much that the entire first half doesn’t go beyond a hero-glorification fest. If there was a tax imposed on every slow motion shot in the film, the government would have got richer by millions. The comedy is inane, the backdrop doesn’t feel believable, the double role disappoints and even the massy highs are stale.
But, the director preserves his best for the overlong latter hour – the sporty highs provide zing to the narrative, the backstories of the woman football players (though seeming like tokenism) are effective. The silly mind-games with the players and antagonists work well for an escapist fare and lead to an entertaining climax. What’s impressive is how the director underlines the fact that sports can indeed give a direction to one’s life. Vijay, who plays safe with his skill set, is completely in his element here, telling us a thing or two about the comfort level he shares with the director. The film ends with a good emotional high and that is indeed its biggest advantage.
The novelty factor of a women empowerment drama camouflaged within the commercial space helps Bigil’s cause. There’s no pretention about the treatment at least – the leading man comes first and the women are only the secondmost priority. Atlee’s strength has always lied in reimagining classic tales in a regionalised setting and he strikes good form in the second hour (modelled on Chak De) than the first hour which is more or less a mishmash of the must-haves of a star-vehicle.
The writing plays to the galleries, there are numerous and ridiculous cinematic liberties, and the detailing about the game is totally absent. For a film revolving around women, the female lead Nayanthara sadly isn’t contributing much to the story. But, thankfully, she at least has a profession, as a physiotherapist.The threads about the coach being called a brother, father-like figure to the women takes things a tad too far. A R Rahman’s music, that seemed underwhelming as an individual album prior to release, works better in the context of the film. The background score is indeed euphoric and equally rooted, an effective combination that A R Rahman hasn’t explored much in the past.
It’s high time the director Atlee diverts his energies towards stronger stories than finding newer ways to please his leading men. In terms of entertainment value, Bigil works better than Mersal but pales in comparison with Theri. Ultimately, it’s an above-average fare, probably well-timed for the festive season. For two of Tamil cinema’s major stars Ajith (Nerkonda Paarvai) and Vijay to have expressed their interest in stories where concerns of the women adorn the plot, is indeed the biggest change that 2019 has seen.