December 7, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Magizh Thirumeni
Tamil with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in India, the action film “Kalaga Thalaivan” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A corporate “fixer”/assassin targets a suspected whistleblower who’s been leaking secrets about a truck-manufacturing company involved in illegal environmental pollution.
Culture Audience: “Kalaga Thalaivan” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching lengthy action thrillers that are a jumble of stereotypes and predictable plot developments.
“Kalaga Thalaivan” makes some effort to be better than the average action flick with its plot about corporate corruption and a whistleblower investigation. But the movie isn’t very imaginative and ends up falling short because it relies too much on clichés. There’s nothing in this movie that is truly surprising. The acting is mediocre-to-bad, while the fight scenes are often very unrealistic.
Written and directed by Magizh Thirumeni, “Kalaga Thalaivan” (which means “leader of rebellion” in Tamil) is essentially a long, drawn-out chase movie where it’s easy to know within the first 20 minutes how everything is going to end. “Kalaga Thalaivan” is yet one of many action films that get churned out and follow many of the same formulas. What makes it worse is when this type of movie is dragged out for more than two hours (“Kalaga Thalaivan” is 141 minutes), with much of the movie bloated by meaningless filler scenes.
In the beginning of “Kalaga Thalaivan,” which takes place in various cities in India, the Vahjra truck-manufacturing company has been having tremendous success because of a new line of trucks that the company has been touting as energy-efficient and environmentally responsible. The reality is that the trucks cause a lot of dmaging pollution. Executives at Vahjra obviously want to keep this pollution scandal a secret.
An unidentified person leaks this secret to the media, so Vahjra is now under investigation for violations of environmental regulations. Vahjra’s chief executive hires a “fixer” named Arjun (played by Arav), who describes himself as a private investigator/assassin, to find out who leaked this inside information. Because the whistleblower is suspected to be an empoylee, Arjun gets a list of manager-level employees who know this iinsie information, he goes to their homes, and severely beats them to try to get confessions out of them.
All of the employees except one insist that they didn’t leak any of the company’s information. One of the employees who gets assaulted—a regional manager named Keshav Rao—confesses that he was paid to leave the information in a pen-shaped flash drive in a designated place on the train. Arjun now knows that the effort to take down Vahjra could be part of a conspiracy, not just a lone whistleblower. He’s determined to find out who is the mastermind.
As example of how vicious Arjun is, he and a crony named Raju (played by Aarav) got Keshav’s confession by tracking down Keshav’s daughter (played by Dharanie) on a restaurant date with her boyfriend (played by Rakshith), throwing acid on the boyfriend’s face, and then going back to Keshav and saying that Keshav’s daughter would be next to be maimed by acid unless Keshav confessed. Keshav names another Vahjra employee named Jai Prakash (played by Jeeva Ravi), a Chennai section chief for the company. That’s how Arjun finds out that all the Vahjra employees that he beat up and interrogated were employees who were demoted, which might give them a motive to get revenge on the company.
Because it’s already been revealed in the trailers for “Kalaga Thalaivan,” the mastermind whistleblower is a Vahjra employee named Thirumaaran (played by Udhayanidhi Stalin), who goes by the nickname Thiru. Arjun not only has to track down Thiru but he also has to get proof that Thiru is the mastermind. It takes an awfully long time to get to this point where Thiru’s whistleblower identity is discovered by Arjun. If that information hadn’t already been revealed in the movie’s trailers. viewers would have more suspense in watching “Kalaga Thalaivan,” which is a repetitive movie that isn’t nearly as clever as the movie thinks it is.
Adding to the clichés, “Kalaga Thalaivan” has a lukewarm romance that plays out in the movie exactly like you think it will. In between life-threatening fights and hiding out like a fugitive, Thiru has time to romance a pretty woman named Mythili (also spelled Maithili) Prasad (played by Nidhhi Agerwal), who already has a boyfriend (played by Pradeep) in a serious relationship, and she wants to keep Thiru in the “friend zone.”
This is an example of a cringeworthy pickup line that Thiru uses on Mythili: “You can tell a lot about a woman’s personality by her handbag.” Thiru is persistent in courting her, and you can figure out the rest. Of course, Mythili finds out the hard way that Thiru has an assassin after him. She finds out in a very predictable sequence that happens later in the movie.
Thiru has two people as his main accomplices in helping him evade the revenge actions of Arjun. Thiru has a best friend named Ghandi (played by Kalaiyarasan), who is a stereotypical sidekick of the movie’s hero: goofy, sometimes awkward, and serving in the role of bringing some comic relief. Arjun’s other accomplice is his adoptive mother Bharati (played by Anupama Kumar), who advises him to disappear and start a new life.
In between the silly action scenes (where people don’t get injuries that would cause broken bones in real life), there’s some computer hacking, more melodrama in the Thiru/Mythili romance, and a storyline that stretches over eight years. Some of the movie’s cinematography is well-done in capturing the energy of the action sequences. However, the film editing is so choppy, it lowers the quality of “Kalaga Thalaivan,” which wasn’t a high-quality movie in the first place.
All of the movie’s characters are hollow stereotypes, with nothing distinctive about the cast members’ acting performances. Stalin, who has another career as a politician, is one of this movie’s producers, which explains why he’s miscast as the movie’s action hero. He never looks very convincing in the fight scenes where there are obvious stunt doubles. The only mystery in this long-winded wannabe thriller is why Thiru wanted to mastermind this whistleblowing scheme. When that motive is revealed, it’s not that surprising, and it’s actually very underwhelming—much like this entire, forgettable movie.
Red Giant Movies released “Kalaga Thalaivan” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on November 18, 2022.