International Business Times, India Rating : 3.5
Thick, dark and deep colours, tones, moods, costumes, lighting, music and some great performances, "Kaaviya Thalaivan" takes you to an era, which saw traditional theatre folk artists and folk theatre at its peak.
Set in pre independent Madhurai, "Kaaviya Thalaivan" is a story of love, friendship, brotherhood, vengeance and hatred, and is an ode to the forgotten past of a traditionally woven society.
The story of "Kaaviya Thalaivan" revolves around artists from drama company Sivadasa Swamigal Naadaga Sabha in Tamil Nadu in early 20th century. The film talks about life of Kali (Siddharth), a destitute and Gomathi (Prithviraj) who have been brought up as brothers from a young age by iconic theatre trainer and master Sivadasa Swamikal (Naaser)in his theatre company under 'Gurukula'.
Kali and Gomathi grow up to be masters in the art of acting but the versatility of Kali puts him a step further and his understanding of medium of theatre makes him the favourite of his master. The master recognises Kali's talent by giving him the lead character of the king in their plays, which makes Gomathi jealous.
Gomathi questions his guru over his partiality towards the much younger Kali. While he expects to get a valid answer from his master, the latter just shrugs off his questions, which fuels his animosity towards Kali.
Meanwhile, Kali falls in love with the Zamindars daughter (Anaika Soti) who is immensely impressed with his performances on stage. At the same time, Gomathi has eyes for Vadivu (Vedhika), when she joins the drama company. While Gomathi swoons over Vadivu, she instead worships Kali and dreams of spending her life with him.
The film takes a dramatic turn when Gomathi conspires against Kali by letting their guru know about Kali's late night visits to his girlfriend. The master, who loses temper, forces Kali to forget his love and urges the whole camp to shift to a new place.
As the days progress, Gomathi make sure he gets what he had aimed for – to play the lead character of the king. But, soon he recognises that the apple of his eyes, Vadivu, has no interest in him and the young lady fantasises of a life with charming Kali.
Losing his love to Kali becomes unbearable for Gomathi and he then conspires to possess everything he had laid eyes upon -- popularity, wealth and the woman he desired. Like an unstoppable demon king, he kills everything that comes in his way of success, later to realise that nothing was worth it.
"Kaaviya Thalaivan" is a perfect piece of musical drama that managed to grab audience attention from the start till the end. Vasanthbalan has brought out a brilliant movie, which is an ode to the theatre artist from the forgotten era.
He brought out the magic of culture, social structure and the folklore that existed in the period. The charm of a theatre production, its colours, flavours, back stage work, make up and the process of making of a play is brought out to the audience possibly in the same passion at which theatres would have been done in those days.
The narrative style of the film is amalgamated with varied emotions of dramatic films with betrayal, jealousy, love, friendship, romance, melancholy and laughter.
One thing that stands out throughout the film is the illustrious music by AR Rahman. It is the songs and the back ground score which in fact makes the movie an experience in itself.
When it comes to the performances, Prithviraj steals the show, portraying the character of Gomathi with the best of nuances and histrionics. Siddharth too has delivered one of his career's best, while Vedhika surprised everyone with her looks as well as her dramatics as a strong willed yet melancholic talented stage artist.
Naaser again proves himself as a thespian when it comes to acting.
Thambi Ramaiah, Singam Puli, Ponvannan, Kuyilee and Anaika gives out some stellar performances.
Cinematography by Nirav Shah adds to the charm of the film with its affluent lighting and frames that compliments the script and the music.
Art direction by Santhanam is yet another noticeable aspect of the film and make up by Pattanam Rasheed and costumes by Perumal Selvam and Niranjani Agathiyan have added an old world charm to the film.
However, the script of the film failed to maintain the excitement and energy throughout. The second half was embodied with some prolonged scenes that failed to convey the intention of the director. The predictability of the sequences was yet another blow.
To conclude, "Kaaviya Thalaivan" is a sincere effort from some of the best talents in the industry, which managed to bring out a pretty good film with some stellar performances and technical qualities.