Actor Vijay in a poster of&nbsp;<i>Master.</i>
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Review: Vijay’s ‘Master’ Fails to Live up to the Hype It Created

Why Vijay’s Tamil mass entertainer ‘Master’ doesn’t work.

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Movie Reviews
4 min read

Review: Vijay and Vijay Sethupathi-Starrer ‘Master’ Fails to Live Up to the Hype It Created

The drama that unfolded before the release of Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Master is meatier than the almost three-hour-long Pongal nightmare. Whether it was the debate about allowing hundred percent occupancy in movie halls, or the despicable act that involved the leaking of the film’s scenes, Master does not live up to the social media hype it created.

Maanagaram (2017) and Kaithi (2019), two delicious thrillers that were made by Kanagaraj, will be remembered for a long time, as they have a flavour of their own. There are many hero-worshipping scenes even in Kaithi, but they never come across as unwanted and terrible. But what happens in Master is something else altogether. JD simply uses the platform he’s given to preach and show his opponents that he’s a superhero.

Kanagaraj’s latest Pongal release revolves around JD (Vijay) who reforms juvenile delinquents who work with Bhavani (Vijay Sethupathi).
A still from <i>Master.</i>
A still from Master.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Master starts off fantastically by giving us a little story on what makes Bhavani pick the wrong side of the law. If he auditions for the role of Hulk in the Marvel Universe, he’ll definitely get a chance to send chills down the spines of his enemies. Or, if he chooses to be a baddie who puts himself above everybody else like he does here, he can easily become a Marvel megalomaniac. In the confines of Tamil cinema, however, he still gets a terrific setup that charts his progress – from a teenager (played by Mahendran) to a hard-boiled 30-something (Vijay Sethupathi) antagonist who prays to gods that belong to different faiths.

Although Bhavani does dirty and illegal jobs to survive in the underworld, he doesn’t enter the arena of religious fanaticism. Sethupathi portrayed such a guy in Petta (2019) too. He, nevertheless, brings the same vivaciousness to this movie. He playfully challenges people who don’t agree with him by saying he’ll give them two minutes to finish him off. They, of course, can’t even make him sweat.

Bhavani is a rotten egg, and, as a rule, you shouldn’t encourage his audacity. But every form of such logic goes out of the window when you catch him making merry. He doesn’t shout unnecessarily and he doesn’t make killings look gory. Yet, his bare-fisted punches are near fatal.

Vijay Sethupathi in a still from <i>Master.</i>
Vijay Sethupathi in a still from Master.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)
While there’s so much to dig into Bhavani’s personality, there’s absolutely nothing of that sort with regard to JD’s quirks. We don’t get any information about the latter’s personal life apart from a few glimpses into his house.

What kind of a contender could he be for a man who grew up punching walls? This is the main problem with Master. The villain is more powerful, and colourful to a large extent, than the protagonist. If you want to befriend Bhavani, who’s ruthless and cunning no doubt, I won’t blame you because he’ll definitely entertain you, one way or another.

When Vijay makes an entry in the opening scenes, his body language is captured in slow-motion. It’s a cliched feature that has been a part of movies starring A-listers in Indian cinema since decades. But that’s not the point. If you look closely, you’ll realize that the halo around JD is carefully constructed through a combination of camera work, editing, action choreography, and background score. JD wouldn’t have been as interesting as Bhavani without these elements. In fact, Bhavani’s rise to the top doesn’t include any of those gimmicks, as it’s embedded in the storyline.

It’s not important to know why JD becomes an alcoholic. We don’t need to be pushed into the pool of backstories always. But it’d be nice if we could dip our feet into the waters and wait for the tingling sensation to arrive, every once in a while. Kanagaraj doesn’t give us the opportunity to do that. He probably thinks that Vijay’s boyish hairstyle and sunglasses are more than enough to accentuate JD’s charismatic appeal. However, as the plot thickens, he goes on to rob him of his panache also. Hence, the changes in Vijay's facial hair bring about a change in the character's behaviour, as well.

Also, the makers of “star-movies”, featuring men, seem to be increasingly sidelining women these days. Do you remember how Nayanthara’s role in Darbar (2020) was? Malavika Mohanan appearing as a supporting actor would have totally been okay if not for the romantic song, “Andha Kanna Paathaakaa.” Even if Charu (Mohanan) hadn’t flirted with JD at a restaurant, Master wouldn’t have become a drastically different movie. These tiny romantic portions don’t really push the story forward since Kanagaraj’s focus is elsewhere.

Maybe, if the entire film had been about Bhavani alone, it would have been fun!

Rating: 2 Quints Out of 5.

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