Aren’t Deepavali gifts the flavour of the season? Most of these goodies come with colourful, jazzy packaging. There are tonnes of packing material, bands, and confetti even, but inside, after you struggle your way to unpack layer after layer, you probably find a diya the size of your palm.
Bigil is a bit like that. You’ll have to sit through three hours of two Vijays and a dozen sports matches to discover that... life is a game of football and you have to follow your passion, irrespective of who you are and where you come from.
Football is a game Captain Michael dotes on (someone abbreviates his name as ‘CM’, and I thought we were in for another Sarkar ). As Bigil, he has seen much better days in the sport – to the extent that a selector calls him ‘pride of the nation’ – but he is now content being a local don. Michael is plain goofy for the first twenty minutes, before he settles down, much like the actor’s fans a few minutes into the first day first show.
He has a soft corner for Angel (Nayanthara, looking quite uncomfortable in a North Madras accent that magically disappears after a few scenes), and that results in some cheesy moments and a song that springs out of nowhere. But Bigil isn’t about the romance – one wonders why it was there in the first place – but about why a football fanatic Bigil deserted the sport to ‘become’ Michael. Why would one of the villains (Daniel Balaji) chase him down in an elaborate-yet-weakly staged fight shot at Chennai’s Napier Bridge? And, who is Rayappan, the grand old man supposedly behind it all?
- Genre: Drama
- Cast: Vijay, Nayanthara, Jackie Shroff, Kathir
- Storyline: A don’s son has to excel in football and fulfil his father’s dreams
While Bigil ’s first half barely passes muster – it mostly sets the stage for its characters – the second half is when things really kick off, literally, because it is sprinkled with football matches. Director Atlee digs up some severe emotion and drama while going into the back-stories of a few players – there are some stirring tales in the homemaker and acid attack victim characters. Ironically, for a film that cost ₹180 crore and grand football and song sets, Bigil’ s strength lies in the emotion, something that director Atlee just about scratches on the surface.
With each passing film, Atlee proves why he is the rightful successor to a director like Shankar. Another filmmaker would be content with half a dozen background dancers for a song like Verithanam . Not Atlee. He packs the frame with hundreds of people, something that cinematographer GK Vishnu has managed to shoot neatly. Atlee even manages to pull off a wonderfully-choreographed video of AR Rahman’s rousing Singappenney but one wishes he put in more effort in a few other aspects rather than try his hand superficially at a lot of things.
While playing Michael might have been a walk in the park for Vijay, Rayappan is a more densely-written character, something the actor has not done before. His voice quivers at a few places and the ‘Bigileyyy’ sequence is a dampener, but at least this is a start for Vijay... to move towards a little more meaningful roles. The ‘Singapennes’ themselves, including Reba, Indhuja and Varsha, do their bits quite well.
Comedy is just about passé – while Yogi Babu has a couple of funny quips, Vivekh is wasted in a role that needn’t have been there. Kathir gets a role that might have sounded good on paper, but the result is not – the effort the makers have put into it is as much they have put into thinking of a name for his character (he is named Kathir.)
The villains are also largely under-written. As Sharma, Jackie Shroff is as uncharacteristic as his voice in the film, and one doesn’t know if he’s supposed to be the main villain, with Daniel Balaji lurking in the background. Had Atlee got this match right, Bigil might have ended up being a far more entertaining sports drama.