SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses the events of the recently released ‘Leo’ and readers are recommended to read this after watching the Vijay-starrer
Vijay and Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Leo is finally out, and setting the box-office on fire. One of its core USPs, apart from the star headlining it, the ensemble cast, Anirudh Ravichander’s score, and Lokesh’s impeccable track record is the fact that the film is the third entry to the Lokesh Cinematic Universe, otherwise known as the LCU.
Interestingly, cinematic universes aren’t new to the world of cinema. While Marvel’s MCU and their competitor DC’s DCEU might have made the franchise model a household name, the first ones, in fact, date back to the 1930s when a series of horror films primarily produced by Universal Pictures, gave us pop culture icons like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and were collectively called the Universal Classic Monsters. Over the years, we have had many such fictional shared universes such as Alien vs. Predator, The MonsterVerse and The Unbreakable / Eastrail 177 trilogy. Closer home, we’ve franchises like Rohit Shetty’s Cop Universe, the YRF Spy Universe, Maddock Supernatural Universe and HIT Universe.
What sets the LCU apart, at least from our desi counterparts, is how elaborate and complex the world created by Lokesh is. Macroscopically, it might just be the events of three films — Kaithi, Vikram and Leo — but structurally, the story goes back as far as the 1980s, and to understand that in detail, we have to chronologically understand the events that have unfolded.
The story so far
From Vikram, we get to know that the film is the story of Vikram (Kamal Haasan), the former commander of the Black Ops squad’s pilot batch, and this takes us back to the events of the 1986 film of the same name. We learn that after a botched mission in 1991, the team was destroyed and all its members were presumed dead.
At the end of Vikram, Rolex (Suriya) says that it took him 27 years to create a name for himself, and considering the events of the film occurred in 2019, that puts his rise in the underworld somewhere around 1992. This is followed by events from Leo when, in 1999, the Das and Co. tobacco company, headed by Antony Das (Sanjay Dutt), was used as the cover for Datura, a new drug created by his brother Harold Das (Arjun). The same year, Antony’s daughter Elisa (Madonna Sebastian) is stabbed and his son Leo (Vijay) is presumed to be killed. But it’s later revealed that he had changed his identity to Parthiban, met Sathya (Trisha) and started a new life after they moved to Himachal Pradesh.
In 2009, Dilli (Karthi) was imprisoned; we know this because, in 2019, we’re introduced to Dilli in the film Kaithi in which we are told that he was given a life sentence and after ten years, he was released in 2019 after four years cut off by remission. The day he gets released, he meets Bejoy (Narain), and along with Bejoy’s team and Napoleon (George Maryan), helps to secure 900 kilos of seized drugs from the clutches of Anbu (Arjun Das) and Adaikalam (Harish Uthaman). The same night, Bejoy directed ACP Prabhanjan (Kalidas Jayaram) to safely secure another batch of drugs.
Just a few months later, we get to know that Prabhanjan has been killed and the new Black Ops head Amar (Fahadh Faasil) finds out that Prabhanjan’s father, who was living under a different name, Karnan, is actually Vikram. Within a span of a few days, Vikram’s other ex-team members are killed along with Amar’s wife Gayathri (Gayathrie Shankar) and Sandhanam (Vijay Sethupathi), who had worked for Rolex. The drugs that were secured by Prabhanjan in an old armoury are destroyed in an explosion, causing Rolex to land in Mumbai a week later. He meets Anbu and Adaikalam, who couldn’t get back the seized drugs from Bejoy and Dilli, and members of Sandhanam’s Vetti Vagayara who had lost the second big batch of drugs to Prabhanjan.
After facing his biggest loss, Rolex establishes that he’s going to start from scratch. Through a series of montages, we’re shown that Amar has joined Vikram and Bejoy’s team of masked vigilantes, while Dilli is in Uttar Pradesh along with his daughter and Kamatchi (Dheena). Vikram, who has secured his daughter-in-law and grandson in the US, infiltrates this meeting and catches his first glimpse of Rolex.
In Leo, after Parthiban kills the gangsters who visit his cafe, his photo is flashed on the news which leads to trouble brewing in his little world. After pulling a few strings, he gets Napoleon — fresh from the events of Kaithi — to provide protection for his family. An unnamed escort (Maya S Krishnan), who has now presumably joined Vikram’s team of spies, drops by Parthi’s cafe too. The news of Parthi, who looks similar to Leo, reaches Antony, and he travels to Himachal Pradesh with his gang. When Parthi refutes the claim that he’s Leo, Antony kidnaps Parthi’s son and calls him up to inform him that he has done so to sacrifice the kid on the same day Elisa was killed 22 years ago. Since that happened in 1999, the story of Leo happens in 2021. After that, Parthi saves his son and discloses to Anthony and Harold that he really is Leo before killing them both. The film ends with Parthi alias Leo getting a call from Vikram, asking him to join his team of vigilantes thereby confirming that the team is functioning in full swing.
What is the essence of the LCU?
The three entries of LCU might be action-packed entertainers, but they all follow one particular thread — the conflict between a gang of vigilantes and a vicious drug cartel headed by Rolex. When we asked Lokesh what, according to him, is the LCU, he referred to it as, “an action-packed universe whose heroes are loud about their message towards a drug-free society.”
The future of the LCU
The last sequence of Vikram informed us that Amar is in Kerala, while Dilli is in Uttar Pradesh and that Rolex has reached Mumbai. After the end of Leo, we know that Leois still in Himachal Pradesh with his family. But it is unclear if Vikram, who infiltrated Rolex’s meet in Mumbai, is still there when he calls up Leo.
What Lokesh confirmed during our interaction,is that after his next film with Rajinikanth — which is a stand-alone project and NOT part of the LCU — he will begin shooting for Kaithi 2. We believe Kaithi 2 might be a prequel that could explain how Adaikalam knew Dilli before the events of Kaithi. This film will be followed by Rolex which might probably double as both a prequel to show us the rise of the cartel leader during the early 90s, as well as give us a glimpse into what he’s planning after his setbacks at the end of Vikram. Apart from these films, there are also possibilities for sequels for Vikram and Leo.
A lot might have happened within the span of these three films but, from the looks of it, it feels like Lokesh is just getting started. It’s like we can almost hear him saying “Aarambikalangala?” On behalf of the LCU fans, here’s to hoping that the future of this universe is going to be bloody sweet.