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Udhayanidhi Stalin’s film Kalaga Thalaivan (Rebellious Leader) directed by Magizh Thirumeni revolves around a chemical factory and whistleblowers, and one cannot help but see similarities with the Thoothukudi Sterlite issue.
The screenplay is based on true stories, such as Wikileaks whistleblower Julian Assange, and how big corporations and MNCs try to throttle whistle-blowers from exposing their misdeeds to the public.
The film begins with the scene of Vajra, a big corporate, unfolding its plan to unveil its new high-powered heavy truck, and going on an ad blitz to market the product. But the company chairman comes to know from one of his employees that the brand new truck cannot pass emission tests as it does not meet the mandatory standards on air pollution. Though he orders his establishment to keep the information confidential, somehow it gets leaked and is picked up and widely spread by TRP-hungry TV channels. The result: The truck’s sales nosedive to abysmal depths.
Angered by the leak and the resulting public scrutiny of his company, its chairman sets up a committee under the leadership of Arjun (Aarav) to ferret out the truth, which takes him through a maze of suspects and complex circumstances. The committee believes that the end justifies the means. ‘Fair is foul and foul fair’ seems to be its motto.
The disclaimer says the film is neither about a real person nor about a real event. But the hero and producer Udhayanidhi Stalin himself told the YouTube programme ‘Chai with Chithra’ recently that the Sterlite issue figures in Kalaga Thalaivan
Arjun and his associates get on the trail of the whistleblowers, starting with the employee who first broke the information about the truck’s defect to the chairman. Joining the dots, they find the needle of suspicion tilting towards JB (Jeeva Ravi) who works in the accounts department of Vajra. While keeping tabs on JB, the self-styled detective team finds a suspicious email reaching JB and comes to know that he is to tip off someone at Tiruchi railway station. Close on the heels of JB, the probe team spots Gandhi (Kalaiarasan) getting a pen-drive from JB. While the Vajra minions start assaulting JB, Thiru (Udhayanidhi Stalin) appears on the scene and saves him.
It turns out that both Gandhi and Thiru had joined Vajra by submitting false documents. As the audience and Arjun’s group are wondering why Gandhi and Thiru are working clandestinely for the downfall of the company, the scenes move logically along a course that gradually unravels the riddle and finally shows what happens to the whistleblowers.
Kalaga Thalaivan takes on political colours when it describes the atrocities perpetrated on the whistleblowers trying to expose the big corporate’s avaricious and unethical manoeuvres.
Similarities with Sterlite
The film says a chemical factory in Tirunelveli, when closed, dumped its waste in the vicinity and polluted the environment. The company chairman is named Ved Tiwari. The fact that Sterlite’s factory is located in Thoothukudi not far from Tirunelveli and that the Vedanta group owns the company makes the connection with the fictitious Vajra in the film hard to miss.
While a disclaimer says the film is neither about a real person nor a real event, the hero and producer Udhayanidhi Stalin himself told the YouTube programme ‘Chai with Chithra’ recently that the Sterlite issue figures in Kalaga Thalaivan.
The theme and the story follow the beaten path, but the way they are treated feels fresh. The screenplay comes off neat and well-structured.
The film puts out the message that although big corporations may have undue influence over the political system and politicians, pumping in astronomical funds, at the same time there are whistleblowers and those who work for public welfare operatives determined to bring out the truth.
Magizh Thirumeni’s earlier films Thadaiyara Kaaka, Meaghamann and Thadam had some interesting features, like when the romance between the lead pair is tinged with artistically filmed racy scenes, or the plot hints are dropped in the first half to make the second half more interesting and exciting. He has infused Kalaga Thalaivan too with such features in several frames.
The film has an overdose of information about the corporate world and economics which will probably not attract viewers coming in search of pure entertainment
Udhayanidhi Stalin essays his role pleasantly, avoiding the customary heroic gimmicks such as uttering punch lines in the midst of a thundering BGM, jumping sky high in stunt sequences etc, though it is an action film. The scenes the director has sculpted seem tailor-made for the hero. Actors Kalaiarasan and Aarav keep up the spirit of the film with their well-paced histrionics. Nidhhi Agarwal’s presence seems to impede the flow of sequences; yet it evokes some gentle laughs now and then.
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Two songs scored by Arroll Korelli melodiously intensify the depth of the romantic scenes. Srikanth Deva’s background score aids the tempo of the narrative.
The 20-minute tense and tight sequence at the Tiruchi railway station speaks volumes about the hard work of cinematographer Dhilraj, editor N B Srikanth and art director D Ramalingam.
The film, however, has an overdose of information about the corporate world and economics which will probably not attract viewers coming in search of pure entertainment. Even to the knowledgeable, it may feel like an overkill, while to the uninitiated it may seem like pontification.
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