After waiting around forever for the movie, I found myself out of town the weekend Sivaji was released in Chicago. But I did not have to wait too long to check out the fruits of the joint effort between Rajni and Shankar. To make things better, I succeeded in dragging along Ishani (who had just had a long day at work) and my parents (who had not been to a theater to watch a movie in more than 15 years). We went to the 8 PM show on Tuesday 19 June in some decrepit theater 45 minutes drive away from downtown Chicago.
The local distributors of the movie (I am assuming) displayed yet another example of blatant capitalism by hiking up the ticket rate to $15. The local movies were about $8/ticket and I have never paid more than $10 for an Indian movie. This is not the rate a ticket scalper was quoting because the movie was sold out, this was the "legit" rate. I suppose it is besides the point: if one drives miles to watch the movie on a work day evening, it is not about the money, but about getting high on Rajni's histrionics. And as the governments (and drug dealers) around the world know, smokers (and drug addicts) are easy targets for extorting money; why should the distributors hold back. Anyway, I digress...
I have no intention (or the mental capacities at 3:56 in the morning) of presenting a review of the movie and spoil it for those who have not seen it. All four of us seemed to have enjoyed the movie at different levels. Ishani liked the movie better than the past few Rajni movies (aided by a running commentary/translation from me). My parents were entertained, though they wondered about practicality of the movie's message. Though I am an ardent Rajni fan, I pointed out the futility of looking for practical interpretations of his movies.
As for me, I cringed through couple of the scenes, but enjoyed it all the same. It was less outrageous than Shankar's earlier movie - Anniyan; for a movie with Rajni, that is saying something. Like many other people, I go into the theater after checking in my logical faculties at the door with the pure intent of soaking in the experience. The experience where reserved and silent individuals transforms into avid whistlers (or howlers, based on skill levels) and relive some small part of the childhood.
An online reviewer had written that Rajni movie was like home cooked food; it was not about the taste, it was about the heart. I shall not stretch the comparison to that extent, after all my mom makes some of the best food I've had. But this experience is definitely not about taste, it is about the heart.