Thalaivi first look: Kangana Ranaut could have gained few pounds than bank on prosthetic

While there is no qualms over Ranaut’s look while playing a young Jayalalithaa, but the Bollywood star’s look as the ‘thalaivi’ (leader) is not quite convincing

By Mayur Lookhar

Kangana Ranaut as Jayalalithaa in Thalaivi [2020]

At times, the physical aspect to a role can be a bit over stated. After all, it is the performance that matters the most.  An actor needn’t look like a doppelganger of the person he is playing on the screen.  It is important to bring out the soul of the character than just resembling a person.  So, like everyone, Kangana Ranaut should be judged on the basis of her performance alone.

The makers of Thalaivi [leader], the Jayalalithaa biopic, released the first look [both pictorial and audio/video] of Kangana Ranaut, who plays the late actress and five-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

The minute and a half teaser shows Ranaut as Jayalalithaa in two different eras. The first visual is of Jayalalithaa [Ranaut] from her debut film Vennira Aadai [1965] in Tamil cinema.  The song in question is Nee Enbadhenna by L. R. Eswari. The shoot took place on 10 November, 1964.  

Watch Kangana in Thalaivi and the original Jayalalithaa below.

Kangana surely aces the freestyle dance that Jayalalithaa was much loved for. Just one look at the Thalaivi (2020) video is enough to tell you why the producers picked Ranaut to play Jayalalithaa.  There can be no complaints here that Ranaut looks the part as a young Jayalalithaa.

It’s the other part in the life of the late actress [Jayalalithaa], her political career that will perhaps undergo major scrutiny. How does Kangana look as the Thalaivi (leader) here?

Thalaivi director Vijay picks the historic moment 24, June, 1991 when the Jayalalithaa-led All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Congress alliance rose to power in Tamil Nadu. That marked the beginning of the first of her five-terms as chief minister of the key south India state.  Jayalalithaa was 43 then.

It is this period that will come under the lens more.  Post the 1990s, Jayalalithaa largely sported a chubby look, as he gained a few pounds.  Ranaut has banked on prosthetic to play this part.  While we reiterate that the actress should be judged by her performance, but this look is bound to divide opinions.  In our honest opinion, the prosthetic doesn’t really convinces us. One look at the visual and the photo triggers the ‘this-just-doesn’t-look-right’ sentiment.

Jayalalithaa (l) and Kangana Ranaut as Jayalalithaa in Thalaivi (2020)

You wouldn’t be so critical of noted Hollywood make-up and prosthetic artist Jason Collins work. He’s done his best to get Ranaut look like a plump Jayalalithaa [ no offence meant to anyone, especially the late chief minister’s family and legion of followers]  but it doesn’t look that convincing on the screen.

Ranaut’s picture as the quadragenarian Jayalalithaa reminds you of those outlandish weight-loss collages that people use to market their products or fitness centers.  Of course, in Jayalalithaa’s case, it is the opposite as she gained weight after she crossed her forties .  

Ranaut and her sister Rangoli were critical of Saand Ki Aankh [2019] producers for picking Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar, two tricenarians to play the role of two sexagenarians in the biographical film. Ranaut was offered Saand Ki Aankh, but she had turned it down and had in fact recommended few veteran actresses for the role.

Much like Pannu and Pednekar, Ranaut, too will have to take all the feedback over her look in her stride.  You do wonder whether Ranaut could have added few more kilos that would have brought in more authenticity to her Thalaivi look. Remember, how in her maiden film Dum Laga Ke Haisha [2015], Bhumi Pednekar added oodles of weight to play her character. Was that an option for Kangana? Or perhaps her schedule didn’t allow her this luxury. We would know that in due time.  Credit though to Ranaut for she is said to have learnt Tamil for the trilingual film that will also be released in Hindi and Telugu.

Keep the look aside, but this first teaser reflects the two important eras of Jayalalithaa’s life.  First as a popular actress and then as the people’s leader, Thalaivi. Director Vijay adds a fine catch line, ‘The name you know, the life story you didn’t’.  

People of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa’s fans, followers know her better, but there is more to a person than their professional, political achievements.  A Kangana Ranaut playing Jayalalithaa means that Thalaivi will have a pan India appeal.  And outside South India, there are many keen to know about the late leader’s life and more importantly, how Kangana will play her part.

Thalaivi is set to be released on 26 June, 2020.

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