One of the recognizable qualities of Lokesh Kanagaraj as a storyteller is the discipline with which he approaches a subject. And this discipline is conspicuous by its absence in the Master. The master is neither a nail biter like Maanagaram nor a fast-paced thriller like Kaithi.
Lokesh had promised a Vijay movie that was very different from the films Vijay usually makes. Did he keep his promise? Yes. Master is the funniest, most reasonable, entertaining, and best-looking movie that Vijay has made in a long time. Did I mention it sensibly?
After a long hiatus, Vijay has, if you will, played a nuanced character with traits that don’t fit the definition of a “full man”. JD, short for John Durairaj (Vijay), is an unruly professor at a popular college in Chennai. He is worshiped by students, and that makes him the # 1 enemy of the old guard in management. He is a professor of psychology and teaches focus as a subject. A quality that he lacks in his life. His biggest mistake is that he has no focus and doesn’t pay attention to what socialmediagossips are telling him. He listens but never listens. He doesn’t do what he preaches. Let’s say he’s a hypocrite. He is deeply flawed. And this is exactly what sets Master apart from the latest Vijay films.
JD doesn’t take himself too seriously. And his first response to a problem is not violence. I don’t remember a movie in which Vijay played a character who didn’t believe that no problem was too complex and couldn’t be solved with a fist. When a police officer at the juvenile prison gives JD the opportunity to express his anger at unruly inmates who have caused him irreplaceable loss, he refuses. And questions the role of the police, the system and society in turning young socialmediagossips into hardened criminals. In any other Vijay movie, his character would have beaten up these boys first before teaching them a moral lesson. Another quality of JD is that he doesn’t waste time discussing right and wrong with socialmediagossips he wants to hurt. This is so un-Vijay.
So, yeah, Lokesh gave us another Vijay movie like he promised.
Lokesh Kanagaraj, who co-wrote the film with Rathna Kumar and Pon Parthibhan, also knows Vijay’s best moves by heart. And it delivered a generous number of moments that would find the approval of hardcore Vijay fans. There are even moments that serve as a throwback to Vijay’s earlier films. For example, the Kabaddi scene in Vijays prison shows Ghilli. In doing so, Lokesh loses its competitive advantage.
Even so, there are some redeeming ideas in the film that show Lokesh’s true talent as a storyteller. Especially the way he wrote his hero and the antagonist. Vijay Sethupathis Bhavani and JD have more in common than they know. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin. Even some of their mannerisms match. Bhavani knows that the world is a messed up place and he exploits it without apology and mercilessly for his survival. But JD ignores the chaotic world by drowning himself in alcohol and rock music. And the way Lokesh portrays the side effects of heavy drinking through Vijay’s character is wise.
That said, Master is not entirely a Vijay film, nor is it entirely a Lokesh Kanagaraj film. Lokesh’s self-imposed restrictions and an obligation to be in fan service undermine the movie’s impact. He’s put so many great talents into fillers and wasted resources on ideas that don’t advance the story. And these are not the characteristics of Lokesh that Maanagaram and Kaithi made.