South Indian heroes have a curious problem these days. As their star power increases, actors and the directors they choose to work with, are faced with a dilemma. Can a star vehicle accommodate a villain who proves to be a real challenge to the hero? Will the fans accept? Will the star accept?
Dhanush, in his VIP series, wrote off this threat by using an ineffective man-child (Amitash Pradhan) as villain in the first part. That was perhaps the weakest part of the movie. In the sequel, he cast Kajol as the ‘negative’ character and tried to reason it away by spouting some theories about people and the grey areas they occupy. Even this was an exercise in futility.
There’s no paucity of villains in the South Indian film industry. But the heroes would rather avoid a face off with a man/woman who can beat them to pulp, if the need arises.
Jai Lava Kusa director Ravindra and Junior NTR took a leaf out of the Enthiran playbook, and cast Jr NTR as the villain, as well.
Jai, Lava and Kusa are brothers who look alike. Jai’s stutter means that he’s forced to remain in the shadows as his brothers take centrestage in the family’s stage shows. Jai descends into a world fuelled by ineffective rage and insecurity. Fraternal love is thrown to the dogs, especially as the whole family (including Lava and Kusa) make fun of Jai’s stutter.
It only makes Jai’s life worse. He reciprocates by blowing up a stage show.
And thus, Ravana is born.
Heavily backed by mythological concepts, Ravindra’s Jai Lava Kusa idolises Jai and his grey shades. NTR’s larger than life presence lends itself effectively to the scenes involving Jai. Here’s a character (and a hero) unafraid to embrace the dark side. There’s a lot of showmanship in NTR’s interpretation of Jai, and the kind of background he comes from. There’s no denying the fact that this role is a supremely bold choice for the actor.But films that have strongly etched characters, the others fade into the background. There’s not much NTR can do as Lava or Kusa — who seem one-dimensional and somewhat, uninteresting in comparison to their elder brother. It doesn’t help that their characters are not as convincingly written as that of Jai. Actors Raashi Khanna and Nivetha Thomas too fall prey to this issue. Their characters don’t seem real enough to engage the audience.
Like Arjun Reddy, Jai Lava Kusa, too, celebrates toxic masculinity. It takes the greatest villain the Indian epics have ever produced – Ravana, and gives him a 21st Century makeover. Interestingly, there’s some effort made to explain his traits as not just a product of patriarchy, but also the side-effect of some psychological issues. A deeper exploration of this concept would’ve made this film satisfying. As it stands though, the film rides high only on the strength of NTR’s star power.
He is the hero. He is the villain. He reigns supreme, leaving the rest to watch the goings on from the corner of every frame. Unintentionally hilarious, yes. But, for a film that’s sincere on all other counts, it’s a sad misstep. And one that deeply affects.
The Jai Lava Kusa review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.