Platform: Amazon Prime Video / Theatrical Release
Release Date: 13/01/2021
Cast: Joseph Vijay, Vijay Sethupathi, Arjun Das, Andrea Jeremiah, Mahendran
Director: Lokesh Kanagaraj
Master unravels in two parallel tracks that intertwine only in the last half of the film’s narrative. Bhavani (Vijay Sethupathi) has had a difficult life. His parents were murdered by three ruffians for the control of the Lorry Union. He was forced to lie about the manner of their passing so that the perpetrators could walk free. He was then sent to a juvenile correctional home where he was brutalised to the extent that he metamorphosed into a hardened and unforgiving criminal. He has nothing but one motive in life, total dominance over the sphere that resulted in the death of his parents.
Bhavani grows up to be the most feared gangster and perpetually eliminates all the perpetrators who had murdered his parents and destroyed his adolescence. However, in the pursuit of becoming the adversary that his oppressors deserved, he coerces the fellow imamates of the correctional facility to his whims with alcohol, frags, and drugs. He becomes for them an influence that is far worse than what he had endured himself. Bhavani uses these innocent inmates to not only do his bidding but also take blames for murders and other atrocities that he had committed. He is also not afraid to kill a few of them to instil his fear among the others. Thus he looks set to run his criminal enterprise with clinical ease and precision. That is until JD (Joseph Vijay) walks into the correctional facility as a teacher.
JD (Joseph Vijay) is an alcoholic personality development professor at the university. He is uproariously popular with his students and is perpetually drunk throughout the day. Interestingly, he is really good at his trade and the students love him for that, and for the fact that he is a rebel. However, his alcoholism and his penchant for taking matters into his own hands to physically settle issues pertaining to the university and students lands him in trouble with the authorities continually.
After conducting an election in the University, that witnesses a lot of violence, JD decides to take a hiatus and apply his skills to teaching personality development to the inmates and enabling them with important life lessons. His arrival at the correctional facility violently shakes the status quo and upsets the delicate balance and control that Bhavani had been maintaining at the facility for years. After the death of two inmates who were trying to bring JD’s attention to their plight, JD decides to take the matter into his own hands and stand up to Bhavani. Bhavani has other plans.
Master is entertaining and boring at the same time. I was riveted by the story of Bhavani. The film starts smack in the middle of the atrocities that are being committed to this young lad, and the next few minutes show us the extent of the torture that he had to endure just to survive. This portion is so well envisioned and executed that it immediately sucks the viewer in and makes it abundantly understandable how Bhavani would turn out to the demon that would crawl out of the hell that his aggressors had created for him. Mahendran playing the younger version of Bhavani has a searing screen presence and expressive eyes that makes him a worthy younger version of the indomitable Vijay Sethupathi. He perfectly sets up the character and its gusto for Vijay Sethupathi to take over in later scenes.
We meet Vijay Sethupathi for the first time in a scene that shows us the extent of his brutality even though he is unleashing his rage on some of the worst people in the film. We don’t complain here. Thankfully, the director doesn’t pull any punches in terms of the character as towards the halfway mark we see him unleash his one-punch knockout onslaught on a kid. This makes his character despicable and also adds to the fear factor already associated with it.
Sethupathi is one of the most emotive actors in Tamil Cinema today and he makes the most out of his acting repertoire to bring a strange duality to the character of Bhavani. He seems like a knowledgeable and sweet person in the manner of his interactions with the people but bursts into spates of unimaginable violence and wrongdoings at unpredictable junctures. This track of the film is its greatest strength and I wouldn’t mind watching only this track again and again even though it has no redeeming quality and comfort in terms of watching a villain receive his due.
The biggest drawback of Master is with the track involving Joseph Vijay. He was supposed to be the biggest pull of the film but his track quickly turns lacklustre and boring. At many junctures, even Vijay’s goofy charm cannot hold on to the attention of the audiences. The reasons for that are many. First and foremost, this track is marred by the fact that it involves Vijay’s character JD dealing with no life and death situation but simple and sometimes unnecessary college issues. In comparison to the track of Bhavani, it seems unremarkable and flat. This track is also laced with songs and dance routines, slower buildups to action sequences, and Vijay acting drunk and trying to be funny that doesn’t always land. While I have no complaints with Vijay’s performance, the track feels repetitive, annoying and I just wanted to skip to Bhavani’s portion that felt a lot more intriguing and entertaining. The tonal difference between these two tracks was also very jarring.
It’s only after JD makes his way to the correctional facility, learns of the wrongdoings happening there, and crosses paths with Bhavani that the film gets into top gear. Sadly, the amount of time the narrative takes to get to that point is arduous to withstand, and Lokesh Kanagraj should have known better. In the film’s defence, once JD and Bhavani cross paths, the film quickly shifts its attention to the chemistry between the hero and the villain and we can immediately sense some improvement in the proceedings.
The action and style of the characters are one of the selling points of any Vijay film and his fans will not be disappointed here. There is enough to cheer about in the action sequences that bring out the most heroic and mass rendition of Vijay possible. Interestingly, Vijay Sethupathi’s Bhavani again steals the thunder from him in this department with his one-punch knockout blitz that I would pick any day ahead of all the elaborately choreographed action sequences involving Vijay’s JD. One portion of the action that I hated was the CGI semi-climax involving an armada of trucks that are chased and overhauled by Vijay and Andrea Jeremiah’s character. This sequence singlehandedly brought down the quality of the entire action offering of the film with Jeremiah shooting arrows at Trucks and looking as apt at it as I would look talking about hair-care. However, the background score, as was the case with Kanagaraj’s Kaithi is mighty impressive and singlehandedly enhances the appeal and heroism of certain sequences.
With all that said, Master has still pulled off the impossible feat of beating Baahubali 2’s collection at the Tamil Box Office. The film’s mass appeal, Joseph Vijay’s fan following and it being the first major release after the theatres reopened resulted in impressive numbers. Vijay Sethupathi and his character Bhavani have also ensured that the viewers were entertained and intrigued. Master is now available on Prime Video in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu but not in Hindi as it is still playing in theatres.