When you step into a Rajinikanth movie, it's not just a film, it's an experience that echoes through years of cinematic history. Every flicker of Rajinikanth's iconic walk, every raised eyebrow, every dialogue delivery—these moments are etched in the minds of his fans. Director Nelson Dilipkumar seems to understand this phenomenon well, and in "Jailer," he skillfully harnesses Rajinikanth's star power without compromising the essence of his crime-comedy universe.
The movie introduces us to "Tiger" Muthuvel Pandian (Rajinikanth), a retired jailer who now lives a docile life. He frequents the market for vegetables, aids his budding YouTuber grandson, and dutifully polishes his police officer son's shoes. He's the epitome of domesticity—until a transformation reminiscent of the iconic "En peru Manickam. Enakku innoru peru irukku" scene from "Baasha" (1995) catapults the film into high gear. The storyline revolves around a crime gang engaged in smuggling ancient temple idols and artifacts. The disappearance of ACP Arjun (Vasanth Ravi), Tiger's son, pushes him back into action.
Nelson crafts a tale around the supercop archetype, a genre that has often romanticized custodial violence. But here, Rajinikanth's portrayal is subdued, devoid of the usual kicks and punches. His punchline, "Tiger ka hukum," holds a quiet authority. While an unnecessary item number with Tamannaah makes its way into the film, Nelson refrains from overloading it with typical Rajinikanth references. Instead, he sprinkles them strategically, amplifying their impact.
The movie takes an unexpected turn in the second half, delivering a scene that leaves the audience exhilarated. Nelson shatters the predictable formula of message-driven cinema with this move. Amidst the relentless disclaimers that frequently punctuate Indian films, this scene stands as a joyful assertion of unapologetic storytelling.
With Shivrajkumar, Mohanlal, Jackie Shroff, and Sunil in captivating cameos, the film navigates a multilingual terrain, catering to diverse audiences. Malayalam actor Vinayakan impressively portrays Varman, the eccentric leader of the gang. The mix of over-the-top violence and peculiar villains lends a darkly comedic edge, desensitizing the audience to on-screen gore.
"Jailer" does stumble in areas. Women characters receive inadequate development, particularly disappointing given the reunion of Rajinikanth and Ramya Krishnan. The film's emotional core is weak, and while the second half drags slightly, the twist spices up the narrative. Unfortunately, the underdeveloped emotional journey fails to deliver a punch in the climax.
Ultimately, "Jailer" is a paisa vasool (value for money) entertainer. After the lackluster performances of "Darbar" (2020) and "Annaatthe" (2021), Rajinikanth fans are bound to rejoice in the return of the tiger. The film is a testament to Rajinikanth's enduring charisma and an engaging watch for those seeking a quintessential Rajinikanth experience.
In "Jailer," the roar of the tiger echoes once again, leaving its mark on the world of Indian cinema.