A small-time thief reforms after learning about the role played by his grandfather in building a dam and his selfless service to the local people, and saves the very dam that his forefather built.
begins with the murder of a government official inspecting a dam, and then the action cuts to Lingaa (Rajinikanth), a small-time criminal, who is in prison with his cohorts (Santhanam, Karunakaran and co). They are taken out on bail by Lakshmi (Anushka), a TV reporter, who wants him to return to the village of Solaiyur and reopen the temple that his grandfather, Raja Lingeswaran (Rajinikanth), had built. Lingaa refuses because he is angry at his ancestor, who, by donating his wealth to the people, had let his father die penniless. However, situations force him to go to Solaiyur, where he comes to know of his grandfather's sacrifice. Lingeswaran resigned his job as a collector when he realized that it is just a glorified post and the British will not let him build the dam that will benefit the people of Solaiyur. Being an extremely wealthy maharaja, who has studied civil engineering in Oxford, he used his own money to fund the project and planned the construction himself, rallying the people to his cause. However, an egotistical British collector tried to thwart him at every step and used every trick in the book — money, caste, and power. Lingeswaran had given his entire wealth to the collector for the sake of completing the dam. However, now, Naga Bhushan (Jagapathi Babu), a corrupt MP, is trying to weaken the dam's structure for a kickback, and Lingaa must protect his grandfather's legacy.
is certainly among the least Rajini-esque films, even though the template of the plot — a man who is compelled to take up a task which he is least interested in undergoes a transformation after learning about the past and takes up the challenge and triumphs in the end — seems like something that is best suited to Rajinikanth. In fact, Vijay's
, which was also about a thief-on-the-run reforming and fighting for the people's cause, did a better job.
Lingeswaran is presented as a noble and heroic figure, someone who is as selfless as the zamindar character in
and as up-to-the-challenge as
. When this character is introduced to us, he is shown reading Joseph Campbell's
The Hero With A Thousand Faces
, which interestingly was first published in 1949, though the events in this segment of the film happen in 1939, in British-ruled India!
The problem with
is that even though Rajinikanth plays two characters, it is Lingeswaran whom the film is clearly enamoured with. But the character is not truly striking and hardly has a formidable antagonist — the scheming British collector never seems threatening. So, what should have been a crisp and moving flashback episode (KS Ravikumar, as a writer, had managed to do this in
) turns into an indulgent stretch where many things take place without really furthering the narrative. The flashback, which also brings up one of the weakest interval blocks in Rajini films, goes on and on, and labours hard to build up the image of this character and in turn, the hero.
In fact, the entire film is low on whistle-worthy moments. Given that this is a Rajini film, we expect punch (and punch dialogues) in the scenes but strangely, the film lacks energy. Even the introduction song is hardly rousing, and we are left with barely a handful of memorable moments to take away with us — a fight scene on a moving train is smartly choreographed, shot and edited and is treat for those who love Rajinikanth the action hero; we get a comical stretch involving a necklace that has to be stolen amidst heavy security to showcase Rajinkanth's comic flair; there is a scene where Lingeswaran, who is now living with simple means, talks about being rich and living contented that will satisfy those who like the Superstar's philosophical side.
Still, for a film that takes almost three hours to tell its story, many of the crucial elements are conveyed through dialogues (for example, we never see Lingaa's steps to expose the MP but we see him narrating them in the climax) this takes away the heroism from the character. The scale of the production, some of Santhanam's one-liners and the charisma of Rajinikanth somewhat make it bearable but they aren't enough. But the biggest disappointment is the outlandish climax stunt piece (that includes Lingaa jumping on top of an air balloon from a bike, and kicking a bomb away while dangling from the balloon) that seems to be a validation of all the Rajini jokes that are found on the Internet.