An important quality of Lokesh Kanraj as a narrator is the discipline with which he makes contact with a subject. And that discipline is distinguished by its absence in the Master. Master is neither Nangar-Mustaram like Nagari nor a pace thriller like Kashi.
Lokesh had promised a Vijay film which would be very different from the films that Vijay usually does. Did he keep his promise? Yes. Master is the most fun, sensible, enjoyable and good looking film Vijay has done in a long time. Did I mention sense?
After a long hiatus, Vijay has played, if you do not follow the definition of a person with a full character, a nuanced character with qualities. JD, short for John Duryaraj (Vijay), is an undocumented professor at a popular college in Chennai. He is accepted by the students, and this makes him the enemy of No. 1 of the old guard in management. He is a professor of psychology, who teaches focus as a subject. A quality that they lack in their life. His biggest flaw is that he is unnoticed, and he does not care what people tell him. He listens but never listens. He does not do what he does. Said, she is a creep. He is deeply flawed. And this is what sets Master apart from recent Vijay films.
JD does not take itself too seriously. And his first reaction to a problem is not violence. I do not remember a film in which Vijay played a character who did not believe that any problem was not too complex to be solved by a fist. When a police officer in the juvenile jail gives JD a chance to vent his anger on the undocumented prisoners who have caused him irreparable harm, he refuses. And questions the role of police, system and society in turning youth into hardened criminals. In any other Vijay film, his character would have beaten those boys for the first time before giving them moral lessons. Another quality of JD is that it does not waste time arguing right and wrong with those whom it wants to hurt. There is so much victory.
So, yes, Lokesh has given us a different Vijay film, as he promised.
Lokesh Kanagaraj, who co-wrote the film with Ratna Kumar and Pon Parthibhan, also knows Vijay’s best moves by heart. And it has supplied many such moments that will meet the acceptance of hardcore Vijay fans. There are even moments that work like Vijay’s earlier films. For example, the scene of Kabaddi hat-tips Vijay in jail. In the process of doing so, Lokesh loses his competitive edge.
Nevertheless, the film has some savior ideas that reflect Lokesh’s true talent as a storyteller. Especially, the way he has written his hero and antagonist. Vijay Sethupathi’s Bhavani and JD have more things in common than they know. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin. Even some of their methods match. Bhavani knows that the world is a messed up place and exploits it unexpectedly and mercilessly for its survival. But, JD neglects the filthy world by immersing himself in alcohol and rock music. And the way Lokesh portrays the ill effects of heavy drinking through Vijay’s character.
That said, The Master is neither a Vijay film in its entirety nor a Lokesh Kanagaraj film in its entirety. Lokesh’s self-limiting limitations and compulsion to remain in fan-service mitigate the film’s impact. They have used such good talent to waste ideas only on fillers and wasted resources that do not carry the story forward. And, they are not the qualities of Lokesh, who created Mangaram and Kathy.