To really enjoy Sivalinga, one would have to ignore the many ghost-spirits and old cliches of past movies. Especially the very films made by P Vasu, the director of Sivalinga, and those of Raghava Lawrence.
However, even if you cannot ignore (and it is hard to), it is a fun movie to watch on an afternoon.
Sivalinga is a remake of a Kannada film of the same name, also made by P Vasu. The film stars Raghava Lawrence, Ritika Singh, Sakthi Vasu, Urvashi, Vadivelu, and others, and is produced by R Ravindran.
Sivalinga is a police officer. He works in the CB CID wing of the Tamil Nadu police, and is therefore (cinematically) licensed to wear cool suits and drive a powerful, big, red car. In an early scene, he chases down an ambulance smuggling cash, and a few well-placed sucker punches, round-kicks, and other assorted ways to inflict grievous bodily harm to the baddies later, he asks for the smuggled cash to be sent to the Income Tax office, and the seized ambulance to be impounded. For a Tamil cinema police officer, that’s rather a rare display of duty-consciousness. The usual formula is that the police officer-hero beats the evil side-henchmen up, sets fire to the evil main villain’s property. And that’s it. There usually is no set procedure, paperwork, reporting what happens.
As if to make amends for this deviation from the norm, Sivalinga, at the end of the film, makes no attempt to arrest the villain. Even as his superior officers, and the entire police force, are in attendance and watching on. Siva’s immediate boss in fact gives a smug grin at the proceedings.
A young man – Rahim (played by Sakthi Vasu) is pushed off a train by the very person he attempts to save. The young man dies a brutal death, his blood splattering over his pet pigeon. The initial investigation terms it a suicide, but Rahim’s lover isn’t convinced. And sure enough, the ghost of the dead person visits her in her dream, asking her to seek justice.
Meanwhile, Siva gets married to Satya, a match fixed by his mother. While not a big fan of “arranged marriages”, I am glad at least there was no complicated chasing and wooing of, and creepy-stalking of the heroine by the hero, at the end of which the girl realises that she does indeed love the pervy man who’s been abusing her for half the film. Thankfully, all that is completely jettisoned, and within the first 30 minutes of the film, hero and heroine are wedded and ready to move into their own house. With the full blessing of both sets of parents.
But of course, this is a film by P Vasu – who made Chandramukhi, and features the hero of Muni/Kanchana, so the house they move into is next to a graveyard in the town of the dead Rahim. So now we know where the film’s going to go.
Siva’s investigation begins, and we see a bit of the backstory. Rahim’s in love with Sangeetha, the daughter of his father’s friend. There’s a tiny bit of set-up for a Muslim-Hindu Bhai Bhai moment, and the union of lovers across religion.
Meanwhile at home, the horror movie loving Satya begins to see ghosts in the house. Enter, stage right: Vadivelu. A sort of comeback for Vadivelu, and familiar territory for the veteran. He has done the too-scared sidekick in Superstar’s Chandramukhi. There, his role was slightly more fleshed out, and given Rajinikanth’s own amazing comic timing, the pair worked wonders. However in Sivalinga, it is almost entirely left to Vadivelu to lighten the mood, with an occasional, half-hearted attempt by Raghava Lawrence, and sporadically, Urvashi. Given Lawrence himself can be funny, and his tried-tested team of Kovai Sarala, Sriman, and other funny people, one wonders why the producer, director, and star between them didn’t work things out better.
There must be, ought to be, better ways of showing ghosts on screen. Pale make-up, prosthetic-yellow teeth, bad blood stains and glazed eyes are rather European/American horror film cliches. There’s much art in Asian cultures for alternate depictions of ghosts. It might be fun, really creative and interesting, to come up with a Tamil Nadu style.
Ritika Singh – Satya – is possessed by the ghost of Rahim. Given that her husband’s trying to solve the murder, why exactly is the ghost such a malevolent presence? Why must the film’s audio level be cranked up to a point at the upper edge of human hearing? Why must there be echoes? Wouldn’t it be lot more horrifying and frightening, when shorn of all this theatricality?
However, as Rahim-Satya, Ritika Singh manages to spend a good bit of time on screen.
A few more Vadivelu antics and ghost-induced killing of the killer later, we arrive at the climax. The big denouement. Sivalinga has found out who ordered the killing of Rahim. It builds up, the excitement. At least on paper. For me, and for most people sitting in my row, it was just – meh. We’d almost all figured out. However, what form would justice take, and what appeasement the ghost would seek was left to be seen; so I, and they, waited patiently for it to unfold.
It was alright.
Except, I hope, after the credits rolled and the audience left home, Sivalinga was stripped of his badge and powers and asked to appear before a disciplinary committee for taking the law into his own hand, for ignoring protocol while dealing with suspects, for not offering a fair and just trial. And for allowing a ghost to burn to ashes a human being inside a heritage building. That last is an unforgivable transgression.
Sivalinga could have been a much more effective film, if some of the over-the-top bits of horror was cut out, and we spent a bit more time on the actual whodunit part of the killing. Or at the very least, if the motive behind the killing was better thought out, an actual rivalry instead of the damp squib we get to see for about two seconds before the end. Maybe, given horror-thrillers are currently du-jour in Tamil cinema, we got a more scary ghost, fewer characters, and a better haunting.
The Sivalinga 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.