When you write about Petta, you need to discuss two parts of it.
The first half of Petta, a superbly crafted homage to Superstar Rajnikanth. The part that offers us a glorious mid-1990s Rajnikanth; one we’ve never quiet tasted this century. It is an extended Rajni intro song that you wish keeps playing on forever. The action stays on the man, the story neatly orbits around the aura of Rajni. You’re salivating at every frame.
Then, there’s the other part that follows the intermission – an absolutely bloated, uninspired and vagrant attachment to Petta that drowns any delightful memory of an exhilarating start. Rajni drifts away from focus and the universe starts to go awry. Cannot remember the last time Sasikumar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui or Vijay Sethupathi have had little to no impact in a role they’ve played in a movie. The only thing they manage is pull the affectation that Rajni has on Petta upt to that point. This is where the narrative detaches itself from being a great Superstar movie. This is the part that sunk Petta for me.
When it works (more often than less), Karthik Subbaraj’s penchant for Western movie set-pieces agrees excellently with Rajni’s superhero quality airs. Not sure if Karthik Subbaraj pulled the crisp golden hued lighting, that lights up Rajni’s as an unearthly hero, from Thalapathi – it works magically on us.
Karthik ends Petta on a high note, but by then he’s squandered a much-awaited Rajnikanth rebirth with a mid-section that can be filled-in by any Vijay/Ajith pot-boiler flashback. Petta is still a better Rajnikanth stamp carrying film in recent years.