Master is a troubled man with no purpose in life. He is just living from day to day. He will soon learn that unless he puts himself together, he won’t be able to face his most challenging job: teaching at a juvenile facility.
John Durairaj (JD) is a personality development professor and the dean of student affairs at a college in Chennai. He is addicted to alcohol due to his depression. He is beloved by his students for his student-friendly approach which causes the dislike by his fellow colleagues. There comes a moment that makes him leave the college and goes work as a volunteer teacher at a juvenile facility for a few months. As JD spends time with the kids and teens, he comes to understand that the youngsters at the detention home are being exploited by a deadly gangster Bhavani.
ABOUT THE FILM
Master is a 2021 action/drama musical Tamil-langauge film (Kollywood) written and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, and produced by Xavier Britto, under his production house XB Film Creators. The movie stars Thalapathy Vijay as JD and Makkal Selvan Vijay Sethupathi as Bhavani in the leading roles. Malavika Mohanan, Arjun Das, Andrea Jeremiah and Shanthanu Bhagyaraj play supporting roles. The soundtrack of the movie is composed by Anirudh Ravichander. Cinematography and editing were done by Sathyan Sooryan and Philomin Raj. Director Lokesh and co-writer Rathna Kumar made cameo appearances in the film.
The filmmakers were inspired by international films for the storytelling structure and cinematography, but according to them the film is based on a real-life story. JD’s introductory sequence was inspired by the film Baby Driver (2017), where the character Baby, finds catharsis in music, and the character was also modeled from the latter. His character drew inspiration from that Clint Eastwood’s role in the Dollars Trilogy, where the protagonist was not allowed to tell his backstory.
A day after the film’s release, a Hindi remake was announced. The remake will be produced by Endemol Shine in association with Cine1 Studios and Seven Screen Studio which also co-produced and distributed the original film. I don’t see why a remake is necessary when the movie is great, and you have the Hindi dubbed version already.
Where to Watch
The film can be watched on Amazon Prime, Zee5, and on some YouTube official channels for International audiences. Amazon Prime has the original version in Tamil with English subtitles. ZEE5 has the Hindi dubbed version (titled Vijay the Master) with English subtitles. YouTube has both the Tamil and the Hindi dubbed. The film is also dubbed in Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam languages. It can be rented on other platforms depending on the region you live in.
I would recommend watching just the original version with subtitles to get the original voices. One of the young men has such a deep manly voice and his dubbed voice in Hindi doesn’t give it justice.
In the next section, I will share with you how I understood the story with subtitles. Yes, there are going to be major spoilers but I think it’s important to share this perspective because sometimes things can get lost in translation or cultural differences may have an impact on how one interprets the story. I think it’s unfair when this happens with critics that are very quick to judge. Especially with foreign cinema, audiences tend to rely on critics and influencers that sometimes have their own biases or even have no idea about what they are reviewing.
Eventually, I think it’s better to watch it and make your own assessment. Sometimes rewatching is necessary. Afterward, it’s fun to compare with these “critics and influencers” and see how much they got wrong. There is always something. Now, let’s get into the story…
ABOUT THE STORY
A free-spirited but carefree schoolteacher, Master gears up to confront the local gangster Bhavani after a tragic incident. Bhavani is a dreadful gangster making a juvenile correction facility his center for all his illegal activities.
Meeting The Villain
When Bhavani was 17 years old, he watched his family get murdered by his father’s rivals and was forced to take the blame. Consequently, he was incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility, where he is tortured mercilessly courtesy of the same people who send him there. He later escaped making a deal with one of them in exchange for his freedom. His rough childhood and bad experiences made him a sadistic criminal who uses the young boys at the juvenile facility to achieve his misdeeds. However, Master enters the scene to foil his plans. What follows is a pumped-up showdown between the two.
Meeting The Master
We first meet JD when he is coordinating with his students to stop 2 guys who sexually harassed a female student from escaping Chennai, possibly the country. He reached the bus and skillfully beats their minions however the 2 guys and their remaining minions escaped to the metro station. What follows is an even better fighting scene. The 2 guys tried to escape again but JD managed to catch them with the help of his students who escorted the 2 guys to the police station. This whole ordeal got him suspended.
We learn about his teaching methods and why the students love him despite him being an alcoholic and unorganized. After 6 pm it is well known that he gets wasted and is of no help to anyone. They do their best to look out for him.
The Student Election
JD supports a first-time democratic election for the student council. The candidates are a girl and a guy who dislike each other. Initially, the school board didn’t want to hold the election, but JD insisted. The board made him sign an affidavit that puts him in charge of coordinating the election and stating that he would give up his position. The board feared that the students will turn violent protesting the results and everything that comes along with a traditional election process. They weren’t in favor of any of that.
The 3-Month Challenge
There was a riot after the election caused by vandals because both candidates parted on good terms. However, the father of the male candidate sends vandals to infiltrate and pass as students to cause problems. JD identified some of them and instructed his students to bring all girls on campus to safety.
The board eager to get rid of him wanted JD to leave but his mentor and benefactor manage to keep the decision on standby and thought that the only way they would learn his value is through his absence. He told JD that the 3 months break he requested to teach at an “observation home” (juvenile facility or reformatory for troubled youth) was approved. JD had no idea about it or when he signed for it.
The Letter from the boys
Two of the kids at the reformatory were looking for JD to give him a letter urgently but he was drunk. They placed the letter in his pant pocket. We also see that he is called many times by 2 kids. Turns out the kids were looking out for his help as Bhavani was after them and ultimately gets to them. The following day everyone at the facility got to see what Bhavani was capable of.
Bhavani killed them and their bodies were discovered hanging from the ceiling of the classroom at the juvenile facility the next day. JD is taken by the police for questioning. Charu, a lecturer that was recently hired at JD college, comes full of grief to the police station and tells him that she was the one who forged his signature to get him to work there. She believed he was the only teacher capable of understanding the needs of the inmates in order to help them. She confesses to JD that she is an NGO worker investigating the crimes occurring in the facility; the brothers had desperately contacted her for help.
The Motivation for change
Behind bars, JD finally finds the letter where one of the kids Sabari tells him the story of their family and how he and his brother Manikandan have their hope in his hands. It is a heartbreaking scene. JD learns that children are placed at the reformatory for low-level misconduct such as stealing bread. However, they are forced to take the blame for higher crimes committed by Bhavani and must remain at the facility enduring abuses.
It will also make you mad when you see that the police facilitate Bhavani’s goons to enter JD’s cell and beat him up. At least they tried. They didn’t count on his newfound rage. There he makes first contact with Bhavani and warns him that he will not stand still and do nothing.
The Master’s Raid and its consequences
After doing some investigation JD is determined to make a change and transforms his life to help the kids. A more centered JD demands respect from everyone in a very particular way since he is not allowed to physically discipline them, he finds another way to get their attention. It is one of my favorite scenes in the film.
He destroys all the phones provided by Bhavani and burns all the drugs. Charu arrives with JDs college students to give him a hand cleaning up the facilities. JD arranges for everyone to get a haircut and get shaved. JD arranges for dental service with the help of his friend Madhi. He asked Madhi to use the dental records to find out about 6 young men at the facility that he is curious about. One of them is Das, one young man that is always antagonizing him.
In retaliation, some of the youth with help from Bhavani men made a riot during diner time. During the commotion one of the kids got his hand fractured. The following day he learns from one of the kids, called Undiyal, that the older ones use the game of kabaddi to get them to work for them for a month if they lose the game. And it is also an excuse, they use to bash the kids. The kid that got his hand fractured was a master at the game. Now that he is not able to play the big boys will surely win.
JD tells Undiyal: “More than the aches from blows and kicks, pain from fear hurts deeper. Go with courage”. JD joins his team and I’m cheering. Earlier we see that he got the results from Madhi and learned that those six boys who are all on the opposing team are above the age of 18. JD takes advantage of the game to teach them a lesson.
The Bucket List: Changing Ways
They also arrange for the kids to tell their stories while they filmed them including Undiyal, who spoke about Das’s crimes at the facility. The kids curious to know more about their Master asked him to tell them his love story. He then told a story that only Charu seems to recognize as a plot from a movie. She asked him why he always tells bogus stories based on films about his life. He finally relented to answer one question. She asked him then why he stopped drinking. He pointed to the kids and left. And I’m loving the song that follows:
Bhavani takes notice of Charu and asks his boys to take off her and the evidence. She gets pursuit and calls JD luckily Da was with him and recognize the boys through the video call. Luckily, they left her alone. JD finds out that the youth who accept covering Bhavani’s crimes are tattooed with the Tamil letter ‘ப’ (“Pa”) which gets them free food, clothes, alcohol, and drugs courtesy of Bhavani. J.D. raids the establishments and cuts off the drug supply to the detention facility. He also sneaks into Bhavani’s hideout and unknowingly threatens him directly. Remember that at this point, he doesn’t know what Bhavani looks like.
Finding precision with Archery
Bhavani causes more problems for JD and retaliates by attacking some of J.D.’s friends and ex-students. Das abducts most of the kids, intending to take them out of the region under Bhavani’s orders. They were all put in a truck. Another painful scene to watch. Once on the road to their destination JD and his friend Vanathi luckily reach the caravan of trucks. Vanathi is a female professor that teaches archery at his former college.
She successfully manages to stop most of the trucks with the arrows, but she loses balance and almost her life. JD helps her up and takes her place. The sequence is unexpected and awesome at the same time. He stops the last truck driven by Das. JD tries one more time to convince Das that Bhavani does not care about them. That he will kill him once he gets what he wants because he is the link between Bhavani and the crimes in the detention facility.
Once Das realized that JD was right he was on his side. When Bhavani’s men when open the truck, they find JD with the kids making a musical tune with a rock and a metal plate. The fighting begins. JD takes out all the men and comes finally face to face with Bhavani. Their fight starts while the kids are watching. Bhavani almost has the upper hand but when the kids start playing the tune, clapping, and cheering for JD he somehow gets the strength to continue the fight intelligently.
The showdown continues. When Bhavani is down, he has the courage of trying to convince JD to join him. JD kills the snake avenging Sabari and Manikandan’s death and is a little disturbed after that. Das asks him whether he should stay in his place and take the blame, but JD tells him that each person should receive the punishment according to the level of their crime. JD killed someone and was willing to bear the consequences. Maybe that was why he was disturbed earlier. It’s not a cross for Das to bear, he has his own crimes to answer for. In the end, they all do.
With the children safe, J.D. and Das surrender to the police. The detention facility is shut down by the government, with the inmates being sent to other detention facilities and state prisons, based on their age. In the mid-credits scene, J.D., Das, and the other adults from the facility are sent to prison, where they intend to reform the inmates there. It’s cameo time (mentioned at the beginning of the article). The Master is ready for another challenge.
The movie is an action drama, but it also has comedic bits and is thrilling in some parts. It made me laugh, cheer, and angry and I cried too. If you have worked with children or have children of your own this movie will have an impact. Especially the scene where they find the two kids, and when JD reads their letter.
The movie has a special value to me as it made me hopeful. It emphasizes how having the right person guiding and supporting you makes a difference. Someone that doesn’t use you for their personal gain, neither financial nor emotional. They are just there to help. Unlike some in the teaching profession in the West that nowadays are using their students to make themselves feel better not really caring about the wellbeing of the kids. A simple search through Tik Tok will provide visual examples of such cases.
JD is a loner, somber, alcoholic, and a person who is willing to help, only if he is asked to do so, while Sethupathi’s character Bhavani is god-fearing and does not prefer drugs and alcoholism, irrespective of his evil nature. Their individual journey is told through the film which makes you understand why they become the way they are. Once their path crossed you can understand how each reacts to what the other does. There are other characters in the story but your attention is on them. I was expecting a love story with Charu but I’m glad that they skipped that part and give the youth more screen time. The themes are way too important. I was satisfied with that one song.
The Visuals and The Music
I liked the cinematography. The visuals and effects were just amazing. The soundtrack is well done: It pumps you up, makes you sad, and the lyrics inspire. Music is placed in the right places.
Learning about Kabaddi
This would be the first time I saw the game of Kabaddi on screen. Or let me rephrase, this would be the first time I paid attention to it. In the first section of the sequence when the child is calling the master and JD comes and takes his shirt off. I rewatched that part so many times now. How manly is he?
One Deleted Scene
The film according to the internet had some scenes removed after its initial review by the central bard of film certification that was too violent. The deleted scene released had no violent scenes and should have been left in the movie in my opinion. It should be watched.
There are so many themes in this film I don’t think I will be able to list them all but what stood out to me is the importance of a strong male mentor for the youth, rules don’t apply to all and there are obstacles for the poor to get a second chance.
Becoming a Strong Male Role Model and Mentor
JD was an orphan studying at a college. A professor took interest in helping him. The moment he lost that guidance he lost his way and turned to alcohol. The negative aspects and weaknesses of JD are predominantly shown throughout the film.
When he doesn’t have his students to look after him you see how his weaknesses prevent him to help those that urgently need it. After the tragic incident, he learned that he was weak. He was unable to make any changes at the facility if he didn’t radically change himself to become a more stable man.
Rules don’t apply to all
The films also address the influence of wealthy families and how rich students often evade punishment. This is more elaborated in the deleted scene where JD put emphasis on how boys are raised, how the victim of sexual harassment is treated, and how survivors are forced to deal with their abusers.
The corruption and negligence in the police force, the lack of authority by the state, and supervision of the juvenile facilities. They don’t seem to be what they are supposed to be. And then there is also the protection of the weakest gender. When the riot started the first thing JD did is asking his male students to get the female students to safety. Had he not done that many females would have been attacked during that incident.
Obstacles to a second chance
It is difficult to accept but there are people that are beyond reform and must be removed from society. Sometimes those who are wealthy remain in a society protected by their environment. The poor and working-class are the ones that get removed. When they are removed, they should be able to get help to reform themselves but sadly most prisons don’t offer that even though they get the money to do so. In some cases, after completing the sentence the person enters society worse than before. The movie shows a problem that is not only happening in juvenile reformatories but in prisons as well and the poor are the most affected.
Inmates are used for cheap labor under unknown circumstances. And in some countries, the system is set up such that people go to jail for minor offenses if they can’t afford the bail money. Further very little is done for their personal development. All this foments hatred towards those that let them down. How different would it be if there is a real change possible not only for a few but for all that took the wrong path? It is an inconvenient truth, but elements in society such as the corporate media often turn a blind eye to what happens in prisons and reformatories consequently members of society pay no attention to what is happening in those places.
Being the hero and doing the correct thing is often not well seen by institutions and corporate media when they are so greatly influenced by money and other interest. That influence is often visible on social media were doing the right is portrayed as abnormal. Those who take action are branded as crazy people or any other categorization that is trending that week.
Imagine this film happening in real life with no JD. Someone with a strong will and courage. That juvenile facility would continue to run lucratively taking away the second chance opportunity. More children and young men would become victims of their own environment which will lead them to commit crimes with horrible consequences.
MY NOTES ON REVIEWERS
Don’t pay much attention to the mainstream critics when checking out Indian films. I wouldn’t have seen the film if I did. You will read that the movie is long, boring, it’s not focused, etc., etc. Very repetitive at times as if a general consensus was given early on. Sometimes you wonder whether critics can provide an honest opinion anymore?
I think most people have realized by now that we can’t rely only on what is published by media corporations or their spokespersons. I know it’s difficult but these days we must investigate what people say and why they say it. I liked the film and the themes they covered resonated with me. The boys looked like family members I had that went on the wrong path at an early age so I may be a little biased. At the same time, I feel it covers themes that are often neglected.
You will find honest reviews by regular movie watchers giving the pros and the cons of the film. Most of the time it’s not as bad as the (official) critics say it is. Sometimes that are many factors that influence their opinions such as:
- the headspace they were in while watching the movie,
- whether they are fans of the actors/filmmakers (and they don’t say it clearly),
- their own perspective based on their life experiences prevents them to relate and or understand the story,
- maybe it’s not their preferred genre, sometimes you can see the irritation when they talk or write about the film,
- maybe it’s not their preferred film industry,
- or there is simply a consensus not to give any honest (positive) feedback about certain movie themes.
One more thing to pay attention to when checking out critics is analyzing their access to celebrities and determining whether or not that influences their opinions. Sometimes it does. Seems like a lot of work right? For me, as a regular movie watcher of Hollywood and Bollywood movies, it was a necessary exercise and it paid off with the discovery of alternative content that would otherwise have remained overshadowed by the popular mainstream content.
It is sad that almost no one from the official reviews about Master that I checked discussed the issues of wealth/class disparity and the broken system running reformatories and prisons. All relatable issues that people from many countries can identify with.
One thing I learned when checking out reviews from regular movie watchers is to always take into consideration which version of the movie they watched. With English subtitles, it is always tricky when you watched the dubbed version. Sometimes the translation is not accurate.
Overall Master is not a traditional teacher-student movie we are accustomed to. It has fighting scenes and stunts that you wouldn’t expect in such a film. It doesn’t shy away from showing difficult scenes. A film with heart and soul. I watched it on Amazon Prime and on YouTube in its original language. Will probably watch it again. Wish I could have seen it in theaters but happy I discovered it.
My Rating: 8/10
Stay on the lookout for more alternative entertainment.
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