The supervillain hidden in Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Vijay-starrer 'Leo'

Vijay in Leo
Actor Vijay in Leo. Photo: IMDb

Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Vijay film ‘Leo’ captivated fans of Thalapathy and the Lokesh Cinematic Universe (LCU) with thrilling action, poetic cinematography, realistic VFX, and top-notch editing. Furthermore, it redefined Vijay as a middle-aged man. However, despite its successes, one aspect of the film received criticism – the portrayal of its villains. This departure from Lokesh's usual standards was a point of contention even among dedicated Lokiverse fans.

Despite boasting a baddie gang consisting of the likes of Sanjay Dutt, Arjun, Babu Antony, Mysskin, and Anurag Kashyap, and a formidable army of henchmen, 'Leo' received criticism from both fans and film analysts in this regard. A close look would reveal that filmmaker-actor Mysskin, who was impressive with his portrayal of the witty, cruel, and at times helpless Shanmugam, the leader of a contract killer gang, was the only one who enjoyed a well-developed villain character in 'Leo’.

However, there is a vicious and ferocious villain in 'Leo', sometimes even more merciless than Rolex Sir, who remained elusive to all.
Spoiler Alert: If you have not watched ‘Leo’ yet, drop this here and please come back after watching it.
Parthiban fought with this elusive adversary from the beginning of the movie. And when he won the battle with every other opponent, he lost the war to this nemesis. Leo Das!

From the moment Parthiban takes on the spotted hyena (Subrahmani) in Himachal to the time he sets out to rescue his son, we see him constantly fighting the ‘Badass’ Das. The bread crumbs dropped by Lokesh, leading to his supervillain, are always a layer beneath the snow. They surface only when you revisit those scenes after Parthi reveals his true identity to his uncle Harold Das (Arjun). Till then Parthiban being Leo is a mere possibility or a case of mistaken identity. In real-time, while watching the film, an external adversary seems to be the cause of Parthiban’s fear and despair. However, he is worried about the reappearance of an inner demon, who he had successfully confined to the dark alleys in the depths of his soul.

From gulping down the pain of wounds he sustained after a face-off with the hyena, crying out in despair after the shoot-out at the cafe, standing guard by windows sleepless at nights after the incident, shutting himself down and confining himself to the four walls of his house after tasting the smell of blood, and pushing the authorities to give his family 24-hour police protection, they were all part of last stance against Leo and not against any external force.

Vijay has done an incredible job showcasing the agony of Parthiban, who wants to hide the heinous past from his wife and children. Though in ‘Vikram’, Karnan (Kamal Haasan) has also been shown as someone in a constant struggle to keep his ‘Ghost’ self - Vikram - hidden from all. He is never at war with that alias.
A detour: The father-child relationship has been a pivotal element in all three movies within this franchise. In 'Kaithi,' Dili embarks on a rampage to reunite with his baby girl, while in 'Vikram,' the character invokes his Karnan persona to seek vengeance for his son, ACP Prabhanjan IPS (portrayed by Malayali actor Kalidas Jayaram).
Thalapathy and Loki successfully hid their supervillain in plain sight. All other villains were just decoys for the ‘Badass’ one.

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