Leo Trailer Talk: A Straightforward Adaptation or a Crafty LCU Instalment?

The much-anticipated Leo trailer has finally dropped, and to put it simply, it sure looks like a treat for fans of Thalapathy Vijay, Lokesh Kanagaraj, Anbariv and Anirudh. There are some racy action sequences, some signature Lokesh-toned frames, and everything backed by an electrifying background score (what a year Anirudh is having!). To be honest, given the insane level of hype the film has generated, these elements were fairly expected. What surprised me, however, was Lokesh’s confidence in displaying the plot of the film in a fairly straightforward manner in the trailer.

From the looks of it, Leo is about Vijay’s character, Parthi (presumably Parthiban), who gets wrongly mistaken as a don (Leo) and faces personal attacks from the bad guys, and how he retaliates in full force. There was talk about the film being an adaptation of the comic novel ‘A History of Violence’, and as per the Wikipedia plot of the Hollywood film version, the trailer does seem to fit the description. Like I said, fairly straightforward. Hmm.. 

Lokesh Kanagaraj, one of the more original voices in Tamil cinema at the moment, doing a straight adaptation at the peak of his career, especially in the age of the internet when the plot is out there at everyone’s disposal? 

One of the (many) reasons people were excited and impressed by Lokesh’s last outing, Vikram, was the unpredictability in the plot – the Vikram trailer was anchored by a clever Kamal voiceover, which gave a gist of his character’s attitude, but did not give away what his role exactly was, and where he fit in the larger scheme of things. The film’s screenplay also unfolded in a way that the Vikram character was kept under wraps until the interval block. Anyone who has watched Vikram, Kaithi or even Maanagaram, would testify to the opinion that Lokesh is a man of surprises. His screenplays are loaded with shock-value moments; he genuinely seems to enjoy (pleasantly) shocking his audience. Which is why I believe that the Leo trailer is probably a misdirection: a selective set of Parthiban sequences edited together to make a misleading plot, or maybe this is just a subplot of a larger conflict involving Leo and other undisclosed characters (Priya Anand’s, for example)? 

Also, Lokesh had mentioned in his post-Vikram interviews that his future movies would have an LCU (Lokesh Cinematic Universe) tag if they were part of the universe he has created around the happenings of Kaithi and Vikram. The Leo trailer had no clear signs of it being in the LCU – no tags, no tease of recurring characters, and no shots based out of Tamil Nadu (where the events of this universe have primarily transpired so far). This has sparked a general opinion – and subsequent disappointment among certain fans – that the film is a standalone one disjointed from his previous ventures. 

But I beg to differ.

To build a case, If I put myself in Lokesh’s shoes, here’s the scenario: I have successfully connected two films into one universe. Both films are critically and commercially acclaimed. The conflicts in these films have various loose ends, which can be developed into multiple follow-up films. The inclusion of multiple stars in Vikram saw a tremendous reception in theatres. Every actor in the industry wants to work with me. I have understood the technicalities and logistics of involving multiple production houses to co-create IPs (films in the same universe). I have an opportunity that no director of my era, or any era preceding me, has ever gotten. If I play my cards right, I can someday make an LCU Endgame, which would be the biggest multi-starrer actioner in the history of Tamil cinema – heck, in the history of Indian cinema. This is a freakin’ goldmine. I’m super excited to take this forward. A-listers are getting old. There is no time to waste. Why would I even think of standalone films, at least for the next ten years? 

Though there aren’t any obvious clues, a few things that seem to suggest Leo’s connection to the Lokiverse:

  1. There is some stylistic similarity in how Harold Das (Arjun) and Rolex (Surya) are presented. Wearing an oversized shirt, speaking to dozens of subordinates in a warehouse-like setup, and publicly performing brutal acts of violence. Maybe the events of Leo are a precursor to that of Vikram, and Rolex is a subordinate of Harold who eventually takes over the business when Harold dies? 
  2. During the events of Kaithi, Dilli is in Tamil Nadu. During the events of Vikram, Dilli is in Uttar Pradesh. This man seems to be a bit of a nomad. And we have hardly any information about him, especially in the years leading up to his imprisonment. Maybe he was in Kashmir (or wherever Leo is set in) during that time and crossed paths with Parthi/Leo? 
  3. Parthi is sitting in an armchair with his daughter resting against his chest – we have seen this arrangement in Vikram (with Kamal and his grandson). Maybe there is a parallel in the conflicts faced by these two characters? 
  4. In the Bloody Sweet promo, at the 1.29 timestamp, there is an eagle entering the frame. In other words, an ‘Eagle is coming’ into the frame. Just saying. 
  5. The trailer is from the POV of Parthi, and the issues he faces in the current timeline. The Leo character (who is positioned as Parthi’s aparan) makes an entry only in the last few seconds of the trailer and leaves a lot of space for intrigue. Two possibilities – If the film is indeed a true blue adaptation of A History of Violence, (spoiler alert), Parthi himself was Leo in his younger years, and it would relay into a massy flashback. But if Lokesh has decided to play with the original script and make a few tweaks, Leo could very well be a separate character. Is it Leo, and not Parthi, who crosses paths with the LCU characters? 

Reports by the media only strengthen my view on this matter: 

  1. Lokesh has apparently signed a No Objection Certificate with the producers of Kaithi and Vikram, ahead of the release of Leo. 
  2. There were sightings of many LCU actors in Leo sets, like Maya Krishnan (the prostitute in Vikram), Vasanthi (Agent Tina) and Maryan (Constable Napoleon). Is there a possibility that Maya’s character is an officer/criminal who is present at the brothel in disguise? 
  3. (On a lighter note) Prithviraj, in an interview, mentioned that he knows Lokeshinte adutha pathu varshathe scripts, and he seemed to insinuate that all the upcoming ideas were set in the same universe. In Rajutettan, I trust. 

Okay. Enthelum avatte. LCU connect or not, straight adaptation or partial, I want to sit back, eat my popcorn and revel in the slickness of it all. (If nothing, i.e. if padam = what’s shown in the trailer, we’ll at least get an unconventional Vijay performance). Bur seriously…I haven’t been this excited for any other film in recent times. Maybe that’s why this clickbaity trailer talk – I don’t usually do this stuff, as these things don’t age well once the film releases (90% of the theories would look ridiculously inaccurate). But Leo will get all my attention, expectations and prayers for the next 13 days. Loki anna, minnichekkane! 

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Navaneethakrishnan Unnikrishnan
When I'm not working or sleeping, I'm mostly observing people and making notes on my phone for content. (Hope to be) Your go-to man for laughs, good music and useless trivia around movies.

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