Lokesh Kanagaraj is back with another film in his ‘multiverse,’ where he has paired with actor Thalapathy Vijay yet again. Their last outing had been quite successful, as Master was praised both critically and commercially. Now the pairing is back with Leo, Vijay’s 67th film. Because of that reason, the movie was supposed to be released with the title Thalapathy 67 but the title Leo worked out just fine. After all, Leo is the one everyone is after in this movie. But the movie begins with Parthiban, who owns a small cafe in Theog, Shimla. He is quite an interesting fellow, as, besides being a simple cafe owner, he is also an animal rescuer and helps local rangers. Like in A History of Violence, the world of crime finds Parthiban, and he is suspected to be the most feared criminal in Tamil Nadu, named Leo Das, because of their uncanny resemblance. Thalapathy knows how to milk the role, and he gives a ‘massy’ performance that he is loved for. Here is a deeper look into the dual roles Thalapathy plays in the movie:
Thalapathy Vijay as Parthiban
Parthiban was living his life like any other fellow, in Shimla. There were only a few moments when one could catch him outside of his cafe or his house, where he had a happy family. Sathya, his wife, had known him for twenty years, and as far as she knew, Parthiban was an orphan. His kids, the elder Siddharth and the cute little daughter Chintu had no idea that Parthiban’s striking resemblance to Leo was going to bring chaos into their lives as well. Parthiban helped kill a hyena and protected the schoolchildren from harm, and that’s when he first gained notoriety. But the criminals were not interested yet. It all happened coincidentally.
The ‘coincidence’ part of the film is also a weak point of the film, but it makes for a terrific action sequence. Some contract killers were after the local politician, and they seemed to be on a killing spree trying to obtain a ‘pin number,’ perhaps related to an account. The gang of contract killers had a live wire who was as psychotic as they come. He was the one who barged into Parthiban’s cafe after its closing hours and demanded that he serve chocolate coffee. Chintu and a worker named Shruti were trapped with the madman, and Parthiban had to ‘picture himself,’ in the scenario where he chose the violent route to get rid of this man. He used this phrase earlier as well with Siddharth, where he had tried to get the point across that if a man kills a criminal, he becomes a murderer himself. But when the madman tried to harm Chintu, there was simply no choice. A bullet pierced the madman’s head, and all the remaining bullets in his gun were used to blast open the heads of the rest of the contract killers, who had barged into the cafe looking for their member.
Five dead, and no missed shots. Parthiban’s trial began, and the prosecution argued that how could an ordinary man not miss a single shot? But Parthiban was rewarded for his violence. The case was quashed as the defense was successful in passing the killings as an act of self-defense. The cafe worker, Shruti, was the witness. Parthiban, however, was now suspected of having worked the gun before, and he was a genius marksman, it seemed. Even Ranger Joshi, who helped him get information from the local police station, was a little concerned, but he was a true friend and didn’t ever really think that Parthiban was anyone but a law-abiding citizen. The case, however, brought in a lot of problems for him. When Parthiban’s photos got in the newspapers, the brothers Antony and Harold decided it was time to pay Parthiban a visit. That’s why they came all the way from Tamil Nadu to Shimla.
Parthiban was behaving in a manner as if to suggest that he had nothing to do with the world of crime, but his actions were not matching his words. Sathya was wary of him now. Parthiban killed all the men who came to avenge the deaths of those five men, and that too out in the open. His face, while mercilessly killing the men, resembled that of the madman earlier, except that he didn’t gleefully smile while killing everyone. Self-defense was always the cited reason, but Sathya was beginning to have doubts now. The most interesting moment in the film came when Parthiban found out that she had lied to him and went to meet the orphanage caretaker, where Parthiban allegedly lived till he was twenty. There was a whole history of his childhood, which made Sathya feel extremely guilty, and Parthiban confronted her later on for her dishonest behavior.
Antony and Harold had almost no doubt that Parthiban was Leo Das, Antony’s son. Leo was supposed to have been dead, but after seeing Parthiban’s face, they were sure he wasn’t. Now they wanted Parthiban to accept that his life in Shimla was nothing but a facade, a lie that he had been living for the last twenty years. Antony wanted Parthiban to accept that he was the man he was looking for, but Parthiban reiterated the fact that they were mistaken and had wasted their time coming to Shimla. Parthiban had successfully convinced Sathya that he wasn’t Leo. Her trip to the orphanage reinforced this belief, but Parthiban wasn’t able to convince Antony and Harold. They had a violent history with Leo, and they weren’t going to leave without Parthiban’s confession.
There were moments when even the police didn’t help Parthiban, and it seemed he had learned his fighting skills just for this day. He was an orphan, or so he told everyone. He needed to be self-reliant, as he knew no one would come to save him if a violent scenario ever came his way. He was lucky to have Joshi by his side, but when a judge ordered police protection for Parthiban, he was utterly disappointed. They had sent Napoleon, an aged, non-agile, sleepy policeman, to protect Parthiban. It seemed Parthiban had to fight back himself, and for a moment, his violence seemed justified, and his motivations for self-defense started to make sense even to his family. When Siddharth was kidnapped by Harold, Parthiban had to use his fighting skills, keeping aside the optics for the time being. He didn’t care that he would be seen as Leo at this time. He killed Antony and went after Harold, who gave him a last chance to accept that he was his nephew Leo, the most feared psychopath in the South. Parthiban fought all of Harold’s men with the single intention of convincing Harold that he was not Leo, and in a twisted moment, it was as if Parthban had started the chain of events to make Harold accept that Parthiban wasn’t Leo.
In the end, Parthiban succeeded. Harold, fearing Parthiban would kill him, accepted that he was mistaken, and that was exactly when Parthiban revealed that he was indeed Leo. Antony was right all along. The mass murderer, the genius marksman, who had killed several policemen back in the day, had created a fake backstory and started living his life as Parthiban, the meek cafe owner. His act was so convincing that even his family never saw the violent man hidden in him. It seems like Leo really reformed and became Parthiban, leaving the criminal legacy behind. But there is a problem with that conclusion. He wanted to take revenge on Antony and Harold, for they had once tried to kill him, and Harold was the one who had killed Elisa, Leo’s twin sister. So why did Leo vanish and choose to become Parthiban, only to be discovered twenty years later? So he could have the last laugh having fooled everybody? This little segment can be seen as a plot hole, but perhaps Leo’s need for revenge was reignited once Antony and Harold came to Shimla. He rescued Siddharth and got back to his family. So, is Leo’s chapter finally over? Well, not so soon. Leo ‘became’ Parthiban again, and while he thought that he would live with his family happily ever after, he received a call from a certain Vikram (possibly the character from Lokesh Kanagaraj’s 2022 film Vikram) who is the last man, it seems, who knows Parthiban is in fact, Leo. Lokesh’s next film will surely flesh out that plot for us. Until then, Parthiban must keep his ‘Leo’ hidden, like the pet hyena he kept hidden in his house, only to be called out to attack an intruder.