Lokesh Kanagaraj has always maintained that he wants to make bloody action films that can be a source of pure entertainment and distraction for viewers. In an interview with Film Companion post of the release of Master (2021), Lokesh stated that he would have loved to have his hero, JD kill the film’s ruthless villain in the most violent ways imaginable. But he had to settle for an acceptable level of bloodshed ascribed to the wide appeal that a Vijay film has. Similarly, even though he pushed the level of violence in Vikram (2022), he still had to restrict the portrayal of gore to a certain extent to ensure the film retains its U/A rating. His upcoming film Leo has also been certified U/A, but Lokesh definitely seems to have upscaled the degree of bloodshed. The trailer of the film boasts of many action sequences but there’s one striking moment that is probably a glimpse of the copious amounts of action in the film. It’s that of Vijay pushing Sandy’s character onto the table with such brute force that an object (a tissue holder, most probably) is pierced into his mouth, sending his tooth flying.
What corroborates the heavy violence in Leo is a post by Ahimsa Entertainment, the company that’s distributing the film in the United Kingdom. “LEO is intense. With strong violence and detailed gory scenes that ended up being more graphic than even we anticipated, it's not for the faint-hearted. Although we targeted a 15+ rating for "LEO", the BBFC gave it an 18+, meaning only those aged 18 and up can see it in cinemas. This unfortunately excludes younger students between the ages of 15-17.”
After Lokesh forayed into the action zone with Kaithi (2019), his ideas for action sequences have not only grown bigger, but bloodier too, despite the filmmaker showing some restraint to keep his films family-friendly. Kaithi, for instance, featured numerous action setpieces, with many of them centered on a heavy lorry. But if you notice, not a single instance features the thugs being crushed under the tires of the lorry — an obvious choice for action films. But over time (reaching his peak in Vikram), he gradually increased the bar with deftly choreographed stunts by Anbariv, planting some striking individual moments within these scenes.
As we wait to see how the stunts play out in Leo, let’s look at some bloody sweet moments from Lokesh Kanagaraj’s filmography.
This moment from the finale showdown between the leads of Master is not gruesome but super cathartic. The film’s antagonist, Bhavani (Vijay Sethupathi), has a supervillain-like power: his right fist. He strengthened his right hand right from his teens and as a result, he is now capable of killing a person with just a punch. The man should have been called Power Punch Bhavani instead. The power of his punch is exhibited multiple times in the film as he uses the same hand to mercilessly kill many, not even sparring innocent kids. Naturally, after witnessing his cruelty, when our hero JD (Vijay) holds his right hand up against the wall and brutally punches it with his kaapu, it gives us joy. JD destroys his hand and snatches away his mightiest power through this act.
One of the biggest highs of Vikram, err, entire 2022, was the explosive action sequence featuring a fierce Agent Tina, who surprises us after spending most of the film's length as an ordinary house help. When Vikram’s daughter-in-law and grandson are attacked, Tina’s ruthless and agile instincts come out of self-imposed exile, and take down the attackers in bloody ways. While the entire sequence is a hoot, the best comes when Tina is knocked down in the kitchen. When you think she is done, she uses the forks to take down three more thugs, piercing the forks into their thugs. Agent Tina’s reflexes are as sharp as the forks but she is ultimately outnumbered, unfortunately. If only she had more forks.
This is not just one of the most violent moments in Lokesh’s filmography but in Tamil cinema in general, considering its sensational and full-frontal approach. While amputation of a body part is generally implied or depicted off-screen, here it happens in a full close-up. As the goon charges at Vikram, bending his tongue (a gesture that is reserved for heroes in mass movies as they indulge in combat), Vikram replies with an upward punch to the man’s jaw, resulting in the man biting his own tongue with such force that part of it gets chopped. We also get a blink-and-miss shot of the tongue hitting the floor. Poor man should have seen this coming as he was going up against Lokesh Kanagaraj's idol after all.
I say it again, the violence in Kaithi is quite measured, despite featuring relentless action. It features heavy action, from hand-to-hand combat to its protagonist taking down a battalion of hooligans with a Gatling gun, but one of the coolest moments from the film doesn’t involve an actual weapon. When Dilli is backstabbed (literally) and knocked down by Doss’s (Das?) men, during his lowest moment, the object that he loathes and wants to be liberated from comes to his rescue: his handcuffs. The shot of Dilli’s hand emerging out of the pile of men should be an iconic image in LCU, and it doesn’t get enough credit. Dilli hits the heads of the bad guys using his cuffs, and regains his stronghold. It’s not bloody like the other moments listed here, but it’s cool; to see a former convict weaponize cuffs to save himself.
In Vikram’s house carnage sequence, Lokesh adds a challenge to the hero. Vikram has to take down a handful of goons without making loud sounds since his grandson cannot handle noise. So the objective of this fight sequence is to not make any noise. The patient zero of this operation is the guy who attacks Kamal first. In an attempt to silence the attacker, literally, Kamal picks up the laptop on the table, positions it neatly on the man’s neck, and smacks it, immobilising the guy. This is one of those moments where the blood isn’t visible but the impact is palpable.
Paperweights are normally used to, well, hold papers from flying away or well to be thrown down so a collector can touch the feet of her father-in-law as a mark of respect without his cognisance. In Vikram’s house carnage sequence, though, this object gets a new objective. And of course, it's a painful one, like it is in all Lokesh Kanagaraj-Anbariv action sequences. Kamal throws a paperweight into the mouth of a thug only to kick his jaw. While this moment is not captured in graphic detail, the idea is very disturbing.
After destroying his "punch" and beating him to a pulp, Master’s JD sits down with Bhavani for a few moments. While JD has no remote plans to forgive Bhavani after everything he has done, he is triggered to finally kill him when the villain gives him an offer to join hands with him and enter politics. It certainly was not the best time for Bhavani to place the proposal. JD throws Bhavani at a hook that’s used to hang heavy chunks of meat. The visual isn’t too graphic but it's given enough importance. This scene also symbolises JD avenging the death of two innocent kids earlier in the film.
Yet another highly violent and gruesome moment from Lokesh Kanagaraj’s filmography (which, for the record, houses disturbing scenes like a man being inflamed in front of his family and a woman getting beheaded in a car) is Kamal Haasan shoving a loaded pen stand into the mouth of a bad guy. Kamal doesn’t stop there. As the man stands up, with blood pouring out of his mouth, Kamal goes on to hit him again in the mouth, shoving the objects of the pen stand with more force. That’s Lokesh for you. His violence is disturbing both in the form of ideas and imagery.