On June 2, 2022, at 10:11 pm, hours before the first screening of his highly anticipated Vikram, filmmaker Lokesh Kanagaraj posted a statement to express his gratitude and excitement. Although most of it was a formally worded, heartfelt short-and-sweet statement from a self-confessed fanboy to his idol, the storyteller in him broke the internet with the last line. “We hope you enjoy it (Vikram) and have an amazing theatre experience! And please do revisit ‘Kaithi’ before getting into the world of ‘Vikram’.”
I wonder if Lokesh had any clue about the gleeful madness his statement would instigate moments after he posted it, acknowledging speculations about him creating a shared universe for his films. People started posting screenshots from Kaithi, pointing out the trivial, ambiguous spaces of the 2019 actioner, hoping and predicting Vikram to fill in the blanks as it takes the story forward. Entertainment journalists had to file stories mid-night, considering it was nothing short of industry-defining breaking news! The excitement was palpable in the air. We were finally getting a cinematic universe that would double up as a bloody playground for our stars to flex their muscles and play swashbuckling action heroes. It was a delicious, supremely exciting prospect!
When Dilli (Karthi) from Kaithi was forced by Bejoy (Narain) to save his fellow cops who were poisoned after they ceased a heavy load of drugs and weaponry owned by Das (Arjun Das), we had no clue that the events that follow would lead to the creation of an action film universe. When the titular character of Vikram (Kamal Haasan) teamed up with Bejoy (whose family was murdered after he succeeded in Kaithi) to take down the drug cartel and create a drug-free society, the entry of Rolex (Suriya) at the film’s tail end indicated only the beginning of a bigger story. The idea of a cinematic universe is pretty new to Indian cinema and the anticipation and enthusiasm to see a home-grown film universe is completely valid.
And to be honest, much of this excitement has remained unscathed throughout the production timeline of Leo and is on its way to hitting the roof as the release of the Vijay-starrer inches closer. It’s hard not to be excited by the idea of Vijay playing a badass in ‘Lokesh Cinematic Universe (LCU)’ and as this universe grows bigger in size and scale, so do the possibilities of its prominent characters like Vikram, Dilli, Rolex, Amar and now, Leo (hopefully), crossing paths. If that happens, how is it going to be made possible? Will Leo lock horns with Rolex? Will Vikram make a surprise appearance in Leo? Will Lokesh Kanagaraj post another statement, asking us to revisit Vikram before entering the world of Leo? We can’t wait to see how it happens but we hope it’ll be glorious nevertheless. With hardly a day left for Leo, let’s take a look at some of the possible directions the story could go in.
The trailer of Leo opens with Vijay's character narrating a deadly situation involving a serial killer who is gunning down people at the centre of the city. We get flashes of an unnamed character played by Sandy, with an impressionable close-up shot particularly demanding us to look at his eyes. The eyes. If you remember, Rolex, who took LCU to the next level at the end of Vikram (2022) had similar eyes. Is Sandy's character the younger version of Rolex? Coming up with this theory is not a crime but there’s a strong counter to this possibility. In a brief shot from the trailer, Sandy’s character is seen getting thrashed by Vijay to a pulp in what looks like a bakery setting. Going by the existing promotional material, Vijay’s Parthiban is leading a simple and peaceful life running a bakery in the present in Himachal Pradesh. That would mean this serial killer exists in the present and not in Parthiban’s past. This rules out the possibility of the lad being a younger version of Rolex; moreover, who would want to see the menacing Rolex get thrashed by someone else? If he is not Rolex, is he related to Rolex? What if Parthiban kills this youngster and that sparks an ugly enmity between him and Rolex? Moreover, do Leo and Rolex share a bloody past? Will Sandy's character be the bloody link connecting these two violent men?
Well, this is a quite apparent fact. Leo Das, Antony Das (Sanjay Dutt), and Harold Das (Arjun) could very well be brothers. And there are already speculations about Leo being an adaptation of A History of Violence, in which case, the brother theory is pretty solidified since the main villain in the David Cronenberg film is Richie Cusack who is chasing his brother Joey Cusack, who has left his violent past behind him. In Leo, Sanjay Dutt is likely to be the big brother who wants Parthiban aka Leo to come back into the world of crime. It also makes sense why Sanjay Dutt is seen in Himachal Pradesh, exiting a restaurant in the trailer; he is perhaps intensely searching for his brother. More interestingly, Arjun Das played a criminal named Dos (who could very well be Das) in Kaithi. All of them being related is highly possible.
In a Lokesh Kanagaraj action film, nobody is safe. Especially wives of prominent male characters. We have all seen the horrible fate of Amar’s wife, Gayathrie, in Vikram. It was also said that Bejoy’s wife and children were murdered brutally in front of his eyes. We were also told that Dilli’s wife died during childbirth. Looking at the fate of women in Lokesh’s films, we are naturally worried about the fate of Trisha in Leo. In addition to Trisha, there’s also Priya Anand, who seems to be playing the wife of Gautham Menon’s police officer, and it’s a precarious position to be in, the history of Tamil films indicates. The cops in Gautham Menon films have always been subject to the pain of losing their wives and Lokesh might give the filmmaker-actor a taste of his own medicine, regardless of how morbidly funny this prospect may sound.
Moreover, a constant criticism being levied against Lokesh has been the lack of strong female characters in his films and the filmmaker himself stated that he has tried to fix this shortcoming in Leo. That kind of reassures us that Trisha might not meet with the same fate, but with Priya Anand, we can never be so sure. Last but not least, Madonna Sebastian was officially cast in the film but her character hasn’t appeared in any of the promotional material so far, meaning she could be the character that changes everything, and we hope she doesn’t meet with the same fate as other women, even though the probability is high.
From the promotional material, Harold Das (Arjun) seems to be a gangster operating from Andhra Pradesh, as indicated by his car registration number. There’s also a shot in the trailer set in a forest in Andhra Pradesh, meaning the story is somehow linked to the Telugu states. And ever since the project’s announcement, Telugu movie enthusiasts have been hoping for a Telugu star’s cameo in the film and recently, social media has been flooded with speculations about RRR star Ram Charan being featured in a cameo. If that’s true, that’s where the Andhra connection could come in handy.
Kaithi’s standout character Napoleon (George Maryan) is a constable who defends the police headquarters from the ruthless Das and his army. He was supposed to be featured in a scene in Vikram, in the same prison where Bejoy and his team are locked up, but the scene didn’t make it to the final cut, Lokesh stated in an interview. That being said, Napoleon is expected to return in Leo since the actor was present at the film’s official launch event. Lokesh also stated in the past that he would have to be careful about casting actors from LCU in his standalone films because that might lead to unnecessary confusion among audiences. Considering Lokesh has been mindful of the theories a casting choice might lead to, George Maryan’s presence at the film’s event means only one thing: he is returning as NapoLEOn.