Daddy of all Dons – Kabali movie Review

Kabali (2016)


Author’s Note: I’m in no way qualified enough to review a movie of Kabali’s stature. The following piece of text may or may not offend you. I would like to apologize in advance, if it does. Please do bear with me, as this is the first time I’m properly writing a movie review.

Kabaleeswaran(aka Kabali), the former leader of Malaysian Tamils, is released from jail after 25 years, for murder charges. The aged don goes in search of his abandoned wife, while dealing with Malaysia’s precarious drug mafia situation on the other side. How he goes about with his task forms the crux of the plot.

Tamilnadu is the land of cinema stars being revered and glorified. And no other star is adored and worshipped as much as Superstar Rajnikanth. He is more-or-less a demigod in this part of the world, where his on-screen super heroics and off-screen humility has always been cherished by the people.

Enter Kabali, the movie that had created expectations like none other. Bearing on his back the brunt of flops dating back to 2014, Rajnikanth had to deliver this time. The teaser of the movie, which had shattered Indian Youtube records, sky rocketed beliefs that Kabali would be the next Basha. It became one of the most hyped Indian movies of all time. The audio release was celebrated with much fanfare, and promotional flights touched the sky with the posters of the movie. First day ticket prices touched 5 figures, and the entire nation was talking about the Superstar’s comeback film.

The don of all dons, was touted to be here.

Director Ranjith, and The Superstar himself had stated that this movie would not have the usual “Rajnimania”, sprinkled with superhuman heroics and heavily improbable scenes of a hundred baddies being crushed at once. And boy, they weren’t lying. The movie would go down as one of Rajni’s cult films, as he had plenty of screen space to explore the actor in himself. The superstar Rajni takes a step back, while the actor Rajni takes a step forward. You have scenes where he’s emotionally broken, when he’s scared for his life, scared about the fate of his daughter and wife, when he’s worn down by age, and you instantly strike a chord with the characterization of Kabali. He took up a script that portrayed him as a normal human being, and since he was playing his actual real-life age predominantly in the movie, it was refreshing to watch. And just when you begin to think that Rajni isn’t going to load a Desert eagle and swagger down the villains, he does exactly that. (Pardon me for the mini militia reference 😛 )

Ranjith tries to achieve a classic balance between an emotionally moving story of an aged don in search of his estranged family, and a never-too-old-for-swag don who can come up with charismatic ways to bring his villains down. And somewhere in between, he seems to have lost his way. Kabali neither emotionally reaches you, nor does it kindle the WOW-HOW-DID-RAJNI-DO-THAT factor. Simply put, he promised both and produced none.

The sketching of the supporting cast was brilliant. Radhika Apte performed with finesse, while Saidhansika certainly swaggered through her role. Attakathi Dinesh’s performance certainly deserves a special mention, as he lightened the tone of the movie from time-to-time. And then came the sinners. Villain Winston Chow certainly made up for the lack of a proper comedian; Kishore hardly got the space to pull off something.
The film, on the whole, was a drag. You have lengthy dialogues from Rajni that are intended to bring forth applause (Did they?) ; You have abrupt pauses and breaks just when you think the movie is picking up pace; You have a subplot of Yogi suspecting their Chennai aides, which was completely irrelevant; You have an implicit sociopolitical message conveyed, which wasn’t even needed.

Santhosh Narayanan was certainly bang-on with the BGM, although at certain points he misplaced them. You certainly didn’t want to hear “Thum Thum Tha Ra Ra..” when retro Rajni flips his hair after gunning his enemy down. Neruppu Da was aptly used for the climax and during the unrealistic slaughtering of villains (Well, Ranjith had said this movie would be at its closest to reality, and legend has it that reality wasn’t defined properly in his dictionary). Maya Nadhi, Veera Thurandhara and Vaanam Paarthen all brought about the intended effects, and aided the cause of the movie well(Although at that point you would be wondering what the cause is).

On the whole, Kabali is heavily hyped, half-baked, neither here nor there and could have been better. You are robbed both of a good Rajni movie, and a good movie with Rajni in it. Maybe (And that’s a big MAYBE) if the teaser had never been released, if the expectations had never soared, this movie could have fared much better.

A review by Akshay Venkat, 2nd Year, CSE.