Kabali Review, What’s Behind: Super star Rajinikanth, more than a demigod and just less than a god has finally given his darshan as Kabali today in theaters. This globally hyped film kept the expectations pinned above the sky. Rajini is the just reason for all this. Whether director Ranjith Pa stood up to these expectations or not, let us read in the review.
Kabali Story: To begin with, Kabaleeshwaran aka Kabali (Rajinikanth) gets released from a prison in Malaysian capital city Kuala Lumpur. Distinguishing this freedom from last 25 years in jail, Kabali heading one of the local gangs in city meets his gang members to analyze the effect of their opposition in ruthless criminal Mafia Gang 43 framed by Tony Woo from China supported by an Indian (Kishore). While Kabali gang fights against drugs, woman trafficking, prostitution and other crimes along with uplifting the Indians living standards in Malaysia, his rivals always pose a problem. Gangster Kabali also has a personal rivalry with Tony Woo for killing his wife Kundana Valli (Radhika Apte) and daughter Yogi (Dhansika). As Kabali begins the mission with dual pronged strategy to eliminate Tony Woo on one side and bring peace in Kuala Lumpur on other side, shocking twist comes before in the form of his wife and daughter being still alive. How Kabali balances both is rest of the action.
Kabali Artists and Technicians: Basically, Rajini is familiar for stylish mannerisms, strong punch lines, racy action and nevertheless free portrayal of emotions. Director Ranjith Pa hasn’t made any mistake in holding these qualities into Kabali character design. What went absolutely wrong are a clichéd storyline, destitute screenplay and snail paced narration. Kabali is fundamentally a simple and plain revenge drama with no big sparks. With present fast track generation audience, this sort of treatment can never gel well. Audience or at least Telugu audiences expect larger than life characterization for Rajini, something as big as Baasha or Nara Simha. In contrast, Ranjith Pa depended more on realistic treatment presented on lethargic screenplay.
Dialogues were a total dud. This is first department to be blamed. Mano, who usually dubs for Rajini’s voice failed to add needed ferocity for this subsided Kabali role. Cameraman G Murali wrongly believed that Rajini’s heroism can be enhanced more only with slow-motion shots. Every time, when we expect Rajini to explode… these shots suppressed the vigor. However, he showed elegance in catching the beauty of Malaysia. Praveen KL’s editing followed a ritual. Music composer Santosh Narayanan’s Kabali theme song is hair-rising and his RR has also set a distinctive mood. Production values from Kalaipuli S Thanu and Shanmukha Creations are top notch.
As ageing Mafia Don, Super Star’s charisma is startling. All the costumes designed for Kabali are stunning. Despite Rajini’s physical fitness seemed doubtful, he managed to pull off the show. This time, Rajini scored more on emotional front. Episodes involving Rajini, Radhika Apte and Rajini, Dhansika are biggest positives. In practical terms, Rajini resembled more of a Kamal Hasan in ‘Nayakudu’ but with his own aura of style. Radhika Apte perfectly suited for Kabali’s wife role. One more time, she proves to be a superb artist despite there’s a big age difference between hero, heroine. Dhansika springs a surprise making first half come alive. Her character goes totally insignificant in second half. Kishore and other artists who have done gang members in both the gangs failed to explode. Rest does not need any mention.
Kabali Rating Analysis: Ranjith Pa has the track record of dealing his past films with strong realistic treatment which hasn’t worked on Rajinikanth. Missing commercial elements, unfamiliar nativity, underplayed hero characterization, slow paced narration and many more such factors dampened the overall effect. Why should Telugu audience connect with Malaysian backdrop? Nowhere, the plight of Indians in Malaysia is presented effectively. Adding more to the troubles, Chinese don further devastates us from finding an emotional bond. In one perspective, Kabali is dominated with powerful family drama while revenge and action are side tracked thus lacking in those Fan moments. Well, never talk about comedy… there’s no space.
Analyzing the two halves, Rajini’s powerful introduction followed by picking up at the prison, welcoming at the institution and other plot establishment scenes were in a total non-sync. It was hard to believe Rajini as a messiah. Ranjith Pa’s execution skills shattered our expectations in the very first 30 minutes. Blending the past and present moving towards interval, Dhansika lifted the first half spirits with her glorious performance. Without Dhansika, even Rajini could have done nothing to this unobtrusive first half.
Towards the second half, Ranjith Pa’s screenplay was heartwarming as whole episode of Rajini, Dhansika flying to India in search of Radhika saved the second half. Later on, the basic conflict of Hero Vs Villains take us towards climax shot on outdated mode.
Kabali happens to be a film released with expectations as big as Baasha or Narasimha. But, the film is dampener in Rajini terms. Except Rajini’s magical presence and an emotional family thread, Kabali suffers on every step. Ranjith Pa could have made a far better film than this with Rajinikanth at his disposal. The film is definitely unworthy of hype and hoopla. Hardcore Rajini Fans in Telugu states will also be disheartened seeing Kabali thus passing it with 2.5 stars. Surely, the movie is going to open for mixed talk. Box Office wise, Monday will be the day of litmus test.
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Reviewed by Srivaas