Pa Ranjith’s Kabali (2016) Movie Review
Movie Review: Kabali
Star Cast: Rajinikanth, Radhika Apte, Dhansika, Dinesh Ravi, Riythvika, Rosyam Nor, Winston Chalo, Kishore and Kalaiyarasan.
Music Composed by Santhosh Narayanan
Edited by Praveen KL
Cinematography by G Murali
Produced by V Creations
Directed by Pa. Ranjith
Censor Certificate: U & Runtime: 150 Minutes
If it’s a project featuring one of the biggest superstars of Indian cinema eagerly awaited by his fan base in the south (As Rajinikanth previous avatar as Don was in Baasha & movie was a trendsetter), then it’s nothing less than a big filmic fête in an incredible style, not even seen in the case of biggest Telugu stars to be honest. With India’s highest viewed teaser, more than 200 crores pre-business, 100 (direct/indirect) associated brands with the movie & more than 4000 screens showcasing the film, it just can’t get any bigger.
Rajinikanth hasn’t been having the best of times lately. His last 2 films have struggled at box office due to unfavorable response from the audience and reviewers alike. Now he is back with rising creative director Pa. Ranjith and this time they have opted to take popular gangster route. Will Rajinikanth be able to revivify the euphory of Baasha? Let’s find out.
The film opens as the eponymous gangster Kabaleeshwaran (Rajinikanth) is released out of jail after 25 long years. In the past, gangster Tony Lee (Winston Chao) & associated tried to kill his family and clear his path to lead infamous gang 43. What follows now is deftly paced reveal of Kabali’s world as an ex-gangster by means of his works, “they killed my wife” rampage, as deftly shot as it is wall to wall with goons shot full of holes.
There have been many gangster flicks in South India. But none was celebrated as much as the Baasha franchise. And the reason for that was because of the way every little thing was handled. Even if it’s a trip where they have to get something from someone, they do it with a élan. It was that attention to every detail that brought Baasha, its cult following. That is forthrightly missing in Kabali. The only scene that was a little close to Baasha standards was the introduction scene (though inspired from The Mechanic) where he warns the local don.
Rajinikanth movies need you to keep your eyes far off the story. But Pa. Ranjith’s source material that it banks on cannot be attributed to any one particular film of the past. Rather, it’s a thorough gallimaufry of several potboilers (Chennakesava Reddy, Sopranos, The Mechanic, Taken, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Savages..etc) that have had their day long back. Even as some films remain formulaic to the core, the makers rework on the blueprint. Pa. Ranjith does nothing of the sort; a move right ahead along the beaten path and ensures that his film is a safe bet time-killer. (Except for the initial scenes where Rajini was shown reading Telangana writer YB Satyanarayana’s “My Father Baliah”, which talks about the oppression and suppression of Madiga caste and oppression faced due to Nizam revenue system in pre-independence era. It’s a master touch, nothing less from Pa. Ranjith. Where he takes the same point and builds a story about suppression of Indians in Malaysia and oppression faced due to Chinese people. Movie even provides references of Dalits, Che Guevera, Nelson Mondela, Charlie Chaplin, Fidel Castro, Gandhi, Ambedkar etc.. in a indirect way like the writer Y B Satyanarayana) May be Kabali was ambitious, but it set it targets real low. This is why it never takes itself too seriously and content being re-run.
The one thing that you will have to repeatedly knock down while watching the film is the feeling that you have seen this all before. Bearing in mind the talents involved in the film. It’s really a shame, and Pa Ranjith script looks like it has just emerged out of a fruit crusher with all the sap squeezed out. There is nothing that it has created on its own, and the washout plot is a huge disappointment.
On the music front, I liked the arrangement part of Santhosh Narayanan score more than his composition. The best one remains “Nippu Ra” track with incredible energy and singing, and I personally loved “Gunde Ninda Yenno” the most, for its soothing tune and meaningful lyrics. Background score is brilliant, aptly matches the situations on screen. Now about the best part of the movie which is its Cinematography. The dark frames and usage of limited space is perfectly done. The visual appeal of the movie is simply outstanding and unique. A better editing style by Praveen KL would have helped for the film’s pace and flow. Dialogues are okay, but the Telugu dubbing didn’t sync well with the mood of the film. Production values of V Creations are fantastic.
Superstar Rajinikanth is back in his famous form and movie has given the legend a rare chance to play his own age (nearly!..) for a large chunk of the runtime. Here was a man chagrined by his hotblooded youth, who is determined to somehow address the Tamil people oppression in Malaysia by becoming a gangster. It’s a rare opportunity to see a credible characterization, and Rajinikanth literally carries his part of the film on his shoulders by rising to the challenge. Rests of the characters in the film are quite restrained. I might be a tad more forgiving because I went in expecting some decent roles to lead characterizations. Radhika Apte seems worn out, but at least she is taking age in her stride. The villains Kishore, Winston Chao and Seenu play their part fine. Director Ranjith has given Dhansika an opportunity to showcase her acting chops, but she just ends up impressing with her tomboyish looks. The Kabali team – John Vijay, Kalaiyarasan and Dinesh Ravi have nothing much to do here.
Kabali is neither Rajinikanth’s typo potboiler nor Pa Rajith kinda realistic rural drama. This is misbegotten and under cooked attempt at action-drama. Filled with pliant emotion and wrapped up by dry narration, one way ticket squanders an good cast and tremendous promise on fallible structure. Hope our Superstar Rajinikanth will deliver something extraordinary with his next venture 2.0 rising above the routine.
Survi Review: 1/5 (0.25 more Thalaivar Rajinikanth looks)