Kabali - Movie Review

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 13:00
Kabali (2016)
Cast & Crew: 

Movie: Kabali
Cast: Rajinikanth, Radhika Apte, Winston Chao, Nasser, Dhansika, Dinesh Ravi, Kishore, John Vijay, Riythvika and others
Dialogues: Sahithi
Lyrics: Anantha Sriram, Vanamali, Rama Jogaiah Sastry
Music: Santosh Narayan
Cinematography: G. Murali
Art Director: S Ravindar
Editor: Praveen K.L
Producers: Praveen Kumar Varma, K P Chowdhary
Written and Directed by: Pa Ranjith
Release Date: July 22, 2016
CBFC Rating: U
Runtime: 151 min

What's it about!
Gangster Kabali (Rajinikanth) is released from Malaysia jail after 25 years. He hunts for his rivals. Shoot-outs happen. He also supports a foundation Free Life that rehabilitates drug addicts and gangsters. The kids at this foundation's school ask him to narrate his story. In a flashback, the story of his rise as gangster, how he married Kundanvalli (Radhika Apte) and the incident that put him in jail is told. In a sudden development, he meets his daughter (Dhansika). Later a drug lord tells him that his wife is also alive. He and his daughter now head to India to search Kundanvalli.


After disappointing his fans and common audiences with his last two outings - 'Vikramasimha' and 'Linga', Superstar Rajinikanth has teamed up with an up and coming director Pa Ranjith to come out from his regular style and transform to playing matured roles. His purpose of doing this film seems to be playing a role that close to his age in real life.

On the surface, 'Kabali' seems a commercial gangster movie like his iconic blockbuster 'Baasha', but it isn't.  'Kabali' touches upon many topics - Tamils/Indians being ill-treated in Malaysia, gang wars, searching for family member, drugs issue, etc but none of them gel perfectly. Gang wars and family drama get more focus though.

Director Ranjith starts off the movie superbly by showcasing Rajinikanth in rather different manner. His introduction scene where he sits in jail reading 'My Father Balaiah' book is terrific. The slow motion walk shots, Hollywood-style action set pieces, and couple of punch dialogues set the mood right. The philosophical dialogue about freeing the birds from the cage tells the humane nature of the gangster Kabali.  The director establishes how Rajinikanth became a gangster and turned as a savior to local Indian people fighting against the Chinese in the beginning of the movie perfectly.

Though the drama moves at a leisure pace, it is on right track in the first 30 minutes. There after it takes on a different route.

The director then shifts the focus to Rajinikanth's craving to find his family - daughter and wife. While he gets daughter at the very beginning, the finding of his wife Valli takes an hour's runtime. There is lot of unnecessary scenes too like Rajinikanth and his daughter fearing every moment, and Rajinikanth moving from one place to other to find his wife. This goes on and on.

Suddenly the drama again is shifted to confrontational war between the Tony Lee, a Malaysian mafia don and Kabali. And the movie ends much like Manirathnam's 'Nayakudu' without proper justification.

What the director is trying to say through this movie, the main plot point gets lost in all this mayhem and confusion. Though there is an undercurrent theme of 'Dalit angst' with the dialogues like - "Gandhi chokka vippukoni undadam venuka, Ambedkar eppudu coat vesukovadam venuka chala rajakiyam undira", and "Nenu Rajyadikaram lenivadigane puttocchu kani naku palinche hakku undi." They appear as a fragmented ideas beneath the commercial elements.

Much of the movie, its setup and sequences also give us feel of déjà vu. There is definitely a style, a certain class but it misses the major factor that audience expects from a Rajini movie - clap worthy scenes or entertainment. There are no 'Seeti Maaro' punch dialogues either.

Despite playing an ageing man, Rajinikanth shows off the uber-cool style, mannerisms. He has come up with best performance after a long time. He has shown the emotional side in his acting. As always, superstar Rajinikanth and his stylish action is a delight to watch. He is terrific in both the shades of his character - young gangster, and an ageing don.

Radhika is perfect. But surprise package of the movie is Dhansika. She steals the show with her act.

'Kabali' is shot richly with good visuals cranked by cameraman G Murali. Santosh Narayan has given best background musical score but his songs don't sound good on the screen. His musical bg theme is riveting. The Telugu dialogues by Sahithi are perfect. Director Ranjith has come up with a confused plotline. He has ideas how to project Rajinikanth to the this generation of audiences but he seems to have bogged down by the star's huge image. His direction is flawed.

Bottom-line: Despite Rajinikanth in great form and has come up with terrific acting, 'Kabali' is a letdown. Rajinikanth's stylized performance, introduction scenes, some sequences in the second half are okay but rest of the movie is a bore. Watch it only for Rajinikanth!

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