When you walk into the theater for a Rajinikanth movie, and the lights dim out, every soul in the theater cries out in joy, even though it is an ad that starts playing.
Everyone is smiling in the theater. Their smiles are not just of joy, but of worship and veneration. Their smiles are the kind you get when your favorite star walks in front of you and shakes your hand. But for the Rajinikanth fans, Rajni walking on the screen is enough for them. The same kind of feverish expressions is captured by director Pa Ranjith in the movie too, when the actors worship this awesome man called “Kabali”.
And just like that,
Rajinikanth is the story, plot, action, songs, dance and direction in this movie.
Make no mistake. There is a story about something big and important – Tamilians getting exploited as foreign workers in Malaysia, and how they were not given equal wages by the British rulers. There is his gang warfare with a Chinese ganglord that takes the center stage later.
But that story is just the backdrop to Kabali’s story. And Kabali is Rajinikanth. And when Kabali is in the movie, how can the movie be about anything else. Even a character named Tamilvesan is shoved aside to accommodate him. It is Rajinikanth all the time. He calls the shots, he fights the best, he shoots the best, he romances the best.
And speaking of romance, he romances Radhika Apte in this movie which was a bit weird. Their romance is as awkward as it comes.
Because of a time leap, Radhika Apte should have gotten older too, but the filmmakers kept her young. There are no wrinkles on her face, arms or anywhere. They did not even bother to gray her hair.
She basically looks the same age as her daughter in the movie and in real life too.
The action, for once, is not really over the top
After seeing Telugu, Tamil, and Rohit Shetty movies, the action in Kabali is still toned down. It is unrealistic, but not really over the top all the time.
The movie actually glorifies Gang culture, as long as it is not into prostitution and drugs.
The background music is erratic and random rock music and rap songs start playing when Rajinikanth comes onscreen
One moment it is a sad scene, and violins are playing, it suddenly switches to hardcore rock fused with English hip-hop. The rock music is loud and the hip-hop is bad.
Radhika Apte is the only actor in the movie.
Rajini does melodrama, and the other supporting actors do melodrama and every other character is as good as a non-actor. Radhika Apte’s charm comes out in the flashback scenes.
Without her, the movie would lose its acting.
For all the style and charisma, Rajinikanth looks frail, and to hide that, they made him wear sunglasses for half the movie
The style is still all there. The charisma too.
But the action looks unconvincing. His walk is weak and the gun flails in his hand when he shoots, but the bullet still hits the bad guy in the head. He grips machetes and swords with a weak grip too, and you can see that he is getting too old for this kind of thing.
If I may be a bit crude, I feel Rajinikanth is just being exploited as a Golden Goose.
He comes on screen, does his signature moves, and the audience goes crazy, and the film makes money. It worked for all these years and it still works now.
There was a scene in which he was asked to dance, and he threw a step which looked forced, as if the director wants him to dance so that the audience would celebrate.
Sometimes I think we forget that Rajinikanth is more than just cigarette and goggle-flicking, uber attitude swag-man.