Kabali Ra! I finally got to witness what the hype was about with Kabali and its failure to please the audience and critics alike (though Rajinikanth’s craze seemed to work wonders for the film’s box office openings). I have to say, while it does have its flaws, the film does have some things going for it and isn’t as bad as most of the talk has been.
Katha, Screenplay, Darsakathvam
I don’t believe in spoiling the plot of a film before watching it. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and would like to know the plot, you can read more about it here.
With Kabali being his third film, Pa. Ranjith can be considered a relatively new director, especially considering the number of years Rajinikanth has been in the industry. In this film, he attempts to pull off a gangster revenge drama with Rajini, but the key problem with this pairing is that Rajini is getting old. A film of this genre needs a lot of well-planned suspense and thrilling action, but Kabali falls short in both of these categories. Because of his age, I can imagine Rajini couldn’t pull of too many action sequences here (unlike in films like Robo where CGI could make wonders happen), but the blame can’t completely fall on his shoulders because Rajini does fit well in the few fight scenes that the film does have. A part the blame should also fall on the amount of exposition that this film has as it takes forever to get the ground running, even after the first murder which happens fairly early on. Better pacing and crisper editing could have really helped the overall output, ensuring that the scenes with suspense and action in the film don’t just drown out in the mess of emotional drama and explanation of societal issues.
Since this is a dubbed film, some of the dialogues were a hit or miss. I personally didn’t feel like the punch dialogue “Manchidhi” was that powerful, but some of Rajini’s other dialogues make up for it. In addition, the director included a variety of concepts in the film that weren’t explained properly. For example, what does Kabali’s gang do exactly? How does the nonprofit that they make run? The film revolves around the issues that Indians face in Malaysia, but doesn’t really explain how Kabali solves those issues. Finally, there were a number of twists in this movie, but they weren’t all delivered as effectively as they could have been. Dhansika’s twist was probably my favorite because it changed the mood of the film, but there were too many convenient solutions that I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I should have been by the end of the film. Speaking of the end, I also didn’t like the ending of the film, because it was just too commercial. While I appreciate cliffhangers, I just didn’t feel like this film didn’t need one.
The superstar has certainly aged over the years, but his performance is perfected nonetheless. He blends well as the good natured gangster leader and also emotes well in the more dramatic sequences. Nevertheless, his character does recover a little too conveniently from the conflicts that he faces. Adding a touch of realism here might have actually done wonders.
Radhika plays an important role as Kabali’s wife, but is more effective as an emotional motivator for Kabali than an actual character. Her presence is actually quite minimal and she conveniently disappears before the climactic ending.
Dhansika is probably my favorite character in this film, and that says a lot cause there are a lot of characters (albeit few likeable ones). Her character is badass and stylish, which is quite against the norm for a female lead character, but she should have gotten her due for the remainder of the film because, after a point, her skills and effectiveness as a trained assassin are sidelined to make space for Kabali.
Winston does a fantastic job of portraying the power-hungry and manipulating rival and I liked the touch when he tries to deliver dialogues to mimic Kabali’s dialogues and attitude.
Dhinesh Ravi plays a violent sidekick, but his over-enthusiastic responses to Kabali were almost comedic. Kumaran is effective as the double agent and misguided son of a victim. Kishore is the villain beneath Winston in the film and he also does a wonderful job of being manipulative and loathsome. The rest of the actors do a decent job of their roles but aren’t as noteworthy.
Santhosh Narayanan directed the music for this film and is somewhat lacking in terms of songs. There aren’t that many melodious or catchy songs which does detract from the overall appeal, but the BGM for the film is electrifying and does make up to an extent considering the genre of the film.
G. Murali has had some interesting films to his credit (Madras, Andala Rakshasi and Kshanam), but Kabali is definitely the biggest in terms of fame and budget. The film covers a lot of different international locales that are scenic and modern, and the action scenes weren’t too jarring but still pretty stylish.
Overall, Kabali does have a number of flaws that detract from its potential, but does have a solid base from which it could have built the thrilling, action-filled drama that it should have been.
Expect a lot of violence and murder, both of which escalate as the film progresses.
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