For the number of times one might have heard Neruppu da (fire blazing fiercely), the hit track from Rajinikanth’s Kabali which released worldwide in cinemas on Friday (Thursday in the UAE), it isn’t unfair to expect some fire in the film too.
Unfortunately, you don’t even find a spark, neither in Ranjith’s story nor in the overall film. The only spark is in Rajinikanth’s performance and it’s a treat to see the 65-year-old superstar, acting his age effortlessly and as stylishly as we might have never seen him before. Rajinikanth makes a terrific comeback, especially after the debacle ofKochadaiiyaan and Lingaa. He displays his acting skills. The man is impeccably dressed and it’s lovely how Ranjith uses style as statement of equality which he explains sensibly towards the end during the climactic action block featuring Kabali and Tony Lee, played by Winston Chao. While it’s evident that age is catching up with the superstar, he still shines handsomely in a role that almost makes one want to root for the actor underneath the star status.
Kabali is a viscerally violent gangster film and amid all the bloodshed, betrayal and revenge, it’s the story of a gangster who is desperate to reunite with his family after being in jail for 25 years.As much as the gangster portions work despite weak villains, one wishes Ranjith concentrated on the family angle instead. This could have been a wonderful story of a former gangster and his search for his long lost family. Or it could have been a straightforward action film, say, like John Wick, with absolutely no compromises.
Kabali, however, tries to strike a balance and in doing so it ends up being neither a Rajinikanth film nor a Ranjith film.
Radhika Apte, who plays Kabali’s wife, scores over Rajinikanth even in her limited screen space. Dhansikaa, too, plays her part convincingly. It’s the rest of the cast including talented actors such as Kishore, John Vijay, Ritwika, Dinesh and Kalaiarasan who don’t quite leave an impact.
The confidence and earnestness with which Ranjith made Attakathiand Madras is absent in Kabali, and that’s disappointing.
Rating - 3/5