I’m afraid there’s no other way to say it: Kabali is a drag. And that’s because the man, oops, the Superstar of Superstars, a phrase used for Rajinikanth minus any irony, comes off same-old.
Everything that Rajini does to spark untold hysteria amongst his die-hard fans is in here: the dress code ( three piece suits ), the dark glasses, the lines only Rajini can say, the kicks and punches only he can deliver. But the formula is now frayed and tired: there’s neither swag nor swagger.
There comes a time when even Rajini has to reinvent, and this is it. He has been playing In and As to such adulation for so long that his directors have long stopped bothering about such things as plot and characterisation. When Rajini is on and at it, who cares?
Actually, let me amend that. Kabali does make an attempt at a plot. Kabaliswaran aka Kabali is the firebrand leader of a group of Tamil indentured labour in the Malaysian rubber plantations. A skirmish between the owners and the labour turns into a tragedy, and Kabali transforms from regular guy into an grizzled gang-boss.
There could have been something there, given the history. But the treatment is both half-baked and half-hearted. Despite it being shot in Malaysia (new locations), the arch-villain being a local (new face), and the superstar given not one but two pretty young women (Apte as wife, Dhansika as daughter) as adoring satellites, this bloated, overlong enterprise cannot hide the fact that the superstar is distinctly slower, less nimble on his feet, making the holes in the film much more visible.
Even the excitable fans present at the first-day first-show who kept up a steady thrum of cheers, hoots and whistles in the beginning, which included the famed ‘entry’ to the first few action sequences, became subdued all too soon.
As for the rest of us, it was a time to witness just how a huge star who still has presence can be on the cusp of fading. If he’s not careful the next time around.
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