Kahaani Ki Bali!
Rajinikant is such a phenomenon today that he now has to live up to that larger than life persona in the movies as well. He cannot be shown eating pakodas at a roadside stall, calling the baddies and saying, ‘parashakti hero da!’ or be shown beating up politicians who insult his sister while his auto rickshaw driver friends watch in awe or even drunk dance after asking the nadaswaram goshti to perform at a dhaba… This movie tries very hard to capture that magic, but the script stutters and fails, despite his ‘bahut khoob!’
At one time Rajini films would be known for his entrance, whether he appears as Baasha the don coming up below stairs to get into his car, or appear (cigar first) as Padaiyappa to save the ancestral house… Now the audience yelled and hooted and clapped and whistled because of the nostalgia. We see him reading a book in prison… that’s too tame a first look. Fans did not want him to see change prison gear for a suit, we just wanted to see him stride out to a Neruppa da welcome!
The pace of the movie is so slow you wish there were more action set pieces. There’s over an hour of telling the audience how he became the leader of the Indian plantation laborers in Malaysia and how the other leader took Kabali under his wing and how Kabali fell in love with a worker who becomes his wife.
The rivalry that turns into hatred between the Chinese workers and Indians is understandable, if you know the history of immigrant laborers. But from fighting for equal rights to turning into mafia is a transition that is a tad unbelievable. And even here, the morals have to be high. No dealing in drugs and girls. They good gondas. Even if we take the story as is, there are too many choppy edits and you’re saying, ‘Whaaaat?!’
And the flashbacks! Oh, the flashbacks! So badly done, you’d think Kabali’s wife Roopa (Radhika Apte) is pregnant for a lot longer than women usually are.
I’d take the handpump ripping scene from Baasha (which Sunny Deol copied in the Gadar in 2001), the pulling down of the swing in Padaiyappa, the tears in Mullum Mallarum as he bids farewell to his beloved Valli any day over the obvious ‘Rajini the super star is so great he does good by rehabilitating drug users’
You ask, where is the story? We’re all fans here! We don’t have to see him as a pale shadow of Baasha, we want him to make us want to dance in the aisles. We want him to walk to the frame and break a coconut with his head and dance ‘naan autokaaran autokaaran’ or at least a happy horse and buggy song as he did in Muthu. This movie just makes you sigh for Manik Baasha’s super chair scene where he kicks Albert’s butt. In fact every time Kabali sits on a chair, you know a gun or steel rod is going to appear from his sleeve so he can shoot or hit the bad guy in front. And yes, the audience is going to hear a lecture about doing the right thing.
The Chinese bad guy is overdressed and his dialog is so stilted you start wondering if the table where he eats his soup came from Inception.
Yes. The film exhausts everyone. As a Rajini fan, I have come away feeling demoralised. Was it the language? There is a Tamil, Telugu as well as the Hindi version. But it’s not that. It’s the lack of a story. It’s like a fanboy film. Is that why the star laughs at it so much?
(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)