Kabali: Not a brooding don, apparently

 

Sorry, but there’s no getting away from Kabali, this week. Its teaser has raked in astonishing figures—almost 60 lakh views in a little more than a day; on average, about 3,300 people watching it every minute since its release. The teaser has also helped dispel a few general notions about the Ranjith-Rajinikanth collaboration. For instance, if you were smacking your lips in anticipation of a brooding, subtle gangster flick, the teaser seems to be suggesting that you will have to look elsewhere. Kabali, it appears, isn’t a tightlipped don, content to relegate himself into the background, and make things happen with simple gestures like a frown, a shake of his head, or a phone call. Social media was abuzz with the inevitable Godfather comparisons before the release of the teaser—those who dreamed that Kabali would probably be Rajinikanth’s version of an elderly Vito Corleone, a master of diplomacy and a quiet, yet powerful, protector of his family.

If the teaser is anything to go by though—and it may well have been craftily designed to be misleading, of course—Kabali seems like the sort of crowd-pleasing charmer that Chitty turns into later on in Enthiran. Chitty mimicked the bleating of a sheep in that famous scene towards the end, while Kabali, here, mimicks M. N. Nambiar. As his hand rises alongside his body, and his voice thunders, “Kabali da!”, you can, if you squint hard enough, almost see Sivaji, with a similar gesture, saying, “Chumma adhurudhulla?” A friend simply called it Ranjith doing a Rajini film, as opposed to Rajini doing a Ranjith film. It’s perhaps too early to say that, but there are enough indications to suggest that Ranjith has not restrained himself from biting into the sort of masala moments that went into making a star out of this actor.

But, credit where credit is due. He hasn’t cast Rajini as a 30-something man, save for the flashback. Rajini seems at home playing his age, and after Padayappa, which released 17 years ago, this is the first time he’s doing so. So, you don’t really pick on the quiver in his voice when he says, “Andha madhiri Kabali nu nenachiya da?” This is in contrast to films like Baba and Lingaa, where you weren’t really convinced that he exuded the sort of vigour you’d expect to see in a young man.

The biggest takeaway from the teaser, no doubt, is Santosh Narayanan’s music. “Neruppu da!’ screams the raw, almost rustic, male voice we have now come to associate with his music (remember Jigarthanda’s ‘Ding dong’?). I was among those eager to see how his brand of folk-meets-international music would go with the star status of Rajinikanth. On first sight, the results seem quite terrific.

Overall, save for the initial jolt you feel when exposed to Kabali’s theatrics, there isn’t much to be disappointed about, and it’s fitting that the teaser ends with a word that summarises the emotions of those who have been restless for a quality Rajinikanth film: Magizhchi. That’s the sort of quiet confidence the posters of Kabali promised, even if it appears that Ranjith’s Rajinikanth has enough strength to kick away goons, while swinging from poles. Perhaps he’s trying to say that Kabali maybe old, but he’s still got it. And as the response to the YouTube videos has shown, it seems that this applies to Rajinikanth himself.

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