Darbar: An enthusiastic Rajinikanth propels this passable ‘bad cop’ film

My biggest relief about Darbar is that it dispelled concerns I had that they may have got Rajinikanth to play an unsuitably young man again. His character, Aaditya Arunasalam, thankfully, is the single father of a woman of marriable age. I mean, sure, he still gets a cursory love angle with a woman many years younger than him, but the film is almost apologetic about this age difference between its male star and its heroine. “Idhellaam indha vayasula panradha?” asks Aaditya himself, embarrassed about making advances on Nayanthara’s character, Lily. “Illa dhaan, enna panradhu?” retorts his colleague, played by the omnipresent Yogi Babu, who, with this dialogue, could be talking on behalf of both the director and the actor, conveying perhaps a sense of coercion they feel about including such a love angle. This probably explains why Lily has very little to do (the choice of such characters feel like a calculated move from Nayanthara to use as fuel for the less star-centric films she does). You could pose the fair question that it’s perhaps unfair to point out the age difference between two characters in love, and ask why it’s wrong of an older man to covet a younger woman. This question is especially pertinent in a film like this where the woman isn’t shown to be entranced by this ageless hero, and one in which the hero’s advance is marked by some tentativeness. This film is aware of this, and gets Aaditya’s daughter, Valli (a totally likeable Nivetha Thomas), to say it’s not fair that society makes it difficult for older people to find love. These are interesting portions in Darbar. But enough about this romantic love that Darbar isn’t really about. How’s Rajinikanth as a cop, you ask?

Director: AR Murugadoss
Cast: Rajinikanth, Nivetha Thomas, Yogi Babu, Nayanthara

This cop, with a daughter, looks at some women at his station, and says, “Ennama pombalaingalaam inga vandhurkinga?” But that question is a problem with the writing, not so much with Rajinikanth’s portrayal of a police commissioner, which I did not mind in Darbar at all. His Aaditya Arunasalam is a fairly hands-on cop, defined by his willingness to put himself in harm’s way first. But I suppose that’s because he’s a bit like Breaking Bad’s Walter White in a sense. He is not in danger; he is the danger. Notice that opening underwhelming introduction scene as he descends on rowdies from above, literally—this ‘god of commercial cinema’ armed with a trademark Murugadoss weapon (of which there’s a more inventive variety that comes later on in the film). Aaditya is shown to be revelling in these murders—that are shot like video game kills. He calls himself a “baaad cop” (a reference to Annamalai, of course). The newspapers, meanwhile, more accurately, call him a ‘mad cop’. Murugadoss goes on to provide him with reasons why he’s become so bloodthirsty, why he’s a sanctioned killer with a katana. And yet, it’s important to note the glee with which these murders are shot, especially in times like these. Circumstances may have resulted in this policeman becoming unhinged, but it’s important to recognise that a policeman who kills people, even criminals, with impunity is a ‘mad cop’. It is important, I think, to be suspicious of the politics of a film like this because well before tragedy strikes Aaditya’s life, he’s already shown to put bullets into a prisoner for standing proxy for another. But of course, Murugadoss knows this isn’t enough justification; so he suddenly seems to cook up a story about this proxy prisoner is a murderer… of the elderly, no less. It’s quite evidently manipulative.

(Continued in below link)

For the remainder of this review (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), please visit https://www.cinemaexpress.com/reviews/tamil/2020/jan/09/darbar-movie-review-an-enthusiastic-rajinikanth-propels-this-passable-bad-cop-film-16446.html

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