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Kabali without Superstar Rajinikanth

Kabali - Rajinikanth = A big question mark? Would Kabali, as voiced by many, have failed without Rajinikanth? What would’ve been the expectations for the film sans the superstar? What sort of differences would one have seen in a script without that one name? All of them are a huge question mark. But having watched the movie six times now, and having closely followed the interviews and press releases from the team, I have an analysis which I enlist below.

In any film, the story has to be the hero. The moment the makers confuse themselves with other notions, the film loses shelf life. We’ve of course seen movies like that before, ones banking broadly on the brawn and bust of the cast’s star power. A critical analysis of such films from the standpoint that whether they were accepted by audiences from other parts of the country would yield contrasting and opposing reviews. Mainly because a person of another language would’ve stripped the movie of its star power and only the story would’ve spoken to him. Isn’t that what happens when we watch movies of Bollywood superstars? So, the question to ask is whether a person who has never heard of Rajinikanth before would have liked Kabali. More realistically, would audiences have liked Kabali without Rajinikanth? The answer is a well thought out ‘yes’.

After watching the early morning show on 22nd July, I faced grave disappointment mainly because I had stepped in to watch the movie with great expectations. But five thoroughly exhilarating shows later, I’ve become a forerunner of the trending notion that Kabali is a slow poison.  Whatever is important for a script - premise, plot, characterisation, dialogues, screenplay, music and cinematography, I deduced them to be very strong. More importantly, I found all parameters to be very original and unique. All characters were given required importance and weightage.

Whether the script would’ve been as engaging without Rajinikanth as Kabali is debatable. For that matter, imagining anyone else delivering the ‘Nambiyar’ dialogue doesn’t yield comparative results to me. Even though Ranjith has reinstated the fact that he wrote the script keeping Rajinikanth far out of his mind, it cannot be refused that certain scenes such as the Nambiyar scene were written since it had the support of the superstar’s prevalent charisma. But on the contrary isn’t it sensible to think that Ranjith would’ve included scenes that would’ve added to the engagement factor if it didn’t have Rajini? Moreover, some compromises were evident such as the climax which seemed to be catering to a fan’s wish. Had Kabali been scripted without the Superstar, probably there would’ve been more realism in the film which would’ve balanced out the engagement factor.

Tradewise, obviously the film wouldn’t have had the same collection. The greatest bar raiser in terms of expectation was the fact that for the first time we were going to see Rajini acting his age and that after a long time we were going to see him in a gangster script. The worldwide reach the film had would probably have been lower if it was anyone else playing Kabali.

I wouldn’t call people with negative reviews of Kabali as haters. Because after watching it for the first time, I too was disappointed. But rather, I’d say the people with critical opinions of the film are yet to realise its magic. Nobody other than the ultra-charismatic superstar of our times could have done justice to the character Kabali. But the point is, if there was somebody else playing the role too, it still would have been a successful script, provided they gave it their best.

It is with grave guilt that I admit, from a person who made the statement “Kabali is a watchable film only for Rajinikanth” to a person who now says “Kabali is a great film even without Rajinikanth,” the movie has made me change my opinions. Isn’t that the biggest triumph for a creator?

Kabali without Rajinkanth wouldn’t have had the fanfare, but still would’ve been a fun fare too. Just so you know, many works of art weren’t accepted in their times.

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