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Why didn't Kabali work on FDFS?

Rajini. The very name spells applause, whistles and celebrations backed up by a fervour that is bound to get even the peaceful moviegoers jumping in joy. With a well established template, Rajini not only strengthened his position as one of Kollywood’s leading star, but also as India’s leading star. Everyone knows it’s like being touched by the gifted hand of boon to celebrate such a stardom.

But what are the downturns to this? Aside from the fact that every winner comes with his own plate of haters,it is the fact that when our superstar tries something different, we are in a robust mind frame to cheer the same star who has entertained us for years. Why? Are there other reasons why Kabali was met with mixed response. This write up is a small analysis from a Rajini fan who adores him as the ruler of the silver screen.

To start off with let’s begin with how the hype picked up momentum. The second the movie was announced, we had immense expectations about the final product. We were rubbing our hands with excitement when we heard that Rajini will be in a new avatar where he plays his age. Many announcements followed this and the anticipation meter slowly started rising. Kabali soon enough, was like the morning coffee .Without any second thoughts, we can conclude that the aroma is enticing enough.


So what happened after that? The teaser happened. Many of the multiple goosebumps sequences present in the movie, were revealed in the teaser. The highlights of the movie were already out. And then Neruppu da went viral. It was during this time that Pa. Ranjith had started revealing that the movie will be an emotional roller coaster ride. Without holding back, the makers raced forward with the second teaser. Here is where, in my humble opinion, I feel that maybe a little alteration would have worked better for the movie. Why not a teaser which shows the emotional side of the movie? Frequent revelations from the director Pa. Ranjith about the style of the movie did occur, but when it comes to weightage given to interviews and teasers, teasers frequently take the upper hand.


Aiding the second teaser were a set of promotional activities. The scale of it was colossal. Every domain was almost taken head on, starting from SIM card to exclusive fights. Such a gargantuan move lead to a popular belief that the movie will be cracking like a chain of firecrackers, like the regular commercial Rajinikanth movies that we are all used to.Slowly, the festive mood that can be fondly associated with with every Rajinikanth movie did set in.

And with this mood at the peak, the movie released. Until now we were looking at the prerelease aspects. But now let’s take a look at what happened after the release of the movie

Swallowing many other necessary reminders, the only thing running on everyone’s mind was: “Rajinikanth movie”. Many, including myself failed to step back and think about the following , even after watching the movie :

1. The other side.There is another side to an ageing don. It’s not about his fight with the outside world or his rivals. It is about the longing wait to reunite with his wife. The emotional roller coaster ride that he goes through during that period. The everlasting painful wait, is something that our superstar handles with maturity and delicacy (The comparisons with Thalapathi cease here as in Thalapathi we see him deal with all these in a intense manner, where every syllable of the pain is spelled out clearly. The pain is gushed out like the flow of a river and it’s understandable as he plays a local rogue who belongs to the middle age)

2. There are encounters with the rival gang but what is forgotten is the fact that this begins with the search for his wife, Kumudha. And all along it is, at least remotely related to this search for his wife. This is the soul of the movie and Pa.Ranjith tries to stick to it even while weaving a subplot.

3. It is safe to assume that being an aged gangster he must have seen quite a lot in his life. Now imagine this. You are having a friendly conversation with a 60 year old friendly individual. The way he handles all the topics will be quite similar to the way Kabali handled the questions thrown at him during the graduation ceremony. 

4. The dialogues. The dialogues do have a lot of depth. There were layers that required introspection and required us to pause, think and associate the meaning with examples.  A lot of Malaysian slang was used, but that is part and parcel of Ranjith’s groundwork

5. Even those who were not too apprehensive about the movie will be in a state to accept this. Director Pa.Ranjith has done his research work. Be it the pull up scene when he is released from the prison or rests his palm on his arm while being greeted during the run of “Ulagam Oruvanukka” song, Pa.Ranjith has got most of it spot on.

6. The characterisation was found to be one vague roadblock. Or was it? Associate the characterisation with 2 aspects. The character of both Anbu and Kaali in Madras. They were not shown to be exceptionally powerful heroes who took on truckloads of villains. Yet they were powerful enough to raise a voice for troublesome issues. Just that here the background premise is different. And the issues for which Kabali is raising his voice for also different.

Now associate the very same character with Kaali from Mullum Malarum. Someone who has an anguish on one section of the society but still is deeply rooted with family values.

7. Affiliation? This is where we, as audience from Tamil Nadu can’t associate with it much. This movie deals with the life of Tamilians in Malaysia and no wonder not many Indians were able to relate to it. But just ask any Tamilian from Malaysia and you will realise that Pa.Ranjith has spiced with a local flavor. Just that the local flavour belongs to Malaysia.

8. Stuck up between two ends? Pa.Ranjith has taken the most apt route according to me. We have often seen Rajinikanth as someone who takes on hordes of rivals. But here Ranjith maintains it under the line by showing him as someone who is human, but a don who does possess the requisite power. In my opinion he has struck the perfect balance: Human enough, but just a notch powerful than your average humans

With all these in mind, we can conclude that Ranjith has definitely tried to portray Rajinikanth as an apt aging gangster. As audience who have seen films like Mullum Malarum, Bhuvana oru Kelvikuri, Johnny and many similar movies, why have we of late stuck to Superstar’s image as something that is only mass and style. Rajinikanth is more than that. In fact, I love his earlier films more than anything. There is an odd magic in his old movies that one cannot explain - maybe the grey shades of struggle in those movies or maybe the weird fascination of portraying reality with a pinch of swagger that did not require tremulous efforts.

I’m not quoting Kabali is a perfect movie. It has it’s own set of flaws like the action sequence at the end which looked forced, the set of villains who somehow did not look convincingly powerful, etc. Plus I have already mentioned what the makers of the movie could have done different before the release of the movie. But, from the audience perspective, when the question as why it did not primarily work for many on the first watch rises, I realise that, having progressed well enough to appreciate movies like Uriyadi, Kuttram Kadithal,etc we have to yet reach that peak where we possess the maturity to disassociate popular stars with their well established templates. We are evolved enough to ensure that, although the soul of the movie might get misplaced in translation, it never loses its value. But we have to still make sure that we don’t misplace the translation. And as a small part of the regular movie audience, I am looking forward to the day when we, including me myself, are able to empathise with depth of the character in the movie and not with the actor who plays the role. I am sure we will, but I hope that change is just around the corner.

Until then I would be eagerly waiting with one memorable quote“ Ketta payan saar intha Rajini. Ivavalu yosika vechitaru. Oru masama orae padatha pathi pesa vechitaru”

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