Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Kabali

I liked Kabali. First, a disclaimer on my biases to help readers quickly decide whether to abandon this post after reading the first para. I fundamentally dislike glorification of cinema actors. My theory is the movie's story should organically bring out whatever coolness an actor supposedly has and not be made with the express purpose of showcasing some perceived coolness. It is one thing to party and have fun on FDFS of Rajini movies but it is also one of the least desirable human behaviors to consider someone 'thalaiva' and then go watch his movies just to see him move his body parts in slow-mo.  In the last 10 years upper caste/class douches (especially women) have suddenly discovered the coolness of being a Rajini fan and have tried to get on the bandwagon like an unwanted nerdy kid trying to get into a swimsuit party. Most upper class/caste Rajini "fans" remind me of Kumudha's IT colleague nerd boss in 'Idharku Dhaan aasai pattai Balakumara'. Given all these - I have mostly disliked Rajini movies that moves away from his traditional 'convey a simple comeback from behind story' platform and descends too much into hero worship (with Baasha ranking as his stupidest movie and worse than Naattukku Oru Nallavan, Pandian etc). However, this general disdain towards his movies hasn't stopped me from (a) watching all his movies and (b) liking him more than Kamalahasan in the recent past.

Now to Kabali. I wasn't planning on seeing the movie any time soon. But the fact that Rajini fans didn't like the movie gave me confidence that the movie might actually be good. I liked that the movie took its time to say things. I actually wished that it took more time to say the story fully well. Once Ranjith decided to make a slowish mood piece, I wish he'd done full justice to that choice. The class of the movie is evident in the way it makes Rajini search for his wife in a semi-prolonged way. It primes the situation up and builds pressure for a nice emotional release. Very similar to the build up to the Viswaroopam scene where Kamal reveals himself as a 'fighter'. This was the best part of the movie for me.  If they had abandoned the non-linear way of story telling it would have helped me appreciate the movie much better. This movie didn't need the slices of flashback to tell us about Kabali's rise and his love for Kumudha. It needed to start with it and spend a good 45 minutes on just that. In the first 30 minutes I didn't understand the extent of animosity between Rajini and the half dozen characters that are introduced in quick succession. There were so many of them that I stopped caring after a point. I also wasn't aware of how much Kabali loved Kumudha. I can't help but think that a powerful and detailed flashback (similar to the one in Ghajini) may have helped a lot. This movie is basically Nayagan and should've simply played out in a similar linear format. If a bunch of time is spent on establishing a character *before* an event then a whole lot of time does not need to be spent to explain the character's emotions *after* the event. I felt a trick was missed there.

The dalit undercurrent was as fascinating in Kabali as it was in Madras.  The dialog in the beginning where Kabali says (in the context of caged birds but obviously referring to boxed in humans) "Saava vida un karunai kodumaiyanadhu" was mind blowing. The reference to clothes, Ambedkar etc all provides a fascinating set up. Its just that Ranjith fails to cash in on this set up because (a) he hasn't spent time telling what made Kabali who he was and (b) he spend inordinate amount of time doing some stupid 'rajini style' scenes in the climax (the sequence at the top of tower where Rajini does a come back on the Chinese guy was plain nonsense). In the rest of the movie - the powerful dialogs were there but the situation wasn't there because Ranjith had not spent time setting it up. This actually significantly diminishes the impact of the dalit subtext Ranjith wanted to say. And this was a recurring theme of the movie for me - it would have worked much better had more screen time been spent on the rise and falling in love of Kabali as opposed to a retrospective look at his life in slices. At the end of every Rajini movie, I imagine if I would've liked the story had it been acted by a unknown actor. Most Rajini movies fail the test. This one sort of ended as a just pass.