Starring Rajinikanth, Suneil Shetty, Nayanthara,
Directed by A R Murugadoss
Rating: **(2 stars)
What do you expect from a Rajinikanth film? Well, you have all of it here, then some more. The A R Murugadoss touch of special violence (remember Asin being bludgeoned to a bloodied death in Ghajini?) comes into play in a big way as the Thailaiva cop act warms up towards a promised explosion that never comes.
Surprisingly the climax in this confrontational carnival of melodrama, mayhem, emotions and comedy, is a big letdown. It’s as though Murugadoss while writing out his love letter to Rajinikanth’s superstardom simply ran out of steam by the midpoint.
For sure this actioner has a more vibrant spin than his other recent films where Rajini tried to build on his swag by simply giving more of what the audience had already seen. Here in Darbar (well titled, because that’s what all of Rajni’s directors have collectively built, a harem of veneration) Murugadoss takes away the fun element from the Rajni image.
An iconic star is still a man of the masses fighting the evil elements with a ferocity that accommodates a distinct comic-book element. But on this occasion, the battle with the baddies is also very personal. We get to know this as the film progresses…if ‘progress’ is what one would like to see in a film that swiftly spirals out of control.
But before that Rajinikanth must dance. He must also romance Nayanthara, a very accomplished Tamil actress known to play powerful characters. Here she’s just silly Lily, more freely frilly than she would ever agree to be for any co-star except Rajinikanth. He still has the power to make every co-actor go weak in the knees. And that includes Suneil Shetty who plays Rajnikanth’s main adversary in a distracted tentative way, as if the big scene that was written for the villain never quite made it on screen.
Come to think of it, finding a match for Rajinikanth’s heroism is becoming problematic for filmmakers. Bollywood actors like Nana Patekar, Jackie Shroff and Suniel Shetty are roped in as the counterpoint to Rajini’s hefty heroics. But the script invariably short-changes all the other characters who stand around unsure of where they stand in the off-camera romance between the director and his hero.
Murugadoss’ homage to Rajinikanth’s stardom gives the star an agile seriocomic cop act which in time becomes a cop-out, as everything that his fans could possibly want is brought into play including a tender father-daughter relationship which just doesn’t seem real. Mumbai is shot well with some of the action conveying a blend of Jackie Chan and Anurag Kashyap.
But the novelty is only skin-deep. Rajinikanth long ago stopped living real emotions on screen. What we see is a giant cut-out version of the real man who this time takes on Mumbai’s drug cartel. The trouble is, the narrative drugged in a state of awe for its leading man. Every time Rajini beats up the goons, there is applause.
That’s the director, clearly enjoying the making the film more than we do watch it. Making it worse is the awful Hindi dubbing which turns Tamil punch-lines into Mumbaiyya ‘paunch’-lines. While knocking off 20 years from Rajnikanth’s real age, Darbar also throws all sense and sensibility out of the exercise of yet another Rajini special.
Can we please have Rajinikanth being directed by a someone who is not a fan?