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Kabali  : Mayhem In Malaysia
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Are you kidding?
Friday, July 22, 2016
Pa. Ranjith
Rajinikanth, Radhika Apte, Winston Chao, Dhansika, Dinesh Ravi

The Malaysian police and the underworld are agog for the same reason: Kabali is being released from prison after 25 years.


The nattily dressed gangster who loves the three-piece suits his wife told him to wear, struts out of jail to a hero’s welcome. He’s Kuala Lumpur’s very own Robin Hood because he does so much good for the Tamil community there. Unlike rival Tony Lee who’s ruthless and wants Kabali’s head at any price.


So how did he land in jail? A long and plodding flashback ensues. Gun shots reverberate around Malaysia with gangsters gunning down one another. One bullet also fells Roopa the wife he adores. The body count is high, Kabali is jailed.


Once he’s out, the bloodshed resumes, sometimes shifting the chaos to Thailand. He’s still a marked man and a deadly female assassin is hired by Tony Lee. But Kabali has a charmed life. Even half a dozen bullet wounds can’t get him an obituary.


For over an hour, there’s nothing but blood spilling until interval point when Kabali discovers he’s not alone in the world. He’s got a daughter and a wife. For a brief spell, the story moves to Chennai and the Auroville ashram in Puducherry for a family reunion and a few more predictable flashbacks. The Kabalis are invincible, indeed.


Is there anything left to do? Oh yes, Tony Lee must be annihilated by Kabali. And maybe Kabali pays for his sins with his life. But you never know. 


Writer-director Pa Ranjith’s 150-minute ode to Rajinikanth’s indestructible persona has nothing to offer but his unabashed worship of the ageing star actor. If only a fraction of what was spent on the hype and the fancy suits had gone into writing a substantial story and screenplay, Kabali could have turned into an interesting film on Indians in Malaysia. Pandering to the superstar’s personality is fine but Ranjith doesn’t bother to even package it with slick fights or a racy story or rollicking comic moments. The entertainment is zero, the entire effort is so totally on padding the hero. 


Rajinikanth does what he’s been doing for decades but the style and endearing mannerisms of yore seem forced today. Radhika Apte as wife Roopa is perfect as always. Winston Chao as Tony Lee is like a caricature. The music does not have pan-India appeal and even the Neruppu da number doesn‘t have the fire it promised in the promos.   


For an immensely disappointing attempt to reheat the old Rajnikanth charisma, Kabali gets a 2* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author


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