The expectations from Kabali are as high as the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the setting for almost 80% of the movie, not least because it’s amovie. The reasons are varied: the audience need a taste of the Rajinikanth of yore, not a do-gooder Samaritan (Lingaa) or a CGI generated version of a warrior Prince (Kochadaiiyaan). Thalaivar fanatics just wanted him to have fun, which was rarely the case ever since Sivaji. The teasers of suggested Rajinikanth is back to his glory days of Basha, Padayappa and Pedarayudu.
You wanted badass, you get industrial levels of badass in this Pa Ranjith movie. His previous film Madras had a delightful off-kilter sensibility. Sadly, here he spends too much time deifying his larger-than-life protagonist. And that makes the movie a giant 150-minute slog.
It opens with the erstwhile gangster getting released from a Malaysian prison after spending 25 years there. As soon as he steps out, he’s apprised of how his rival gang (consisting of Kishore and Winston Chao) has grown from strength to strength and has turned the city into a teeming hub of drug abuse and prostitution.
Kabali starts cleaning up right away, while getting reunited with his daughter and wife along the way. You have to be punch drunk on Rajini mania to sit through the movie without dozing off or trying to play Pokemon GO at the cinema itself. The only saving grace is the man himself. The wizened visage hasn’t lost a bit of its grace and infectious scowl.