Kabali is a powerful expereince

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Kabali is a powerful expereince

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It is always difficult for any director to cast Rajinikanth out of the set Rajini mould without incurring the wrath of his fans. Pa. Ranjith makes a brave deviation from the Rajini formula in KABALI – He certainly does not abandon it altogether, but makes significant changes.

Plot (With low level spoilers)
Kabalishwaran (Rajinikanth) is released from a Malaysian prison after many years of incarceration. The Tamil-speaking officer who played a pivotal role in his  release appeals to him to abandon the ways of his past and to lead a righteous life but Kabali has too much of pain and baggage from his past to obey. How he deals with the ghosts of his past forms the rest of the story.

This is by far the most powerful acting performance by Rajinikanth, accentuated in the many close-up scenes. The style, swag and delightful mannerisms are there but added to that is a large degree of restraint and panache. Also notable is that his speech style and speed is markedly different from his other films. It takes some imagination to accept Radhika Apte playing Rajinikanth’s wife but she does a brilliant job of her portrayal without straying towards the melodramatic. Dhansika is a revelation with her gutsy portrayal of Yogi in a role that is lightyears apart from her role in PARADESI. Kishore makes a good villain as does Taiwanese actor Winston Chao. Naaser, Dinesh and Riythvika are the best of the others.

Script and screenplay
Ranjith’s script is punchy although is remarkably free of “punch dialogues”. There is a lot of subtlety and very few scenes that contain wordy exchanges. It is, however, in the screenplay that Ranjith shows his mettle. In the inevitable flashback, instead of a protracted flashback sequence that would have created a break with the narrative, he neatly slices the flashback into digestible bits that weave seamlessly into the current narrative.

Santhosh Narayanan has already impressed everyone with his varied songs but his background score surpasses even his own high standards.

Cinematography and Editing
It is easy to see the effort put into the cinematography by G, Murali through the wide variation in compositions, styles, lighting, angles and even tracking throughout the films. Editor Praveen matches this creativity with creative cuts and montages. Together, Murali and Praveen ensure a high impact visual bonanza.

Ranjith must be praised for his attention to detail like the clothing, cars and building skylines during the flashback sequences. On the negative side, there is nothing new in the core structure of the story and it is easy to dismiss the film as just another film about the rivalry between gangs but KABALI excels in its characterization, script and of course the magnetic presence of Rajinikanth. Fortunately, there are no comedians to distract the viewer. There are also no songs lip-synced by Rajinikanth and, bar a few seconds, no dances by him.

Despite some minor hiccups and a few logical flaws, KABALI is a powerful experience that lingers in one’s mind long after the final credits end. Sensible and succinct subtitling by Rekhs augments the experience.

KABALI scores 8 points out of 10.

Devan Nair
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