For a person who isn’t completely spell-bound by an actor’s star value or invested in the director’s potential, Kabali is simply badly made movie. There are many ways to sugarcoat it.
If there’s one person that ought to bear the blame for it, the finger squarely points at Pa Ranjith. Not sure he succumbed to the commercial possibilities getting in the way of his story or bit off more than what he could handle, it was his plot to lose.
The single biggest puzzle with Kabali is that it’s not a movie with a single voice. It feels like it is many movies within itself, which when done well should have been fine (even great). At times it seems all these storylines have been locked into a cage and unleashed upon each other. Why the director needed to go on an overload is beyond me.
Handling Rajni is not without its perils. Like a child chancing upon a super toy, Pa Ranjith tries twisting/pushing/turning every button, knob and lever. The director spreads Rajinkanth’s aura across multiple narratives; never sustaining him as the primary driver of the film or letting us settle down to the character of Kabaleeswaran. Any possibility of Rajni coming to the rescue of a messy story design is lost early and even a better done later half cannot pull up Kabali to safety.
Kabali is a heart-wrenching love story that does not nurture a relationship long enough to earn our affection. Kabali is a man’s emotional search for his family that does not dive under the superficial. Kabali is a political/social champion that skids above context and history of Tamils (in Malaysia) to transmit something compelling. Kabali is an agonising tale of friendship and betrayal that misses our heart by miles. Kabali is a reasonably well-staged action movie that gets interrupted too often for the adrenaline to get out.
Even if Kabali spent some decent time with just one of these storylines, it could have turned up a way better entertainer.
Then, there is the case to be made against too many minor characters hijacking the plot’s flow; each one of those demanding time, back-story and closure. Kabali may have done splendidly well if it was a two/three part movie that took its own time to unfold.
Of course, a distinction has to be drawn out here. Kabali is no second-rung misfire. It is one of those movies where the sum of all talents do not come together to sweep you. It is a movie with intent, talent and hell a lot of potent. Kabali frequently reminds us of Rajnikanth the actor that thinks and Pa Ranjith the director who makes his actors think.
I was truly looking forward to Kabali. Wanted Kabali to kick it off ’cause of Rajni’s gutsy choice and faith in a movie like Kabali. Wished for Pa Ranjith to infuse his brand of realism into popular movies. All that I saw was every one of those dreams go kaput.