Dubbed Hindi ruins Rajinikanth’s punchlines in Darbar

What do you expect from a Rajinikanth film? The AR Murugadoss touch of special violence comes into play in a big way as the Thailaiva cop act warms up towards a promised explosion that never comes

Dubbed Hindi ruins Rajinikanth’s punchlines in  Darbar
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Subhash K Jha

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 expolsion 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 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.

The  iconic star is still a  man of the masses  fighting the evil elements with a ferocity that accommodates a distinct comicbook 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 Rajinikant 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 Rajnikanth’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 shortchanges all the other characters who stand around unsure of where they stand in the off-camera romance between director and his  hero.

Murugadoss’ homage to Rajinikanth’s stardom gives the star an agile serio-comic 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. Rajinikant 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 watching 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 exercise of yet another Rajni special.

Can we please have Rajinikanth being  directed  by  a someone who is not a fan?

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