After the stupendous success of Shankar’s ‘Enthiran’ in 2010, where Rajinikanth’s double role combined with the exuberance and grandeur of a Shankar directorial clicked really well. Rajinikanth decided to take the easy route and opted to work with one of those directors who has provided blockbusters in the past- KS Ravikumar. Ravikumar has earlier delivered blockbusters like ‘Muthu’ and ‘Padayappa’.
‘Lingaa’, was the third director-actor collaboration between KS Ravikumar and Rajinikanth, and it was a major disappointment on all fronts. The usual style of ‘Super Star’ Rajini was missing, he looked tired and nothing worked in the movie. Lingaa was soon followed by the animation movie ‘Kochadaiiyaan’ directed by his daughter Soundarya and written by KS Ravikumar and the animated feature couldn’t garner enough interest.
Kochadaiiyaan, a first of its kind Tamil animation movie which couldn’t deliver on the animation and lacked depth as far as the story is concerned. What worked was AR Rahman’s fabulous music which is still popular. The movie was an experiment which didn’t quite succeed.
Not that hardcore ‘Super Star’ fans thought so, but the actor in Rajinikanth really needed to reinvent himself as with the failures of ‘Lingaa’ and ‘Kochadaiiyaan’ at the BO, it was proven that he couldn’t just do movies because a particular formula worked for him earlier. Rajinikanth had to adapt to changing situations and chose his scripts accordingly.
So it was indeed refreshing to see him green light a movie with upcoming, young director Pa Ranjith for ‘Kabali’. Not only was Rajinikanth stepping out of his comfort zone and doing something different, in Kabali he was playing a character who was of his own age. It was quite realistic and the ‘Super Star’ pulled it off really well.
Pa Ranjith as a director is known for highlighting and presenting the issues of the oppressed or lower class of the society. His gripping, realistic portrayal of simple tales featuring characters from the lower strata of society in his previous movies “Attakathi” and “Madras” stamped his authority as a promising director to look forward to.
Through ‘Kabali’, ‘Super Star’ Rajinikanth showed us that he still has the style and swag in him to carry a movie completely on his shoulders. His look, the walk, and the characterization worked completely in favour of Rajini.
Sadly, the director in Pa Ranjith was missing as the movie’s main focus was to highlight the perils of Malaysian Tamils, but it ended up being just another gang war. There was so much the director could have done with that story but he faltered. Despite ‘Kabali’ receiving mixed reviews from the film critics it went on to earn big money at the BO and Rajini was back with a bang. Rajini continued his collaboration with director Pa Ranjith and acted in “Kaala” which released on June 7, 2018.
The striking similarity between the two movies was despite Pa Ranjith trying to assert his ideology of upliftment of the oppressed section of the society- the Tamilians in Malaysia or the slum dwellers or the urban poor in Dharavi, that didn’t strike a chord with the audience.
If Pa Ranjith had a single-minded focus of putting forward the plight of Tamilians in Malaysia or the urban poor and their struggles in Dharavi, it had to be convincing, really convincing. As an audience to these movies, we didn’t feel too much for their plight as the ideology felt forced upon us through an audience magnet- ‘Super Star’ Rajinikanth.
The portions in both ‘Kabali’ and ‘Kaala’ which would stay in our minds for a while are the family sentiment and the emotional scenes. That is where the actor-director duo struck gold. Be the nervous, fidgety Kabalieshwaran who gets to know that his wife is alive post his release from jail after twenty-five years. His pursuit of finding her, the beautiful portrayal of their reunion was the highlight of the movie- not the gang war which formed the crux of the plot.
The emotional, sentimental angle brought out the actor in Rajini rather than someone who just used his style. Like the song ‘Maya Nadhi’, which amplifies Rajini’s style and charisma.
‘Kaala’ had lots of potential with its storyline of how a strong-willed individual stands against Hari Dada- a corrupt, power-hungry minister who wants to clean Dharavi and evict its residents. There was a range of scope for the director to focus on what ‘Kaala’ has done for the people of Dharavi without getting too preachy or political. But sadly all we get is a crook’s attempt to encroach Dharavi who is stopped by Kaala’ and the people of Dharavi.
Here the director’s strong ideological views stand in the way of executing a strong, compelling plot. Rajinikanth stands tall in this movie. Any criticism about his acting or lack of it in ‘Kabali’ was put to rest through his strong performance in ‘Kaala’’.
Apart from a strong and commanding performance from Rajini, we get to see his playful, naughty, romantic side. That’s something which hasn’t been tapped too much in recent memory. It was refreshing to see this side of Rajini, the scenes involving him and his wife Selvi and his family or with Zareena. The longing and caring Kaala and the naughty, playful Kaala come across very well in the songs ‘Kanamma’ and ‘Thanga Sela’.
Ranjith has cut down the violence, improved and worked on some of the criticism that was hurled at him post ‘Kabali’ and it was visible in ‘Kaala’. But post his collaboration with an icon like Rajnikanth, it is crystal clear that the director who was earlier known for his unique style, has now lost his touch and now is more dependent on the superstar status of as the lead.
On the other hand, Rajinikanth has found his mojo as the ageing gangster who is out on a mission to wipe out his enemies in ‘Kabali’ and as the messiah of the people of Dharavi in ‘Kaala’.
As he is acting in yet another powerhouse of talent Karthik Subbaraj’s next directorial, one hopes we get to see more of the romantic, emotional and rational side of the ‘Thalaivar’ rather than just the usual massy actor.
As far as Pa Ranjith is concerned, he has achieved a lot in his short career so far. Not many directors get the opportunity to direct Rajinikanth and that too consecutively. Probably that could have got in the way of his performance as a director. The natural, realistic portrayal of emotions, people’s worries and normal lives are Ranjith’s stamps.
One can only hope he returns with a script as the likes of ‘Madras’ and establishes his credibility as a director again in his future projects. He is among the promising directors’ Tamil cinema has now so it’s important to stand by him despite two underwhelming movies.
But ‘Super Star’ Rajinikanth’s fans should be indebted to Pa Ranjith for bringing back the mojo in their favourite star. If ‘Kabali’ saw him in his mass avatar completely, ‘Kaala’ gave us the massy moments coupled with the naughty, romantic, caring side of the actor which was not visible in his recent movies.
Leaving you all with the ‘Super Star’ Rajinikanth’s intro scene from the movie Kabali.