Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali. Kabali.
The above were basically the topics before me this week. Okay, there was also this coup bid in Turkey that I could have written about. But when you compared it with the demand for Kabali tickets here on the day before its release, the coup looked decidedly as tame as schoolboys’ hide-and-seek game. Seriously, the clamour for tickets was so huge and insistent that there was a possibility of — you really can’t rule out such things in Tamil Nadu — it being brought under the Essential Services Maintenance Act.
And so, with a view to bringing you all the unprecedented excitement and exhilaration at the theatre screening Kabali, I sought the help of a resourceful colleague, and he, after pulling many strings, got us tickets for FDFS, which these days is essentially FNFS (First Night First Show). I mean the film was scheduled for screening at 4 a.m. Unearthly, you think? Well, it still is a huge improvement from Lingaa that had its first show at a ghostly 1 a.m.
An hour before the start of the film, a sea of (mostly) youngsters, who could otherwise be expected to get out of the bed at that hour only if there was a bus/train/flight to catch or a gun pointed to their head, was gathered in front of the theatre thereby creating what should be a first even by Chennai’s standards: A messy traffic snarl at around 3 a.m. A couple of the youth then got on top of a giant cut-out and started spraying milk all over it in a celebratory offering, while a few other excited youngsters started bursting heavy-duty crackers, but luckily there was a team of vigilant police personnel in a van stationed nearby, who seeing the guys lighting fireworks quickly stepped into action by moving their patrol vehicle to a safer spot.
Once inside the theatre, there was smoky and nervous anticipation in the air, and soon the gathered fans let out collective shouts that would have woken up the dead in the nearby cemetery. And it was just for the curtains going up. So by the time Rajini’s name appeared on screen, the noise touched decibels capable of triggering minor earthquakes. The thing about going to a a film FDFS is, you get to see, first hand, all the emotional elation of the fans. And the other thing about going to a a film FDFS is, you get to see little else. The fans are mostly on their feet crying themselves hoarse whenever their hero is doing something heroic, which in the case of Rajini is: always. But these things are infectious, I should say. Soon enough, I too was also on my feet (with everyone else standing that was also the only way I could have caught anything happening on the screen).
So how is Kabali as a film?
Before we take that up, we will see what a Rajini film has evolved into these days: a Rajini film, in a sense, is a play of paradoxes. Even if he is the most dreaded don ever, he is the kindest man around (Baasha). Even if he is the richest man in town, he is the sole voice of the poor (Padayappa). Even if he is powerful and gifted, he is an underdog (Sivaji). Even if he is a thief, he is the most honest man (Lingaa). Even if he were a simple man, he is a God (all films).
Also, in the evolution of his screen persona, Rajini has conquered every possible kind of villain. And by Enthiran, it had reached the ultimate stage of where the hero Rajini is up against the most dreaded adversary known to humankind: an army of villain Rajinis. Rajini vs Rajinis. In the popular ‘Rajinikanth joke’ template, it should be said: Only Rajinikanth is capable of winning against several Rajinikanths.
Back to Kabali, it is a film that is centred on — spoiler alert — Kabali. Rajini plays the eponymous Kabali, an exploited er, mighty man, up against merciless hardcore gang of criminals who cannot be finished off till they are finished off. The rest, as they say, is scenery.
Kabali sure has that one element what every Rajini fan looks for in a Rajini movie: Rajinikanth. The biggest punch dialogue in the film is — it may take time for you to memorize this — Magizhchi (Happy). Uttered by anyone else, this wouldn’t be even noticed.
Does Kabali work as a film? It depends. But whatever your views on it, if you watch with a hundreds of excited Rajini fans, as I did, it sure makes for many goosebump-moments. But that could also be because the guy sitting next to you may be bellowing right into your ears.
All said and done, a Rajinikanth movie is the most difficult, and the most easy, to make: It must have all the elements that we have seen before, and presented in a manner that we have not seen before. It is something that, well, only a Rajinikanth can pull off.