First of all, let me declare that I am a big Superstar fan. I was really praying for this film to do well. But that being said, any movie needs to have the right elements before it can be deemed kick-ass. Kabali had all the elements that could have made it kick-ass, but alas, that was not the case. Before we go into what went wrong, I think we should have a look at what went right. There are plenty of spoilers ahead, read at your own discretion. Here’s everything that went wrong with Kabali. But first ..
Everything That Went Right With Kabali
1) Kabali is a bad guy : There is no middle ground here. Kabali is a gang leader. He has no issues killing people. He is a don with certain good values. He kills other bad guys and gang members but doesn’t harm regular folk. Fair enough. He’s not in it only for some misplaced sense of a greater good. This is cool and some of the kills are pretty awesome. Especially the driving over the guy on the sofa – super!
2) Kabali is old through most of the film : Rajni plays a guy close to his actual age. There is no silly romancing with a heroine half his age and singing songs, trying to work dance moves that he can’t etc. This is a welcome change from the last couple of movies. Just like the second half of Padayappa, the bearded look really fits him damn well. Fantastic opening sequence too.
3) The flashback sequences : These were done nicely. You know that his family was brutally taken down and the fade-in / fade-out from the current time to the past were concise and gave you a lot of the back-story without going into the details.
4) The soundtrack : The heavy metal music sequences go very well with the whole movie.
Now, let’s get to what went wrong. The disappointment with the way this film turned out is because it had such huge potential. Unlike Lingaa, this film had so many things going for it, yet didn’t package into that awesome movie it could have become.
Everything That Went Wrong With Kabali
1) No strong villain : The number of bad guys were too many in the film. Each one with the same exact attitude and personality. This may not have been a problem if it was led by one kingpin. Though there was a single big boss – Tony Lee played by Winston Chao, the acting was not very good. I am not sure why that was but his villainy was very average and seemed to be more of a bad-guy businessman than a mob boss. Remember how Raghuvaran held the film Baasha together in an incredibly evil manner? There was nothing of the sort here. This was a cluster of bad guys with guns running around doing bad-guy things, each on their own. In effect, to balance the hero, there was no equal and opposite force. All the plot twists got repetitive too.
2) Foreign Villain : This was attempted in Lingaa as well. It doesn’t seem to work at all. Especially when the Chinese-Malaysian starts speaking in Tamil. You really need to switch to looking at the subtitles because you can’t understand jack! At one point the concept and accent is so bad, you begin to laugh. The big problem was this was during the big climax. If you are laughing at the villain (who is being super-serious), it’s not going to work, is it? Tony Lee just came across too weak and didn’t provide the kingpin punch the film desperately needed.
3) The bumbling assassin : Dhansika, who plays Kabali’s daughter (Yogi) comes across initially as a solid character. She’s introduced as this ubercool assassin who is hired to kill Kabali. Everything is fine till the moment they announce to the audience that she is his daughter. Soon after that, everything ubercool about her character goes out the window. She becomes a girl who can handle a gun but must do it while saying “appa” three times in each of her sentence. She becomes a character who can’t fathom how people get from Malaysia to Chennai, flying seems alien to her. There is not one assassin worthy thing she ever does in the movie after that. Her character had so much weight that could have been brought in but is simply left getting socked in the face. I was hoping to see Yogi come in with her contacts and network to add strength to Kabali. The two of them uniting to bring down the villain’s empire would have been fantastic to watch. But doesn’t happen.
4) Finding Apte : When the movie starts off, it’s great the way Apte’s character comes in quick flashes giving us the hint of what has happened. However, these flashes also give us little connect to her character. The audience simply assumes her dead and is expecting to see how Kabali is going to avenge her death. You see Kabali reunite with his daughter and think – hey, cool, now there are two people to avenge her death. Instead, Kumudha (Apte) is still alive. Soon as you expect the movie to step up and give you that adrenaline spike taking you toward the end of the film, the film practically comes to a halt when Kabali and his daughter go looking for Kumudha. You have more characters with guns thrown in, all searching for her from Chennai to Pondicherry and almost to France. The tension Kabali is going through to know if she is alive is not shared by the audience. She seemed better off dead and gave a reason for revenge. The “finding apte” part of the film really killed half hour and destroyed the pace of the film.
5) That school Free Life : What was that school? What were they running? What were they teaching there? You have people claiming they are part of gangs and a normal looking girl who is proclaimed a druggie. Everyone’s openly talking about Kabali and his kills. How is this even a legal institution? It served no good purpose in the film either. School dropouts are reeducated with yoga in their spare time to go out into the world and opt to join gangs again? I must have missed something here. Please drop in a comment below.
6) The climax : That last party had a 2 min moment which shows Kabali taking down all of Tony’s empire. He’s collaborated with cops, he’s blown up his buildings, burnt his house, destroyed his drug factory, he’s done it all. Just a while back they show Kabali’s team to be mostly down and out. There is no explanation given to how he plans and executes the attack on Tony in a matter of few days. In fact, the part of the movie right after Kabali unites with his daughter could have been about how they plan and coordinate the attack on Tony’s empire. How they build strength and strategize their victory. In the processes, if Apte had just stayed dead, there could have been some great opportunities for sweet sweet revenge. Instead, everything just ends in minutes during that party. This could have been elaborated to understand why the cops work with him and then immediately turn on Kabali.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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