THE TAKE-HOME MESSAGE FROM “KABALI” FOR INDIA!
Our objective here is NOT to rest content with the film and its storyline as such but to analyze their structure, compare Kabali (hereafter K) with many similar films in Tamil and Hindi and South Indian tongues, and then extend the graph to what can be predicted with near certainty about the Tamil film goer’s mindset.
It would also be a useful exertion on our part to use K to better understand Tamilian psyche in general, find the basis of why retired film artistes—eligible or not– find themselves suddenly elevated to high political positions and so on too!
A don-to-don double deception story hallmarked by false accusations, false witnesses, and bribed judiciary perhaps, and consequent blood sport comprise the basic storyline of this film K too, like many others made in South Indian languages. Such a complexion for the story would whet the appetite of any film viewer instantly since in his heart of hearts he is also both infuriated and frustrated with many activities uniquely Indian—like scams galore!
Dozens of films in South Indian languages alone have been already made on this same over-milked theme but it sells because of Rajnikanth being the protagonist, because of special visual effects, and because the story relates to Tamils that migrated in another nation Malaysia! In addition there is plenty of technical bells and whistles for an added flourish! (The Tamils in TN—unlike Malayalis for instance– seek to identify themselves with Tamils living anywhere else too on the planet with scarce respect for international laws and also emotional appreciation for them as such. This was what led to the clandestine help given to LTTE from TN, and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Greater Eelam possibility was too irresistible for Tamils in reality and they fell for this ruse concocted by the late gangster Prabhakaran!)
I have adopted a Zoom-Out technique—i.e. From the specific instance to the generally applicable one– here for a change from the Zoom-In technique I mostly make use of in such blogs and also because through this approach we can use the K storyline to learn a few things about how a Tamil would think habitually and also how he or she would respond to what you or I might say!
The film’s story line is simple enough—with a clear protagonist and a clear-cut villain. Both have their henchmen and myrmidons too. In tune with what the film goes in TN would expect there is enough sound and fury and the ka-boom of explosions, the sound of gunshots from a gun with a silencer attached and lightning fast body extensor movements.
A Kuala Lumpur-based don Kabaleeswaran alias Kabali (Rajinikanth) is released after spending 25 years in prison on a false charge of starting a massacre at a local Hindu temple that killed many, including his wife Kumudhavalli alias Kumudha (Radhika Apte).
He immediately resumes charge of his old gang and soon confronts Loganathan alias Loga (Mime Gopi), a drug smuggler. Loga insults Kumudha, saying that she would have been sold into prostitution had she been alive. In retaliation, Kabali rams his car into Loga, killing him; however, the incident makes Kabali believe that his wife may be still alive.
Later that night, Kabali survives an assassination attempt by Tamizh Kumaran alias Kumaran (Kalaiyarasan), whose father Tamilmaaran (Charles Vinoth) was killed by Kabali when he was a young boy. The next day, at a function organized by the Free Life Foundation School, a school started by Kabali’s friend Ameer (John Vijay) to reform youngsters involved in criminal activities, Kabali talks about his past.
Kabali was the protégé of Tamilmaaran’s father Tamilnesan (Nassar), a don who fought for the rights of the Tamil Malaysians. Tamilnesan was killed by Veerasekaran alias Veera (Kishore), who was also a part of Tamilnesan’s gang, but disliked his rules such as not involving in illegal activities like drug smuggling and prostitution.
Following Tamilnesan’s death, Kabali took charge of his gang. However, Veera manipulated Tamilmaaran by telling him that he, being Tamilnesan’s son, should lead the gang and not Kabali.
Tamilmaaran invited Kabali and a pregnant Kumudha for a temple function. However, this was revealed to be a trap as Veera and his men confronted Kabali and Kumudha. In the ensuing scuffle, Kabali was brutally attacked while Kumudha was shot and seemingly killed. Kabali then killed Tamilmaaran for his betrayal in front of a young Kumaran and was soon arrested on a false charge of instigating the massacre.
Kumaran, after hearing Kabali’s speech, realizes his mistake and apologizes to Kabali. He tells him that Velu, one of Veera’s henchmen who had shot Kumudha, is aware that Kumudha is still alive and had given birth to a baby girl after the massacre.
Kabali then leaves for Thailand, where Velu is residing. On confronting Velu, he learns that his daughter is still alive. At this juncture, Kabali is confronted by Yogi (Dhansika), a contract killer hired by Veera and his boss Tony (Winston Chao), who heads the rival Gang 43 in Kuala Lumpur, to eliminate Kabali.
But Yogi instead kills the men who had come with her and reveals herself to Kabali as his daughter, who had been raised by Velu. She also tells him that Kumudha is still alive and is living with a French family in Puducherry, India.
Kabali and Yogi then leave for Puducherry, where they reunite with Kumudha and spend a few days with her there.
Kabali and his family soon return to Kuala Lumpur, where Kabali is told that Ameer has been severely injured in a car accident set up by Tony; his henchman Jeeva (Dinesh) was brutally chopped to pieces by Tony after refusing to join the Gang 43; and the Gang 43 has started to control the Kuala Lumpur underworld, eliminating any gang who dared to oppose them.
On hearing all this, Kabali decides to finish Tony and Veera once and for all. He and his family attend a birthday party for a respected Malaysian don, who had invited all gangs, including the Gang 43. At the party, Kabali starts a shootout with the help of Kumaran, which ends with him killing Veera and Tony.
Some months later, Kabali attends a function organized by the Free Life Foundation. One of the Free Life alumni, a youngster name Tiger (‘Johnny’ Hari), who is known to be aggressive and reckless, walks up to Kabali, with scenes showing him speaking to the police prior to the function.
The screen cuts to black, and the sound of a gun clicking and a gunshot afterwards is heard.”
(From Wikipedia English)
The storyline of the film as you have noticed contains in liberal proportions all the win-win ingredients—a revenge story theme, refined sex charm, fine songs, unilateral violence, nostalgia triggers, action contexts etc. in a nice mix. If K earned over Rs 105 crores on the very first day itself, its then no surprise, but what stands out as really incredible is the protagonist’s performance as Kabali despite his actual septuagenarian age and predictable debility.
Now let’s coolly and dispassionately analyze the feasibility and credibility of such a story happening anywhere, and how the story proves itself to be fantasy of a kind—a Tamil fairy tale meant for adults– on analysis.
Kodambakkam (TN’s film production center) has done a lot of films in Tamil on gangsters. The cast of characters here in K too has been done rather intelligently what with the villain and his associates being in the ascendant at the start and then facing their deserved comeuppance later at Kabali’s hands.
Any Indian audience, inwardly seething with rage at many issues uniquely shameful and also Indian, would lap up all the gory blood sport display! The psychology of the typical Indian viewer of any film in an Indian language based on initial injustice and then pay-back action is easy to understand—for him , the film is one way of obtaining some sort of visible justice for sins committed against people like him by unknown forces in the past!
The Indian commoners has lots of personal and collective grievances to live with day and night thanks to his observation of inefficient ministries, unpunctual ministers and people representatives, meaningless election exercise, inaccessibility of even creature comforts like power or water, over riding corruption in almost all transactions entered into, clogged PDS, inflation, and so on.
He loves to forget it all in film viewing for a change and laugh at times too in the theater, if not at home! The quantum of evil presented is immaterial since the quantum of retributive justice meted out by the film’s protagonist promises to be equally terrible. For the Indian viewer this is Nirvana of sorts!
Double crossing and Judas behavior pattern is standard with all gangster films; shootouts and blood-spilling by novel means are also commonplace are also far more common than we imagine.
The revenge that Kabali feels has been given a solid basis, thereby justifying it in all its horror. Viewers across the caste/community/faith/age spectrum respond readily to the need of the aggrieved party—Kabali in this case– to pay back for his undeserved punishment.
The VFX –special effects- add to the charm of the production.
The Credibility Rating of the base story is low but with all the usual pyrotechnics, the comic relief and Rajni mannerisms, the film manages to leave behind a sweet after taste.
The Rajni Factor:
As far as the TN viewers are concerned, this lack of credibility takes a back seat so long as the film has Rajni as its protagonist! His acting the role out has its own unique style and his mannerisms stick with Tamils anywhere too.
Rajnikanth is a veteran cut out for acting almost naturally, but he has his personal idiosyncrasies too, which Tamil viewers swear by. Over spicing and over flavoring is standard in all Tamil action movies, Rajni films included. And Indian viewers are not at all against this practice too!
Who, except rank idiots, expects the film to be a reality show when he is seeking in his way to escape from real hassles all around him and is expecting to be transported to a fantasy realm for a span of 3 hours or more?
No wonder he is a superstar with a million fans licking his footprints. The Rajni Factor is what ensures success in any Tamil film and particularly in revenge based story lines.
We shall take up the probable influence of this story and film on Indian society in general and on Tamil society in particular we shall take up later!