Rajinikanth’s Darbar is AR Murugadoss’ failure

Manoj Kumar R
Rajinikanth

Darbar feels like a Suresh Krissna film or a KS Ravikumar film.

Darbar is all about Rajinikanth. His swag, charisma, onscreen persona and importantly, this film reasserts the fact that there is still a significantly large section of the movie-going audience that can’t get enough of Rajinikanth. But here I discuss how AR Murugadoss has failed as a filmmaker by being subservient to the myth of Rajinikanth.

Murugadoss is among the handful of Tamil filmmakers who enjoy the reputation of making sensible and meaningful commercial films as opposed to churning out just brain-dead popcorn fare. And Darbar is the opposite of what we have come to expect of the director. Darbar feels like a Suresh Krissna film or a KS Ravikumar film. Not a Murugadoss film.

When Rajinikanth is collaborating with a director, who has carved a niche for himself by making interesting, and to an extent informative, popular films, you expect to see Superstar do much more than making some random gestures with his fingers in the air and cartoonishly dialling numbers on his mobile phone. In short, you expect to see Rajinikanth in a Murugadoss film. But, in a classic case of hunter turning into a scavenger, Murugadoss has made a Rajinikanth film. The director has shown great disregard for his directorial instincts and succumbed to the urges of creating “mass" moments scene after scene.

AR Murugadoss squandered several good ideas in favour of the formula that has come to define movies starring Rajinikanth. Mumbai police commissioner Aaditya Arunasalam (Rajinikanth) is emotionally spiralling out of control. And he is wreaking mayhem by killing all criminals in the city with extreme prejudice. Why? There is this voice in his head which is telling him that he is yet to get the faceless enemy who has personally caused him an irreversible loss.

Like all Murugadoss films, bureaucratic corruption emerges as an important theme in Darbar. For example, as soon as Aaditya Arunachalam arrives in Mumbai to take charge as the city commissioner, he lands a high-profile case. Three girls have been kidnapped, and one of the girls is the daughter of deputy chief minister of Maharashtra. And the entire police force, including Aaditya Arunasalam, puts in maximum effort to find the girls, in particular, the daughter of deputy chief minister of Maharashtra. But, Murugadoss is setting the audience up for something else. The top cop exploits the opportunity to serve a greater good. He makes the deputy chief minister sign orders that the latter would not have done in normal circumstances. There is a significant subversion that happens in the scene that gives us a sense of this cop who doesn’t go by the book. But, Murugadoss rushes through these moments that it kills the joy of what could have been a really exciting and moving stretch in the film. Everything happens so fast that it becomes very hard to comprehend what Murugadoss has tried to achieve.

Similarly, the scene where Sunil Shetty’s Hari Chopra announces bounties for killing Mumbai cops. The ideas that could have elevated this film only gets a passing reference in the movie. The way Hari receives the news of his son’s death or an important character learning about the impending demise is very uninspiring and even pitiable.

A work of art is effective when there’s a grain of truth in it. Like, the jokes that are written around Rajinikanth’s age. Or the scene where Aaditya Arunasalam faces a moral dilemma when he is reminded of the age difference between him and Lilly (Nayanthara) comes as little bursts of sunshine. One can only wish there were more such well-written scenes.

Darbar felt like a rushed job. It is more or less a rehash of what Karthik Subbaraj did with Rajinikanth in Petta. The film zaps through its runtime without making a lot of sense. It seems like Murugadoss was lazing around on the director’s chair, hoping that the 69-year-old Superstar would shoulder the entire film with his never-dying charisma, will and age-defying energy. In fact, composer Anirudh Ravichander’s heavy metal orchestra does more to support Rajinikanth.