The Indian audience savours true-blue masala entertainers. Director A.R. Murugadoss has to live up to the expectations for varied reasons: He teams up with superstar Rajinikanth for the first time and attempts a cop story yet again. Darbar is one of those earthy, traditional, uncomplicated masala movies that most of us grew up on. The protagonist of Darbar is not the desi version of James Bond, nor is he any kind of a superhero. The story is interesting and although it is oft-repeated, the new angle is both, contemporary and quite fresh. But what doesn't change is the intent of making a full-blown masala entertainer. Yes, Darbar is vintage masala fare that has a larger-than-life hero, who triumphs against all odds. And, of course, it has a knockout performance by superstar Rajinikanth. If at all there's a shred of doubt whether Thalaiva is The Best in the business, all you've got to do is watch Darbar. Darbar is an acknowledgement to one of the most successful genres - action movies - known for the trademark good versus evil themes and well-choreographed stunts. Darbar revives memories of the bygone era that stressed on raw action and was rich in fist-to-fist combat scenes. But Darbar is a film of today, hence the stunts are extremely stylized and polished in keeping with the times. It's raw power presented in a slick demeanour. Darbar works for varied reasons: The conflict between the protagonist(Rajinikanth) and antagonist(Suniel Shetty), the high-quality dramatic scenes, the raw action and of course, it shows how police force should work against the rampant corruption, fraudulent politicians and spineless goons. In short, Darbar is a complete package. A.R. Murugadoss’ screenplay is engaging and interesting. The first half is replete with light moments which keep the viewers fully entertained. The second half is serious but yet, very engrossing and engaging. It also offers scope for emotions. Several of the scenes will draw huge rounds of applause in the cinema halls. Of course, the single screens will resound with thunderous applause when Thalaiva comes on the screen for the first time. The climax, after that, is simply earth-shattering and the audience will experience a rush of adrenaline throughout the action-oriented climax. The twist in the tale will also bring the house down with excitement. All in all, the screenplay is so phenomenal that it will make the viewers’ hearts dance with joy. In fact, the drama and also the execution of the written material keeps you completely hooked to the proceedings. I'd like to make a special mention of the action scenes(Ram-Laxman, Peter Hein). At a time when most film-makers opt for action directors from abroad for gadget-driven thrills, Darbar goes for the desi flavour and it works luminously. The raw, hardcore action is easily amongst the high points of the movie. On many occasions than one, you have your hearts in your mouths while watching the scenes. Anirudh Ravichander's effectual background score also deserves immense praise. For any good versus evil film to click, it ought to have the protagonist and the antagonist on the same podium. In Darbar too, it's not just the hero who's powerful and mighty; the villain is equally ferocious. That's what makes the conflict all the more enjoyable - it's a fight of the equals. Besides the sequences involving them, a number of dramatic sequences leave an indelible impression. And, of course, the finale, which is simply outstanding. The dialogues(A.R. Murugadoss), in a nutshell, are aimed at the masses and works big time. Santosh Sivan's cinematography is eye-catching. The film bears a stylish look all through. A.R. Murugadoss’ direction is extraordinary. His narration makes the drama believable. He has given the film a huge canvas and has spared no efforts to make it a visual delight. There are a number of scenes which show his genius as a filmmaker. But even roses have thorns and the aspect that doesn't really gel is the romance between Thalaiva and Nayanthara. In fact, the romance-and-song routine comes across as a roadblock and mind you, it has nothing to do with the lack of chemistry between the two actors. It's because the drama is so powerful, commanding and omnipotent that you want every other aspect to be sidetracked. Anirudh Ravichander doesn't get the opportunity to deliver a sparkling soundtrack. Yet, the title track(rendered with a lot of fervour by Nakash Aziz) is the sole track that works. The editing(Akkineni Sreekar Prasad) is razor-sharp at most times but could've been spruced up during midsection. Superstar Rajinikanth is in the centre of the battle between good and evil. He is the lifeline, the soul of the film. The embodiment of screen masculinity, Thalaiva enacts the central character of a righteous, hardhearted cop with flourish. He brings alive on screen a larger-than-life hero character with determined conviction, which renders you thunderstruck. He returns to the over-the-top-action genre of films with this one. In a nutshell, his performance plays a pivotal role in carrying the film to the winning post. Darbar bestows him with abundant opportunity to flaunt each shade of his skill. It's not only the plot that carries Darbar. It's also the mood and the expression of Thalaiva that makes Darbar a treat. Nayanthara is fabulous. To share the screen space with an actor of the stature of Rajinikanth and yet remain in your memory even after the show has ended is no cakewalk. She looks fresh and photogenic and acts her part brilliantly. Suniel Shetty is in terrific form. Darbar would’ve faltered if the antagonist wouldn’t be as convincing as the protagonist. Suniel Shetty matches up to Rajinikanth every time they come face to face. He's venomous to the hilt! Darbar has a huge supporting cast, but I would like to single out a few names that add weight to the proceedings. Nivetha Thomas impresses again. She deserved more footage. Prateik Babbar is superb. He's only getting better with every film. To sum up, Darbar follows the existing trend to create more homespun, home-flavoured desi movies rather than pursue the money-spinning NRI souk that has, until recently, been the order of the day. While the central plot packs a solid punch, with several clap-trap situations interlaced in the narrative, it slips into the knowable zone at times. Overall, Darbar works big time for varied reasons: The energetic drama, the terrific confrontations, the raw stunts and of course, for the three'heroes' - superstar Rajinikanth, Suniel Shetty and director A.R. Murugadoss. This one is the emblematic formula movie with distinct essentials that Indian masses yearn for. A complete package of entertainment for the masses and devoted fans of masala movies. Go, have a blast! Read full review
In the films of AR Murugadoss, justice isn’t always delivered by upholding the law of the land. Be it in Ramana or Thuppakki or Kaththi, his protagonists have to break law to ensure justice is served. And that is what happens in Darbar, where an angry cop goes on a murderous rampage to take down a most-wanted criminal. Right in the opening scenes, the director establishes that his protagonist Aaditya Arunasalam (Rajinikanth), a top cop who has been deputed to Mumbai to tackle the drug menace in the city, isn’t someone who goes by the rule book. In fact, we see him threatening and roughing up the members of the Human Rights Commission who question him about his rule-breaking (The film tries to project Arunasalam as a mentally disturbed person to justify his extrajudicial killings). In the course of one of his operations, Arunasalam nabs Ajay Malhotra (Prateik Babbar), the son of Vijay Malhotra (Nawab Shah), a top businessman, who happens to be the chief drug supplier in the city. But when Ajay is eliminated, Hari Chopra (Suniel Shetty), a dreaded gangster who turned the police force into a laughing stock 27 years earlier, returns to the country to settle what has become a personal score by targeting Arunasalam and his daughter Valli (Nivetha Thomas). Taking his lead from Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta, Murugadoss turns Darbar into a celebration of Rajinikanth, the Superstar. Though he doesn’t turn this film into a greatest hits collection like the former film, Murugadoss exploits the charisma and superstardom of Rajinikanth and gives us a genre film — a cop film — that is a fairly engaging commercial cocktail of action and drama hemmed by uneven writing. The film’s strongest selling point are the father-daughter scenes between Rajinikanth and Nivetha Thomas, whose onscreen camaraderie, makes this relationship endearing. Murugadoss also gives us a truly heartbreaking moment and Nivetha Thomas is fantastic in this portion. Darbar is also alert to its hero’s age in real life. This is why the romantic track, between Arunasalam and Lily (Nayanthara, in a character that is simply a showpiece), is enjoyable. It is filled with Rajinikanth’s trademark playfulness and Yogi Babu, teaming up with the Superstar for the first time as the comic sidekick, clicks. Even as we marvel at the miraculous youthfulness of Rajinikanth in these portions (a splendid job by the cinematography, makeup and the costume departments), we get a scene where a character remarks at the age difference between the two. The dignified manner in which this scene addresses this issue ensures that fans don’t take it as an insult to their idol. Later, Murugadoss even gets Rajini to remark on his age: “Nambaravanukku vayasu verum number dhaan” (“Age is just a number to one with confidence”). But while the film has a solid middle section, filled with emotional and whistle-worthy moments, including a training montage where we get to see Rajini flexing his muscles, and a fight sequence set in a railway station (that recalls the climax stunt of Dhool), the first and third acts are underwhelming. While the former feels tentative (this film has the weakest intro scene and song for Rajinikanth in a while), the latter is rushed. The fact that many of the Bollywood actors seem to be speaking in Hindi, leading to lack of lip-sync also alienates us from being immersed in the narrative. And perhaps because his villainy is often offscreen, Suniel Shetty’s Hari Chopra doesn’t come across as a powerful antagonist despite being built up as one. Yes, he causes numerous casualties, but still, the lack of a solid confrontation scene between him and Arunasalam makes it difficult for us to buy him as a deadly foe. This is why the climax, rather than giving us a high, feels meh. But if this minor disappointment is washed away, it is only because of how Rajinikanth plays this character. While there is the cockiness of Alex Pandian (Murgadoss’s inspiration for this character), there is also vulnerability. And his infectious energy and inimitable style keep us rooting (and hooting) for his character.Read full review
In Rajinikanth's movie map in the recent years, Darbar is the point where it comes full circle — from portraying the lives of dreaded gangsters and local chieftains and in Kabali and Kaala, he plays a brave cop who goes after the underworld like an obsessed villian. He does extra-judicial killings and bumps off henchmen in encounters at the drop of the hat. When the audience goes, "Why?" He answers, "I am originally a villian." The AR Murugadoss-directed Darbar is a fast-paced narrative of the life of a police commissioner in Mumbai. He is a menacing marauder with a tender heart, the usual large-than-life, coolers-flicking, often-funny, terrifying-when-angry superhuman that Rajinikanth has played to death in the past. There are few surprises and pleasingly clever features to Darbar. Nivetha Thomas, who had played Kamal Haasan's daughter in crime drama Papanasam, plays Valli, Rajinikanth’s daughter. Thomas is the one jerking the tears in emotional scenes, while Rajinikanth ably enacts a moved father with his trademark fingers-to-the-eyes reaction. Thomas plays a spunky youngster determined to get her ageing dad a partner before she marries somebody (no to grooms working abroad). Thomas' performance in some scenes shows exceptional promise, a surprise and a discovery of talent. Clever scripting shows itself in some places, like a scene where Rajinikanth graciously agrees to stay off a much younger Nayanthara, after a relative points out the difference in their ages. Running in the background — and brought incongruously to the foreground — is the narrative about a drug cartel in Mumbai and how finishing off an adversary awakens a bigger rivalry that Rajinikanth will deal with in his inimitable style in the end. Anirudh has borrowed heavily from a 1990s soundtrack composer Deva played for Annamalai. In places, Anirudh could have given space for an evocative silence, his instrumentality is an earful. Santhosh Sivan exposes Rajinikanth in bold, clever angles, although the fast pace of the movie allows little room for him to widen his wings. Nayanthara is a charmer but gets little space, although the comic scenes with Rajinikanth are hilarious. Bollywood actor Suneil Shetty is the villian, who Rajinikanth faces in epic showdowns that aren't, but Shetty has done reasonably well. On the whole, a terrific entertainer that has its shortcomings and dull (sometimes absurd) moments. Read full review
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