‘Darbar’ Uses Rajini’s Star Power to Deliver a Breezy Entertainer
When director A R Murugadoss said Darbar is a 100% ’90s Rajinikanth film, he really meant it! Starring Rajinikanth and Nayanthara, with Suniel Shetty playing the villain, the movie feels like a re-digitized ’90s film.
The story arc, flashbacks and even the picturisation of the title song reminds you of Padayappa or Arunachalam or Baasha.
It makes full use of the superstar’s style to get away with excesses and a ripe imagination. Something other actors would have had to work hard to circumvent or make believable.
A R Murugadoss Is Back
Director A R Murugadoss shot to fame with Ramana (2002), a vigilante film that spawned a genre. His penchant for directing action and pre-interval suspense is legendary and was in full display in Ghajini (2005).
With Darbar, he returns to his original screenplay writing chops. The film weaves in action and emotion and interlaces the two with sudden bits of comedy.
The story arc is familiar, and is similar to almost all of Rajinikanth’s films post Baasha. But it’s in the twists within that ARM thrives. He adds little details to Aditya’s (Rajinikanth) character and mannerisms that only the superstar can pull off. And stuffs every alternate scene with Easter eggs from other Tamil blockbusters; some directed by him, others starring Rajini and still others that are totally random.
Darbar is the second film in what is going to be a sub-genre, one in which Rajini plays and looks his age (almost) on screen, but where the story harks back to movies that are two decades old.
Flawless Stunt Direction
Peter Hein’s stunt choreography is impeccable. He is staple in every Murugadoss film. But somehow he manages to make a 70-year-old fight convincingly. In fact, the fights in Sarkar (2018), starring Vijay, are boring compared to the somersaults and punches in Darbar.
Also flawless is Anirudh’s music and OST. The songs are all fresh, despite having his signature touches in the melodies. And the background score is a real tearjerker during the emotional moments. Anirudh might well be the next Deva to Rajinikanth’s films. (For those who are not from Tamil Nadu, music director Deva has composed some of Rajinikanth’s biggest hit songs. Even the ‘superstar Rajini’ theme was by him.)
Cast of Two
Rajinikanth and Nivetha Thomas, who plays his daughter, are the only two characters who are believably fleshed out. Nivetha delivers both in subtle moments as well as in entertaining scenes, where all she has to do is wink or look amazed. The latter takes more to pull off, I feel. In some scenes, especially towards the climax, she overshadows the superstar.
The fun banter between Yogi Babu and Rajinikanth is brilliant. Rajini is right up there in his comic timing with Kamal Haasan. For Yogi Babu to hold his own next to him, is applause-worthy.
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