09 Jan 2020 ● Malayalam ● 2 hrs 40 mins
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!