Director: AR Murugadoss
Cast: Rajinikanth, Nivetha Thomas, Nayanthara, Suneil Shetty
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.