Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kabali, the problem of boxing

I had a very good friend who has disappeared from my life. What remains of her with me today are her thoughts. Her fixation with boxing. Not the sport but the innate tendency to classify people and relationships.

Tamil film industry has traditionally been a duopoly as far as leading actors are concerned. There was MGR and Sivaji dominating the scene before 70s. In the 80s, 90s and maybe early in the millennium it was Kamal and Rajini. It is probably only now that the fan following is fragmented.

While I was growing up, one was either a worshiper of the likable and stylish Rajini or zealous fan of talented Kamal. I belonged to the latter camp. Though with age, I have taken a liking for Rajini.

Rajini movies don't need hype. For producers, he is an investment that never fails. He is a phenomenon. With him, there is nothing else required in the film. The story is very predictable - a man who succeeds against all odds and stands for righteousness. Experiments have usually failed. This is not to say that he is limited au contraire he is a very capable actor. 

Somehow, I think Kabali suffers from the inescapable phenomenon of boxing. While critiques have been critical of the film, the fans filled the social media singing paeans about Rajini's acting skills and the story line. Now, that to me is dichotomy. If I were to ever see a film for acting skills and a different storyline, it would be Kamal's not Rajini's.

By this time, it might appear that a disgruntled Kamal is fan venting out his feelings at the irrefutable truth that Rajini is a much bigger star than his own idol. I assure you, it is not so.

Boxing or stereotyping affects everyone. For example, if Kamal makes a light movie, fans get disappointed feeling that he is wasting his talent and not upping the ante. From Kamal, we expect something different in every movie. Every movie has to be as heavy as Hey Ram or have shape-altering role like Aboorva Sagodargal. So much so that a friend was extremely upset that instead of making a movie on an original script, the actor chose remake Drishyam.

This makes me wonder if stars should stick to what comes easily to them and to the identity that they have instead of venturing into uncharted waters. Even if producers are willing to take a risk, the audience seem to have trouble in accepting any variation.

In my opinion, managing expectations is very important. The mindless publicity blitzkrieg strategy needs to a rethink. Would it have made a difference to Kabali if it was promoted differently? Would the critics and the fans have appreciated this different from the usual Rajini film?