To begin with Darbar should remind one of Ramya Krishnan’s popular dialogue as Neelambari in Padayappa. ”Vayasanalum un style-um azhagum innum pogalai”.
Darbar justifies her words. At 70, here is Rajnikanth playing a ruthless cop flying around kicking baddies. Donning khakhi after almost two decades on the screen (last seen as a police officer in Pandian), he fits the role to a T.
An ageless wonder indeed. With his stocks soaring high as always in Tamil cinema, he renders his fans a delightful diet loaded with mass masala elements that they love seeing again and again. If Karthik Subbaraj showed Rajinikanth young and bubbly in Petta, A R Murugadoss goes a step further in Darbar bringing back the action avatar of Rajinikanth, which swayed his fans for over three decades.
It is basically good vs bad. But the battle is ruthless and filled with action. The storyline may be wafer-thin, but does it bother when Rajinikanth grabs all attention with his strong screen presence.
Oozing with energy, he takes all on a journey of ecstasy and joy. Of course a guilty pleasure in seeing that nowhere the protagonist can go wrong on screen if it is Rajinikanth. As Mumbai Police Commissioner Aaditya Arunasalam, he is just that.
The rising drug racket and violence in Mumbai compels Aaditya Arunasalam to put an end to it. He takes the ruthless path. Encounters follow. Meanwhile, a shrewd Murugadoss has borrowed daughter-father sentiment of Rajinikanth from Kabali and served it in a different plate. Nivetha Thomas as his daughter Valli renders full justice to the character. Their scenes are quite natural and look spontaneous.
A dreaded gangster Hari Chopra (Sunil Shetty) returns to Mumbai from abroad to avenge Aditya Arunasalam for killing his son. A flashback reveals that Hari Chopra butchered policemen in Mumbai and fled the country to control international drug mafia. In between, there is a romantic portion involving Aaditya Arunasalam and Lily (Nayanthara).
The latter has very little to do on screen. Things start to go wrong as Hari Chopra lands in India. The cat and mouse game begins between him and Aaditya Arunasalam. Eventually good prevails over evil.
Darbar is a Rajinikanth show all the way. He looks very young and charming defying his age (there are a few comical references to it in the film). Santosh Sivan has recreated the Thalapathy magic. His lens captures Rajinikanth at his beautiful best. Be it anger, agony, romance or sentiment, Rajinikanth brings it out effortlessly on screen.
A smart Anirudh makes Rajini look more young with his music. Playing to the gallery seems to be a child’s play for Rajini. And Ram-Laxman’s stunt choreography adds more power to Rajinikanth’s mass moments.
Nivetha Thomas, the adorable daughter in the movie, has lots to do. Her camaraderie with Rajinikanth is the USP of Darbar. And after a long gap, one gets to see Yogi Babu’s one-liners not failing to tickle your funny bone. Sunil Shetty as baddie looks menacing but surrenders meekly to Aaditya Arunsalam. There is Sriman as Nayanthara’s brother.
Darbar may not be a perfect film. There may be few lacunae or logical loopholes. But they don’t bother with Rajinikanth on-screen. Racy and pacy all through, Darbar is a Rajinikanth film that is enough to fulfil the appetite of his ardent fans. Murugadoss has preferred to play it safe. A cocktail of Rajini moments that we grew up watching, Darbar is a celebration of Rajinikanth, the man who rewrote style statement in Indian cinema.