To enhance the authenticity of villains in Bombay, the crew has managed to get Jatin Sarna and Nawab Shah of Sacred Games fame onboard. It was nothing short of euphoria to see Bunty on the big screen. Nawab Shah plays the role of industrialist based out of South Bombay who displays sheer class and shrewdness while dealing with the police. After Nawazuddin Siddiqui who played the antagonist in Petta, we get another two characters from the series to play antagonists (with a relatively short screen-time though). If this isn’t national integration, I don’t know what is.
In Darbar, Rajnikanth plays Aaditya Arunachalam who is a police commissioner in Mumbai and goes on a ‘legal’ rampage of killing goons in the city. There are talks of him being mentally unstable too. He arrests Ajay Chopra (Prateik Babbar) who plays an influential drug peddler and that is when all hell breaks loose. Turns out he’s the son of the newly elected drug lord, Hari Chopra (Suniel Shetty). This cat and mouse game culminates in an underwhelming fistfight in the climax (not a spoiler).
While it’s a simple concept of how usage of drugs can be an irreversible scar on a young person’s life, the way Rajnikanth shoulders the story forward is a testimony to his spectacular stardom even at 70. He works out in a gym wearing a tank top which would put every young person who has a paunch to shame.
This film engages in self-deprecating humour with the comedian ridiculing Rajnikanth’s choice of falling for a young girl. For a person of his stature to accept full-blown scenes that engage in this discussion is commendable. There are scenes shot only to convey this in a succinct manner leaving no room for ambiguity whether it was a friendly dig or full-blown denunciation.
Cinematography by Santosh Sivan isn’t artistic or something which we can have a conversation about. I’m not meaning it is bad in any way but his vision through the lens always conveys a deeper meaning. In Darbar, it’s the repetitive two-shot and over-the-shoulder shots. This doesn’t come across as a drawback thanks to Rajnikanth’s indisputable charisma.
Nivetha Thomas plays the daughter of the protagonist and excels in her poignant act especially in the second half. Her emoting hits you harder than the hero’s punches on goons. It’s hard to not shed a tear after witnessing the love for her father. The close-up shots just add to the fact that she’s one of the promising talents in the industry.
Suniel Shetty aces his role as the villain in his subtle manner. To sculpt a character like him requires meticulous writing because he would be waging war with Rajnikanth. AR Murugadoss has done a really good job in characterizing the villain.
The three-act structure has been meticulously followed in Darbar. The setup and confrontation remind us of films of the old era like Agneepath, Sholay, K3G and Don. In the sense, it is well-structured and engaging even though we can predict its consequences. The resolution part is something that didn’t work for me.
Cinematic liberty has been exploited to the fullest in this film that it’s slightly disappointing to see it in an otherwise high-on-content film. One action sequence is enough to quench the thirst of fans to see their messiah beating up goons single-handedly. The hero doesn’t have to prove time and again on how powerful he is. When you think of Rajnikanth, you think of a larger-than-life person whose stature is as tall as the tallest building you’ve ever seen. So, it is hard for any filmmaker to mold Rajnikanth to his character’s sensibilities.
All in all, a paisa-vasool film which would leave you wanting for more. This is not a leave-your-logic-outside film meaning it’s not completely senseless but you’d enjoy the film more if you don’t question why a police commissioner would travel in a Mumbai Local late in the night!