Darbar movie review: Quintessential Rajinikanth movie with its highs and lows

Hindustan Times | ByKarthik Kumar, Chennai
Jan 09, 2020 11:09 AM IST

Darbar movie review: AR Murugadoss plays on Rajinikanth’s strength and swag but everything else in this film gets a lackadaisical treatment. Darbar is no Petta.

Film: Darbar
Rajinikanth, Nayanthara, Suniel Shetty and Nivetha Thomas
AR Murugadoss

Darbar movie review: Rajinikanth plays a police officer with little scruples in AR Murugadoss’ film.
Darbar movie review: Rajinikanth plays a police officer with little scruples in AR Murugadoss’ film.

AR Murugadoss’s Darbar, which isn’t the filmmaker’s best work in recent years, ticks all the boxes that constitute a quintessential Rajinikanth movie but what it lacks is the kind of writing that made Petta (Rajinikanth’s last release), in spite of its flaws, a far more entertaining watch. Darbar takes the hysteria around Rajinikanth up a notch as it presents the actor as an angry cop Aaditya Arunasalam who is out on a murderous rampage. Darbar is powered by Rajinikanth -- if not for his unmatchable screen presence and infectious energy, sitting through the film would be tedious.

 Watch Rajinikanth’s Darbar trailer

The heroes in Murugadoss’s film don’t follow the rule book. They don’t uphold the law but still manage to get the job done and ensure justice is served. Aaditya Arunasalam is no different when he’s sent to Mumbai on a special operation to root out the city’s drug menace. The film opens with a series of encounters and we see headlines of papers, calling Aaditya a ‘murderer’ and a ‘cop with no ethics’.

As part of the operation, Aaditya nabs Ajay Malhotra (Prateik Babbar), the chief drug supplier and the son of a top businessman in Mumbai. When Aaditya meticulously plans and eliminates Ajay, dreaded gangster Hari Chopra gets involved in the case and challenges Aaditya to stop him before he starts killing cops.

Darbar has its highs and lows. The first half is a celebration of vintage Rajinikanth, and we see the 70-year-old star refusing to slow down. He can still make a very generic scene work by just walking in slow motion, flipping his glasses and you wouldn’t get tired. Unfortunately, Darbar goes terribly overboard focussing on Rajinikanth’s stardom and charisma, resulting in a screenplay devoid of anything relatively inventive.

For instance, Rajinikanth works closely with a team of subordinates but still ends up doing pretty much everything on his own. From finding the whereabouts of deputy chief minister’s missing daughter to learning about the real identity of Hari Chopra; it’s a one-man show and the intent behind it is understandable. But, it gets pointless after a point and the rest of the cast becomes absolutely useless.

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A Rajinikanth movie is meant to play to the gallery but Darbar doesn’t get the formula right. It goes overboard on several instances and that’s one of the major grouses. It’s alright to leave logic behind when it comes to scenes featuring Rajinikanth but the same logic doesn’t apply to scenes featuring others characters as well. At various junctures, Darbar tries to imitate scenes from Petta but it doesn’t do a good job of adapting.

Apart from Rajinikanth, Darbar doesn’t do justice to any of its characters. Nayanthara goes unnoticed in a role that doesn’t even warrant a discussion while Suniel Shetty as the antagonist is underwhelming. As Hari Chopra, Suniel is made to sound maniacal and ruthless, but the lack of solid face-off moments between him and Rajinikanth makes him boring. Nivetha Thomas gets decent screen presence and her scenes with Rajinikanth are fun and full of life. Anirudh Ravichander’s music gives the film a major boost in terms of setting the mood, but there’s a heavy Petta hangover in the background score.

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