I’ve always been a fan of the Superstar. But never his movies. Except for less than a handful – Aarilirundhu Arubadhu Varai, Valli… I’d be lying if I say I didn’t enjoy Baasha or Muthu, but almost all his movies have a strong misogynistic undercurrent. His character in the movie was always morally policing women, or spouting lines that humiliate women/put us down. In most of his movies, the heroine is amazingly pretty, and will always fall for his antics. He is always the Alpha Male. He would be a jerk to her and she’d still love him. Because hey, he can’t be wrong.
It is this aspect of Rajinikanth’s movies that make me stay away from watching them. I was like the proverbial ostrich that buried its head in sand in the wake of danger – if I didn’t watch the sexist parts of his movies, it didn’t happen. Right? Well, Rajini being Rajini, his movies are everywhere. And all these Tamil TV channels air only those annoying, anger-inducing women-bashing scenes. I was traveling in Shadabti once and Mannan was playing. He literally is every feminist’s nightmare in that movie. I started resenting him for picking such roles and agreeing to mouth those horrid lines. And that stuff where Padayappa literally coaches Neelambari on what a woman should think and act like? What was that? Not cool, Superstar! And Sivaji! Let’s not even go there please!
This much-loved, deified actor could’ve done much much better. He had blind followers who imitated every single thing he did. Including woman-bashing. And the tactics Rajini used too woo his love interest will annoy any woman in real life. Yep. No wonder that poor lass ran away from you when you sang “figure-u figure-u thaan, nee super figure-u thaan” to her.
So it was with much dread that I agreed to watch Kochadaiyaan with friends. I was in for a surprise – it was a refreshing story, and had a strong female lead. But I digress… This post is about ‘Kabali’. I’ll cut to the chase…
Warning: Spoilers ahead
My friends told me Kabali is as un-Rajini as it can get, and told me I’ll like it. The Superstar’s old guy avatar was intriguing enough, so I decided I’ll go watch it anyway. And I’m glad I didn’t miss it. Because for the first time, I saw a Rajinikanth who was human. Vulnerable. And emotionally dependent on the women in his life. And that was extremely likeable. He was breaking stereotypes like nobody’s business, throughout the movie!
- Almost immediately after he gets out of prison, he misses his wife terribly. Revenge and action can wait, Kabali needs his Kumudhavalli.
- The flashback sequence emphasises how his wife shapes his persona. The Rajinikanth from Mannan days would’ve done it for himself, I’m sure. “Aambala di!” would’ve been his retort if the wife had offered suggestions 😛
- The priest in the flashback again tells him his wife is his strength, that he is safe with her by his side.
- When the bad guys hold her hostage and ask him to give up, she refuses to be the Achilles’ heel. The dangerously pregnant woman shakes the evil people away with all her might and fights to save Kabali’s honour. How cool is that? If Kabali were made during the same timeline as Baasha, or even if it were a Shankar movie, she’d be wimpering “ennangaaa!” a gazillion times.
- His daughter shadows him, posing as an assassin, but really just saving Daddy Dearest.
- No in-your-face duets and “romantic” sequences. Subtle and natural is the flavour.
- No misogyny. Yaey yaey yaey!!!
- And Rajini’s acting. OMG. He makes you fall in love with him. Especially the scenes that lead up to his reunion with his wife. Again – the vulnerability comes through, Rajini style! There’s just something very appealing about men who aren’t afraid to show emotions and are unashamed/unapologetic about it. And if it’s Rajini, that’s like the best thing to happen to Tamil audience, who are constantly fed detrimental gender stereotypes. Who better than The Superstar himself to lead the way and set an example?
- The climax hints at Kabali’s death. No, really.
- Kabali has regrets, apologises, doesn’t beat up 5 men in one shot. Enough said.
- He is self-deprecatory in the movie. Every other movie was him blowing his own trumpet, you’d think he was just giving himself the constant reassurance and motivation he needed.
- He allows himself to get tricked, betrayed, hurt… Yep, not invincible.
- He looks his age. More power to you for that, thalaiva!
Thank you Rajini, for doing this movie. I don’t know what made you pick this movie, but please keep doing such stuff. We will repay you with more and more louve.
Fangirl-ing big time