It is all rains and gun-fires in Mumbai city, a night of hunt where none shall be spared for the mad cop is on his watch. On an electric note unfolds Darbar taking us to the ruthless killer cop, Aadithya Arunachalam with the flicker of lights, glorious shadows, shudders of the earth and an attitude of the king revealed in a magnificent air with chants of Thalaiva hailed aloud in the music, the theatre brimming with whistles and you know and have always did that it is a film for the star, of the star and crafted by his own iconic tropes.
Darbar is a spectacle of the star which as a film works ‘with’ clichés and not ‘around’ clichés as Petta did. This renders the film both delightfully old-school and dully so. Rajini in all his glorious form and energy is Aadithya Arunachalam, the crusader of the rotting city of Mumbai. He is here to ‘detox’ it. With Alex Pandian’s righteousness he blends in his own charms delivering some very enjoyable stretches of investigations and police operations in the initial half of the film which inch almost closer to surprises but sure are enlivening.
He is a father to a girl in her mid-twenties and is a sport when his age is joked about. There is charm, acceptance and sense of ease. The action drama initially pursues a relatively fine flow and we see Rajini engaging enthusiastically and briefly in his play of those mind games with the rivals which later retreat into the zone of brawls and fight sequences and the film also gives away early what it is to behold for later, it tells us that a dear is departed before flashing back to the recent past diluting the value of the shock and the tension of the moments in such revelation leaving us scare chances of discoveries in a tale too familiar to navigate through. We also come to know who the murdered rival is prior Aadithya does and in a tale where we are aware of what shall be the doom of the nemesis, this knowledge retains not any intrigue and leads instead to the dullness of what is to follow.
The ease, energy and electricity soon take a drastic turn when the film breaks off into melodrama. We know Aadithya Arunachalam as a cop, his enemy, Hari Chopra as a drug lord but we receive no vivid glimpses of what they actually are as people, as individuals. With Aadithya, the lovely little details help but the melodrama the flick reaches out to would have landed hard and aching if we knew better what Aadithya was like earlier, what his relationship with his wife was like and if his profession was the factor responsible for her fate. There are no internalisations of conflicts and what a human moment an instance of doubt, of fragility, of guilt could have been when he rages with the need to avenge the death of a departed dear.
The bleakness and lack of any significant threat in Sunil Shetty makes him an excruciatingly underwhelming presence opposite the massive star and the miniscule evidences of fatherly hurt, care and anger go amiss in a performance that doesn’t help render the antagonist a bit more concrete, in the least, as an embodiment of menace. It is true also of the other few significant characters present in the film with an exception of Valli, Aadithya’s daughter. The rest merely function as props, revolving around the crusader with no striking will and identity of their own personalities and albeit this suiting a certain nature of this star outing, the lack of conflicts within and around these characters, specifically with the entire police force working in unison with Arunachalam’s vision sans a notable taint , a traitor, a rebellion and rather as a manifestation of virtuousness emerge vapid and almost too ideal, denied a potential to escalate the conflicts to exciting levels.
Aadithya is a name instantly sturdy, beaming with the glow of the star and synonymous with the sun and the hero does toil to vanquish the supposedly dark clouds looming over the city of Mumbai, rescuing the city from its nights and its demons. In the golden hues the film predominately revels in, Aadithya is often bathed in the rays of sun, of its shine and warmth. The sun, the star sure lights up a day, giving it a start, a course and a glorious closure yet for the day to be complete, to be fondly remembered in our hearts, recorded in our diaries, chronicled in legends to our friends, it is essential and especial that we also confront striking events, of surprises, of even shocks, meet new people, remarkable in their own ways and behold our ever favourite person in awe.
In Darbar, Rajini is Aadithya, the sun and is the only glow and gem in a tale of clichés which soon loses its glory to its lack of inventiveness even within an old-school premise that still holds a substantial intrigue value. It is a sunny day, yet not a fine one.