Aug 26, 2002

Fatguy has been bugging me on this subject, so I will attempt to post a few lines on a topic that has been up there in the staunch Tamil mind for the past couple of weeks, relegating Amma-bashing-Amma-worshipping to a lower spot. For the uninitiated, the typically titled Baba is Rajnikant's, nay The Superstar's latest offering: it comes after 3 years of hibernation, and freed the loyal fan from distress on Independence Day.
I haven't seen the film as it hasn't been released anywhere near me, but I'm unlikely to see it even if it were to be shown on Sun TV (that is quick to gobble up new releases): I have missed previous Rajini offerings like Baatsha & Muthu (Like Ramgopal Varma, Rajini seems to prefer the one-word title, add Padaiyappa & Baba to Annamalai, and you get the picture). But the hype is so overwhelming, on TV as well as forums infested with Tamils (me included), that any Tamilian worth his dosai has an opinion on the matter, or barring that, an undeniable curiosity to know what the fuss is all about. This post is my distillation of all the reviews, comments and features I have read/seen.
Baba straddles two topics that Rajni has closely entangled with for the last few years: politics and spirituality. And the plot reflects his own confused attitude to both, say reviewers. No wonder, since the film is scripted by the Superstar (not aware if he has done so earlier). In brief, Baba (played by Rajnikant) is a man, prophesied by sages to be destined for greatness, who lives with the dregs of society: some sort of hoodlum, do-gooder of course. He is atheistic too, BTW. All in preparation for an about-turn in the 2nd half. Battling various villains (politicians high on the list) takes him to meet a (incredible) 2000 year old Himalayan rishi who grants him 7 boons and a conversion to the spiritual method. And Baba promptly goes on to squander 4 before realising the awesome power vested in him. How he uses the remaining 3 boons to pulverise all the bad guys (played by almost all the office-bearers of the Bombay Film Villainy Association, the film has baddies ranging from Ashish Vidyarthi to Bharat Dabholkar to a guest villain a.k.a Amrish Puri) is the rest of the story.
The "2000 year old rishi" thing seems justified considering that the average age of the star cast is somewhere in the forties: Rajanikant, sidekick Goundamani, Sujata, M.N.Nambiar (supposedly wasted), Vijaykumar (ranting and heaving as usual) and stock god-fearing heroine in Manisha Koirala (she's now done movies with the big boys of Kollywood, Kamal, Mani Ratnam and now Rajni).The director is Suresh Krissna, who seems to be ideal cutout-driver to let the big stars do some backroom-driving (Aalavandan with Kamal, a few Rajni movies in the past). The score (or whatever I have heard of it so far) is terrible, IMHO. It is by A.R.Rahman. Yes, even the loyal fan needs to give dis-credit wherever due. Even if it will grow upon one later, it still will be a mediocre score in comparison, say for e.g to Muthu (to keep the Rajni-style jingoistic music in comparison).
But the movie will probably do well: two viewings by each Rajini fan should take it through to 50 days. But the hardcore fan (and we like to push the limits of being "hardcore" from where i come from) doesn't want a story: he wants Rajni to do his inimitable finger styles, sledgehammer dialogues (a purely Rajni phenomenon in which one figurative phrase is drawled, often to the accompaniment of finger movements and swooshing sounds, quite impressive). All of this and more is to be seen in Baba, so the trailers inform. "I may come late, but I'll be the latest" leads the pack in Baba. And a new style, comically represented here as "|..|" (bend your middle & ring fingers along with your thumb, you'll either say "Yo!" or "Vaazhga Superstar").
The features on Sun TV were very flattering and the special Sun TV feature on Sunday featured Rajnikant's wife talking about the movie, so Fatguy, you didn't miss much. Don't get me wrong, I like Rajnikant's acting, in patches. Pathinaru Vayithinile, Thillu Mullu (our own Golmaal) saw some fine talent, but his willingness to straitjacket himself in his image is benumbing to me. Either he grabs the mileage of his stardom for his political ambitions or do justice to acting. Right now he is doing neither. And he seems terribly weighed down doing neither.

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