Many say that Rajinikanth is a director's actor and that a good director can always extract the best out of the superstar. I never thought he'd find one after Sivaji- The Boss. However, I thought vintage Rajini was back with Petta. I was wrong. He has truly returned only with Darbar. All thanks to AR Murugadoss.

I remember a dialogue from the movie Kabali where he says, "Na thirumbi vandhuten nu sollu (which means: Tell them that I have returned)." I'm sorry Thalaivar, you seem to have returned now with Darbar. And this Tamil star, after 20 long years, plays a mad cop, bad cop and a good cop. Alex Pandian in Moondru Mugam is Aaditya Arunachalam in Darbar. In Moondru Mugam, he says, "Indha Alex ku ellaam pakkamum thee pidikum (meaning: Alex is fiery from all sides)." And in Darbar, Mr Arunachalam makes an entry with all guns blazing.

Setting the pace:

The film kick starts with Rajinikanth's slow-motion intro with a matrix-like stunt sequence. I must give it to the stuntmen, who worked in this film. And they are: Lakshman Chella, Ram Chella and Peter Hein.

There is rage as we see Mumbai police commissioner Aaditya Arunachalam (played by the superstar) literally on a rampage. Reflecting my thought is a newspaper clipping that terms Rajini as a mad cop. He butchers the goons, beats up the representatives of the Human Rights Commission. And all actions of Rajini (good or bad) will always have a justification. So, we cut to the flashback.

Performances:

Flashback portrays the father-daughter chemistry between Aaditya and Valli (played by Nivetha Thomas). While Rajini's performance relies more on his style, punch dialogues and comedy, Nivetha steals the show with many emotional scenes in the movie. Valli strives to get Aaditya and Lilly (played by Nayanthara) married so that her father doesn't remain a widower for the rest of his life. Nayanthara, known as the lady superstar, was wasted, with the lack of screen time she gets in the movie. But, by God! She is simply stunning in her flawlessly draped sari and sleeveless blouse. Yogi Badu, the comedian in the film, is entertaining and fresh with his humour after Vadivelu and Vivek. For instance, the way he teases Rajini and compares him to Kunal of Kadhalar Dhinam fame. And then comes Hari Chopra (played by Suniel Shetty), who adds meat to the plot with his antagonistic attitude. By now, we all know it's a typical revenge story from the days of Annamalai and Baasha.

Costume and make up:

There's a scene where Nayan describes Rajini to a cop and explains the way Rajini dresses. He is suave, and like the way Tamil fans say: Chumma tip top ah irukaaru (impeccably dressed). Congratulations to costume designer Niharika Khan. And not just Rajinikanth. Anything goes for Rajini right. Nayanthara's saris go with her attitude and same is the case with Nivetha's clothes. And Suneil Shetty, with his hair tied into a bun, looks equally chic with his printed shirts and plain trousers. At no point did I feel, Rajini's hair, teeth or makeup were slightly misplaced. Thanks to Magdalena Wycislik, the makeup artist.

Music:

When I listened to the songs initially after the audio launch, they failed to impress me even though the intro song Chumma Kizhi was sung by SP Balasubramanian, which is tradition. But with the plot and Rajini's swag, and dance, they grow on you and I was beginning to enjoy them. The background score impressed me more. It hit the nail at the right place in most scenes, including those involving Suniel Shetty. But when it came to those mass scenes of Rajini, the tempo builds along with the audience's adrenaline, but shifts to the trademark Annamalai BGM. I understand it's nostalgic, but don't we all need a fresh piece of interlude to set the trend for Rajini? How long will Anirudh or other composers piggyback on the past hits?

Dialogues and direction:

All credit to AR Murugadoss for he seems to be the right person now to extract the right elements out of Rajinikanth. The movie dwells on flashback for long, but I was thankful that I didn't have to see a laboured effort in trying to portray a younger Rajini. Like Rajini says in the movie: age is just a number. There is a scene where he sits and fights and then dances and fights. He flicks the remote with his feet to switch off the TV. A cop from Thailand flips the glasses just the way Rajini does. "Adra Valli ku phone, sollra appointment fixed (Call Valli and tell her that the appointment is fixed)," is a simple dialogue that Rajini can deliver in style. When they invite him to take charge as the commissioner of police in Mumbai, he storms out saying, "I'm already in charge!" Must say, Rajini's delivery of English dialogues too have improved.

Ratings:

I give this movie 3.8 stars. I have to say that when I compare this to Petta, I loved Darbar more. While Rajini takes one whole star completely. Yogi Babu and Nivetha Thomas grab the second star. Suniel Shetty and AR Murugadoss deserve the third star. The remaining are shared between the costume designer, makeup artist and the stuntmen. When it comes to a Rajini movie, I always wish to carry an oft-repeated punch dialogue of Rajini and a tune that rings in your head constantly. I found none here. Rajini says in the climax, "Mudiyaadhungaridhu mudikaridhu dhaan ennodiya pazhakam (meaning: It's my habit to complete the task that is found to be impossible)." I heard a fan in the theatre saying how he wishes Rajini sets out to complete the task of cleaning up the political system of Tamil Nadu by diving into politics, just like he cleans up crime in Mumbai as a cop in Darbar.