Kabali (film)

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Kabali poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPa. Ranjith
Produced byKalaipuli S. Thanu
Written byPa. Ranjith
Music bySanthosh Narayanan
CinematographyMurali G
Edited byPraveen K.L[1]
Distributed by
Release date
  • 21 July 2016 (2016-07-21) (Malaysia)[2]
  • 22 July 2016 (2016-07-22) (Worldwide)
Running time
152 minutes[3]
Budgetest. ₹100 crore[4]
Box officeDisputed (see box office)

Kabali is a 2016 Indian Tamil-language action crime film[5][6] written and directed by Pa. Ranjith and produced by Kalaipuli S. Thanu.[7] The film plot concerns the gang war between Kabaleeswaran (played by Rajinikanth) and Tony Lee (portrayed by Winston Chao). Radhika Apte, Sai Dhanshika, Kishore, Dinesh, Kalaiyarasan, and John Vijay also appear in pivotal roles.

Principal photography for the film began on 21 August 2015 in Chennai. While filming mostly occurred in Malaysia, some scenes were shot in Bangkok and Hong Kong.[8]

The film was released in Tamil along with dubbed versions in Telugu and Hindi on 22 July 2016, while the film was released in Malay a week later.[9][10][11] Kabali was released on 3200 screens in India, of which 2200 were in South India.[12]


A Kuala Lumpur–based don Kabaleeswaran alias Kabali is released after spending 25 years in prison on a false charge of starting a massacre at a local Hindu temple that killed many, including his wife Kumudhavalli. He immediately resumes charge of his old gang and soon confronts Loganathan, a drug smuggler. Loga insults Kumudha, saying that she would have been sold into prostitution had she been alive. In retaliation, Kabali rams his car into Loga, killing him; however, the incident makes him believe that his wife may be still alive. Later, Kabali survives an assassination attempt by Tamizh Kumaran alias Kumaran, whose father Tamilmaaran was killed by Kabali when Kumaran was a young boy. The next day, at a function organised by the Free Life Foundation School, a school started by Kabali's friend Ameer to reform youngsters involved in criminal activities, Kabali talks about his past.

Kabali was the protege of Tamilmaaran's father Tamilnesan, a don who fought for the rights of Tamil Malaysians. Tamilnesan was killed by Veerasekaran, a member of his gang who disliked his rules such as not involving in illegal activities like drug smuggling and prostitution. Following Tamilnesan's death, Kabali took charge of Tamilnesan's gang. Veera manipulated Tamilmaaran by telling him that he, being Tamilnesan's son, should lead the gang and not Kabali. Tamilmaaran invited Kabali and a pregnant Kumudha for a temple function. However, this was revealed to be a trap as Veera and his men confronted Kabali and Kumudha at the function. In the ensuing scuffle, Kabali was brutally attacked while Kumudha was shot and seemingly killed. Kabali then killed Tamilmaaran for his betrayal in front of a young Kumaran and was soon arrested on a false charge of instigating the massacre.

Kumaran, after hearing Kabali's speech, realises his mistake and apologises to him. He tells him that Velu, one of Veera's henchmen who was present at the temple massacre, is aware of what happened to Kumudha. Kabali then leaves for Thailand, where Velu is residing. On confronting Velu, he learns that his daughter is still alive. At this juncture, Kabali is confronted by Yogi, a contract killer hired by Veera and his boss Tony Lee, who heads the rival Gang 43 in Kuala Lumpur, to eliminate Kabali. Yogi instead kills the men who had come with her and reveals herself to Kabali as his daughter, who had been raised by Velu. She also tells him that Kumudha is still alive and is living with a French family in Puducherry. Kabali and Yogi then leave for Puducherry, where, after several days of searching, they reunite with Kumudha and spend a few days with her there. While in Puducherry, Kabali and his family are attacked by men sent by Tony. However, Kabali and Yogi fight them off and escape safely with Kumudha.

Kabali and his family soon return to Kuala Lumpur, where he is told that Ameer has been severely injured in a car accident set up by Tony; his henchman Jeeva was brutally chopped to pieces by Tony after refusing to join Gang 43; and Gang 43 had destroyed the Free Life Foundation School and started to control the Kuala Lumpur underworld, eliminating any gang who dared to oppose them. On hearing all this, Kabali decides to finish Veera and Tony. He and his family attend the 100th birthday party for a respected Malaysian don Ang Lee, who had invited all gangs, including Gang 43. At the party, Kabali starts a shootout with the help of Kumaran, which ends with him killing Veera and Tony.

Some months later, Kabali, Kumudha, Kumaran, and Yogi attend a function organised by the Free Life Foundation. One of the Free Life alumni, a youngster named Tiger, who is known to be aggressive and reckless, walks up to Kabali, with scenes showing him speaking to the police prior to the function. The screen cuts to black, and the sound of a gun clicking and a gunshot afterwards is heard.


  • Rajinikanth as Kabaliswaran (Kabali), the head of Malaysian Gangster group '00'.
  • Radhika Apte as Kumudhavalli Kabaliswaran, Kabali's wife
  • Sai Dhanshika as Yogitha Kabaleeswaran, Kabali's daughter who is a contract killer in Thailand.
  • Winston Chao as Tony Lee, industrialist, businessman and a head of Malaysian Gangster group '43'.
  • Kishore as Veerasekaran, the second head of '43'
  • Dinesh as Jeeva, Kabali's gang member.
  • Kalaiyarasan as Thamizh Kumaran (Kumaran), Tamizh Nesan's grandson and Tamizh Maran's son. He is a teacher in Kabali's school.
  • John Vijay as Ameer, Kabali's sidekick/trusted aide.
  • Nassar as Tamizh Nesan, the founder of '00' to protect Malaysian Tamizhans
  • Riythvika as Meena, a drug-addicted girl who joins Kabali's school for a reason to safe from drugs. Later, Kabali adopts her as his daughter.
  • Sangili Murugan as Palace Owner
  • Rosyam Nor as Tony's sidekick
  • Charles Vinoth as Tamizh Maaran, Tamizha Nesan's son and Kabali's best friend.
  • Mime Gopi as Loganathan, '43' second main member to do drug supply.
  • R. Amarendran as Velu/Venu, Veera's henchman.
  • Lishesh as Seeni, '43' main member to do money laundry.
  • Visvanth as Jai
  • Hari Krishnan as Tiger, school student who encounters Kabali in the end.
  • Gajaraj as Marthandam, Kabali's teammate in young age but later works for Gang '43'.
  • Sampath Ram as Sampath, Kabali's teammate.
  • Rama as Mallika
  • Uday Mahesh as Durai
  • Nandakumar as Anbu
  • Ramesh Thilak
  • Soundarya Bala Nandakumar as Pub Singer
  • Vittal Prasad
  • Darkey as singer in "Ulagam Oruvanukka" Song



In June 2015, director Pa. Ranjith announced his third directorial venture, which would follow his previous two films Attakathi (2012) and Madras (2014), with Rajinikanth via Twitter. Rajinikanth had been impressed with Ranjith's work in Madras (2014) and subsequently Rajinikanth's daughter, Soundarya, asked Ranjith to work on a script for her father.[13] Working with Ranjith would make Kabali Rajinikanth's first film with a novel director for the first time since his collaboration with S. Shankar in Sivaji (2007).[14] In an interview with IndiaGlitz, producer S. Thanu revealed that Rajinikanth had personally asked him to produce the Ranjith-directed film. The producer's commercially successful Bairavi (1978) was Rajinikanth's first lead role film and the two had not collaborated since.[15] It was speculated that Rajinikanth's role would be based on a real-life mob boss from Chennai.[16] Santhosh Narayanan was confirmed as the film's music composer, continuing his partnership with Ranjith after the latter's previous two films. Ranjith also retained G. Murali, the cinematographer of Madras.

On 17 August 2015, Ranjith announced the title of the film to be Kabali and that Rajinikanth would play the role of Kabaliswaran.[17] The makers of the film had earlier considered using title Kaali, which was the title of Rajinikanth's 1980 film. As that film did not do well in the Tamil Nadu box office at the time, the makers passed on using it for the new film. Another title, Kannabhiran, was also considered but it was later found that the title's rights were already held by director Ameer Sultan for a future film.[18]


In the film, Rajinikanth plays the role of an aged crime boss.[19] According to the Telugu newspaper Eenadu, Rajinikanth, after being impressed with Nayakan (1987), requested its director Mani Ratnam to write a similar script, but the project never materialised; its similarities with Ranjith's script for Kabali made him accept to star in the latter film.[20] Dinesh Ravi, who played the lead in Ranjith's Attakathi (2012), and Kalaiyarasan, who played pivotal roles in both of the director's previous films, were also confirmed to be part of the film. An important role was offered to Prakash Raj initially,[21] but later it was said that the role was declined due to scheduling issues and John Vijay was cast for the role instead.[22] It was later confirmed that the role of the lead character's wife would be given to Radhika Apte, who was introduced to Tamil films through Dhoni (2012).[23] Dhansika was signed to play a supporting character in the film.[24] Soundarya Nandakumar, a television actress best known for her participation in Star Vijay's Airtel Super Singer 3, was chosen for a cameo appearance.[25]


On 18 August 2015, director Pa Ranjith announced on his Twitter page that principal photography would begin the following week,[26] which was confirmed on 22 August when Behindwoods covered a photo shoot which took place on 21 August at AVM Studios in Chennai. First schedule of the filming started on Vinayagar Chaturthi on 17 September 2015 at the Russian Centre of Science and Cultural in Chennai.[27]


Santhosh Narayanan composed the film's soundtrack and background score of the film. This is the first time, he is scoring for a Rajini-starrer film. The soundtrack album features five songs with lyrics written by Kabilan, Vivek, Umadevi and Arunraja Kamaraj and one song was released as a bonus track after the film's release. The audio rights were acquired by Think Music and the soundtrack album was released on 12 June 2016 in both original Tamil and Hindi versions, the Telugu version was released on 26 June 2016, whereas the Malay version consists of two songs was released on 1 July 2016. A bonus track was released on 5 August 2016. The background score was released on 14 August 2016.


Kabali was released in Tamil worldwide, along with dubbed versions in Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, and Malay.[28] The film was scheduled to be released simultaneously in Singapore and Indonesia.[29] Malik Streams Productions and Distribution, a Malaysian media company, will simultaneously release the film in Malay for exclusive screening in Malaysia alongside the original Tamil version.[30] The film was also dubbed in Mandarin[31] and Thai, and was released in Hong Kong, China and Thailand.[32][33] Kabali also premiered at the Le Grand Rex in Paris, France.[34][35]


After the airline AirAsia India became an official partner for Kabali, an Airbus A320 owned by the airline was wrapped with the film's title and an image of Rajinikanth depicted as Kabaleeshwaran.[33][36] It was the first time a passenger jet had been wrapped for advertising an Indian film.[37] The Indian financial company Muthoot FinCorp who is also an official partner of the film produced silver coins embossed with the image of actor as cast in the film.[38][39] Its teaser trailer was released in April 2016 and went viral in Asia and gained 5 million views in less than 24 hours becoming the most viewed teaser in Asia.[40][41]

Online piracy issue[edit]

On 19 July 2016, three days prior to the film's worldwide release, it was reported that pirated copies of the film were leaked online in darknet.[42] The Indian Express reported that although the leaked copies were available only in the darknet, lots of fake links were being circulated in the web. The makers of the film had approached Madras High Court in anticipation of piracy and had requested the authority to ensure that it does not happen.[43] CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani commented on the issue by saying that the leak had nothing to do with his office in Mumbai and reiterated the fact that Kabali, a Tamil film, was certified by CBFC's Chennai office. He also added that the leak would not have much effect on the film's box office collection.

Two days later, on 21 July 2016, a two-minute long sequence of the film was also leaked online, which subsequently went viral on instant messaging app, WhatsApp.[44] Commenting on the leak, producer Kalaippuli S Thanu said, "Watching Thalaivar entry on phone or computer won't give you goosebumps. Say thank you to pirates, let's watch it in theaters from Friday" through his Twitter account. The News Minute reported that the sequence leak, which carried English as well as Arabic subtitles, could have been released from Gulf countries.[45]

Following the film's release, a partial copy which had been filmed with a mobile phone in a cinema was posted to Vimeo, but was subsequently removed from the website.[46]

Alternate ending[edit]

The Malaysian version of the film proceeds beyond the fade to black and offers a concrete ending, stating that Kabali surrendered to the police. This alternate ending was created at the behest of Film Censorship Board of Malaysia, which does not allow showcasing of policemen encouraging violence.[47][48][49]

Critical reception[edit]

Kabali was a highly anticipated film throughout the country, including cities like Chennai,Bangalore, Mumbai, and Hyderabad, but the film received mixed reviews.[50][51] [52][53]

IndiaGlitz rated the film 3 out of 5 and called it "A very different Rajinikanth Experience".[54] Behindwoods rated the film 2.75 out of 5 and stated that ''Rajinikanth in a different dimension,but Kabali might not work for everyone''.[55] The Indian Express rated the movie 3.5 out of 5 and said that,''Rajinikanth's film lacks pace and mass''.[56] Filmibeat rated the movie 3 out of 5 stars and stated that ''You might be disappointed if you go into the cinema hall keeping in mind the recent hype and hoopla around Kabali". However, this is definitely Rajinikanth's best in the recent times''.[57] International Business Times rated the film 3.5 out of 5, stating "Rajnikanth shines in politically charged movie".[58] Baradwaj Rangan of The Hindu wrote "Ranjith’s filmmaking is different too, and not in a good way. Kabali does have some of his trademarks...but the life that infused his earlier films is missing."[59]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 70% based on 10 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10.[60]


Some reviewers attacked the movie for portraying Rajinikanth as a dalit leader. The film was targeted for depicting Dalit caste which the whole team refused to accept.[61][62] However, some dalit outfits referred it as a Dalit movie.[63][64]

Box office[edit]

Kabali had the highest worldwide opening day for a South Indian film, surpassing the record set by Baahubali: The Beginning by earning 875 million (US$12 million) on the first day.[65] The film also had the highest 3-day opening weekend for an Indian film surpassing the 2.06 billion (US$29 million) record set by Sultan two weeks earlier as it earned 2.11 billion (US$30 million).[65]

Disputed gross figures[edit]

Box office gross values of 6–6.75 billion were reported in the first 13 days by several organisations including Financial Express and Indian Express,[66][67] which were more than double the estimates made by other sources.[68] International Business Times (IBT) and Firstpost criticised these estimates as inflated, explaining the discrepancy as due in part to the addition of "pre-release business" figures, such as music and satellite rights sales of 2 billion,[69] being factored into the box office sales totals.[68] Firstpost wrote, "More conservative estimates put Kabali’s collections at around Rs [3 billion] from worldwide ticket sales."[69] IBT's analysts in August 2016 estimated the film's worldwide gross total of its first 13 days at around 3.5 billion (US$49 million).[70]

Figures given in December 2016 by Financial Express indicated an estimated domestic gross of 215 crore and an international gross of 262 crore, for a worldwide total of 477 crore.[71] A figure of USD$77 million given by Rob Cain in May 2017 converted to approximately 493–499 crore.[72] According to International Business Times in October 2017, Kabali's final worldwide gross was around 286 crore (US$40 million).[73] According to Box Office India, the film's final worldwide gross was 305 crore (US$43 million).[74]


Kabali had the highest opening day for a South Indian film in terms of gross revenue, grossing 530 million (US$7.4 million) on the first day of its release in India from all the languages and was just behind the 2015 film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo for the highest first day gross in India in a single day.[75] It also became the first Tamil film to gross 200 million (US$2.8 million) in a single day from Tamil Nadu.[76] Kabali went on to record the top-earning first weekend in India, grossing 1.2425 billion (US$17 million) in three days from all its versions.[77][78] International Business Times stated on 4 August 2016 that Kabali grossed 2.05 billion (US$29 million) domestically in ten days,[79] before later stating on 9 August 2016 that it grossed 1.96 billion (US$27 million) domestically in seventeen days.[80]


Kabali grossed US$15.70 million (105 crore) till its tenth day.[65] The film had earned US$11.20 million (75.27 crore) in its first four-day weekend overseas,[81] breaking the record previously held by Dhoom 3 (US$10.32 million) as the highest-grossing first weekend for an Indian film in overseas markets.[82] According to International Business Times in May 2017, the film's final overseas gross was US$15.65 million.[83]

Awards and nominations[edit]


Shortly after the film's success, in an interview with Don Groves, S. Thanu said that the initial results exceeded his expectations and that the film’s ending sets up a sequel.[84] On 25 July 2016, he spoke, "We created an open climax for Kabali. So, director Ranjith and I are interested in a sequel for this gangster flick. However, Rajinikanth will have to give us the nod to carry on. The film’s collections indicate that it is a sensational hit, and has surpassed all records".[85]


The song "Neruppu Da" inspired a 2017 film of same name starring Vikram Prabhu. The title was kept as the film portrayed Vikram Prabhu as firefighter and a fan of Rajinikanth.[86]


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External links[edit]