Rajinikanth’s ‘Baasha’: A Review 25 Years Late

I skipped LOGAN, to watch Baasha, a twenty five year old Rajinikanth movie, which is almost three hours long, and one that I have watched numerous times. No, I'm not a die-hard Rajini fan, but it's been playing on TV at least once every three months since release. You do the math.

And yet, I don't regret skipping Logan for this. Despite the insipid in-film branding for Ola Auto.

No, It’s Not Nostalgia

When Rajini sings the 'Auto-karan' intro song outside Albert Theatre, with a huge 'Jurassic Park' hoarding in the background, it reminded me that I was born eight years before the first 70mm screens hit theatres.

So while nostalgia is what brought me to the theatre, it isn’t what made me sit through the movie.

Is It A Classic

Surprisingly, it is. It is a masala movie with a very predictable arc of comedy-song-tragedy-fight-reveal-comedy-song...you get the idea. But it was the first of its kind.

The ‘Super Star’ music track and text animation that is a staple of ALL Rajini movies started here. 

(Photo: Vikram Venkateswaran)

There has been no effort to change the animation, which, frankly, can now be replicated on any laptop by a ten year old. Padayappa, Lingaa, Sivaaji, Enthiran and Kabaali changed it, but none of it stays in memory.

In a lot of places, especially the visual transitions, it is quite raw. But this adds to an avante garde feel that one may associate with Sholay, or Martin Scorsese's 'whos knocking at your door' or Mani Ratnam's Agni Natchathiram.

Many basic rules of editing, composition and sound are broken, to great effect.

What Hasn’t Aged Well

The song 'style style thaan'. It's got this tacky disco themed costumes and BG going that pulls at your eye-sockets. But it's supposed to be an item number, so by that logic...still no.

There's this huge post interval lull that you somehow get through, thanks to Raghuvaran's performance. The audience remembered every dialogue of his, also his unique inflection, that conveys a suavete that Rajini touched much later in life.

I’d talk about the mysoginy, but then it’s still a part of our films.

(Photo: Vikram Venkateswaran)

Another Trend Setter?

MGR’s and Sivaji Ganesan’s movies still run in single screen theatres across Chennai, like Thyagaraja, Pilot, Casino and Lakshmi Talkies. They have their loyal audience, who come to relive their childhood and sing along to the melodies they already know by heart.

But they wouldn’t warrant a multiplex release. There’s nothing in them that’s relevant to current tastes. 

Rajini’s films post Baasha though, are definitely worth considering.
Exam season is off-season for theatres, and it makes sense to release a digitally remastered Rajinikanth movie, that people haven’t tired of watching on KTV for a decade or more.

When is Padayappa releasing? Does anyone know?