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R16: Contains violence and drug use

Spoiler alert

This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.

Kabali poster

Date registered: 18/08/2016


Kabali is a much-anticipated Indian Tamil/English-language crime/action film with English subtitles.

Kabali was released on 3,200 screens in India, of which 2,200 were in south India. Upon release, the film had the largest opening weekend for any Indian film worldwide and became the second highest grossing Indian film ever.

A still image from the film - Kabali standing in the middle of a dust-filled room

About the film

Kabali, a Kuala Lumpur-based gangster and revolutionary, is released after 25 years in prison having been falsely accused of instigating a massacre.

He resumes charge of his old gang who work to help Tamils in Malaysia; and becomes determined to avenge the death of his pregnant wife.

His main rival is the notorious Chinese gang '43', led by Tony Lee and his second-in-command, Veerasekaran.

Parts of the film depict the struggle of migrant Tamils for rights and recognition in their adopted home of Malaysia. The film has cultural merit for the Tamil community in particular, however the high extent and glamourised manner of the violence meant an age restriction was necessary.

A still image from the film - Kabali rising above an angry mob

Classification criteria: Crime

The film deals predominantly with matters of crime, cruelty and violence, all in the context of gang activity.

The drug trade is said to be a lucrative business for local gangs. A trade is made at traffic lights and in several scenes workers are seen stuffing what appears to be cannabis and cocaine into bags. A student is twice seen lighting and smoking drugs; she had become involved with a drug dealer and fell pregnant to him. This activity is clandestine and brief.

There are also verbal references to prostitution rings with women being referred to as 'hookers'.

All crime is depicted as easy and without consequence.

Kabali and his associates being threatened at gunpoint by members of a rival gang

Classification criteria: Cruelty and violence

Violence and cruelty are quite extensive, becoming stronger and bloodier as the film progresses.

There are regular frenetic fights and shootouts between rival gangs. Weapons include machetes, knives, metal poles or broken bottles. Depictions of bodily harm are generally brief, but the action is aggressive and the overall impact of violence and cruelty is quite strong.

Violence is trivialised and presented as a positive solution to one's problems. Kabali is a charismatic and respected character who performs violence with casual ease and without consequences. He generally arrives on scene with an entourage and eponymous rap music lauding him as a formidable hero. Impressionable viewers are likely to view his conduct as admirable.

A still image from the film - Kabali fighting another man on top of a moving train

Decision summary

The dominant effect of the film is of an action blockbuster driven by scenes of gratuitous shootouts and other violence. The stronger cruelty and bloody violence is likely to shock and disturb young viewers.

The attitude to crime and violence, and the entertaining spectacle of it all, is likely to desensitise impressionable younger viewers to violence and its consequences in the real world.

Older teenagers and adults are more likely to have the analytical ability to contextualise this material as fictitious, without being negatively affected. Balancing these harms against the right to freedom of expression, a restriction to persons aged 16 and over is reasonable and demonstrably justifiable in the interest of preventing injury to the public good.

Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.

R16 label
R16: Contains violence and drug use