Kaala - Movie Review

Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 13:00
Kaala (2018)
Cast & Crew: 

Film: Kaala
Cast: Rajinikanth, Nana Patekar, Eswari Rao, Huma Qureshi, Samuthirakani, Anjali Patil, Sayaji Shinde, Ravi Kale, Pankaj Tripathi, Yatin Karyekar, Sakshi Agarwal
Dialogue: Sree Ramakrishna
Music: Santhosh Narayanan
Cinematography: Murali G
Editing: Sreekar Prasad
Stunts: Dileep Subbarayan
Production company: Wunderbar Films
Produced by: Dhanush
Written and direction: Pa Ranjith
Release date: June 7, 2018
Running time: 167 minutes
CBFC Rating: UA


Karikala (Rajinikanth) lives in a slum Dharavi in Mumbai. A politician and builder Hari Dada (Nana Patekar) wins a tender of converting this slum into modern locality with high rise apartments. Zareena (Huma) who works for an international NGO, comes to help when this happen. Initially, Karikala and others agree to the plan but they back off when they are not getting much out of this grandiose plan. How Karikaala protects his people from the land-grabbers is the rest of the drama.


Superstar Rajinikanth who is in his late 60's consciously decided to play roles that suit his age. In 'Kabaali', he was seen as ageing Mafia don searching for his estranged wife. In 'Kaala', he gets a 'soft' introduction scene: playing gully cricket with kids. Both the films are directed by Pa Ranjith, who is known for making movies about stories with undercurrent of 'Dalit' theme or about the downtrodden people revolting against the oppressive leaders.

In 'Kaala', the villain is Nana Patekar, a Mumbai (North India) politician whose sole target is creating 'Pure and Clean Mumbai'. The protagonist is Karikaala, the south Indian who settled in Dharavi hailing from Tamilnadu. In one scene, when Nana Patekar's granddaughter asks who is Kaala, he replies: “He is Raavana the demon.” So the subtext is clear. Ranjith has made this whole fight between Kaala (Dravid) and Harinath the Mumbai politician (Aryan) to symbolize the fight between BJP and Minorities/Dalits, south India vs North India. Pure Mumbai project is obvious reference to current NDA government's policies.

There is also Ram vs Raavan. In Tamilnadu, a theory is that Raavan is Dravidian and he was portrayed as demon by Aryans. Ranjith also uses Ram versus Raavan contrast according to this theory.

Political subtext aside, 'Kaala' is in simpler terms is all about a ruthless politician nabbing the land of slum dwellers vs the leader of the slum area. This plotline is filled with usual scenes of confrontation, agitations, politician burning the huts, protagonist inspiring all the slum dwellers to unite (Our bodies are our weapons, says Kaala) to take on the politician. There are also 'Kabali' moments - a don wishing to end the violent history with him, romantic thread (between Rajini and Huma).

The film begins in simpler way establishing Rajinikanth's family life and Dharavi's issue. Family moments dominate in the first half and the interval bang sets the right hook to look forward to the main battle between Rajinikanth and Nana Patekar. The director introduces Nana Patekar first through hoardings and posters. We hear his name all through it but he actually appears in person just before the interval to meet Kaala. This sequence is written well and shot terrifically. In fact, for non-Rajinikanth fan and a regular Telugu audience, it gives the feel that film has just actually begun at that moment. Sadly, these fine moments end after few minutes into the second half. There is a scene where Rajinikanth moves to Nana Patekar's house to confront him in the second half. Till then the movie holds interest, later it fizzles into typical Tamil masala movie mode.

While director Ranjith's 'Kabali' was about Tamil identity in Malaysia, this film is more of a political propaganda movie against BJP. At a time when Rajinikanth is being branded as BJP's B-Team in Tamilnadu, the star comes up with a movie that tears into Modi's policies. Whether this film helps to shrug off the image (pro-BJP) that Rajini has got remains to be seen. But sad part, this is less of a movie, more of an ideological assertive piece. Rajinikanth's heroism, superstardom took backseat here, Ranjith's ideologies come forth. This critic has failed to connect with the much of proceedings in the final sequences. The strike scene in the climax reminded me of 'Sakula Janula Samme' during Telangana agitation.

Rajinikanth as Karikala is terrific. Despite his age, he looks energetic, angrier, and unleashes fury through his eyes. His screen charisma comes as handy in many dull moments. But it is Nana Patekar who makes the moments livelier with his terrific performance and brooding appearance. The confrontational scenes are excellent. Among other actors, Huma as Rajini's former lover and Eeshwari Rao as his wife are impressive.

Music director Santosh Narayana comes up with songs that don't register at all. But his background score is excellent. Murali's good cinematography and excellent artwork (Dharavi set is realistic) and visual effects by Makuta have brought authenticity. The Telugu dialogue writing by Sri Ramakrishna is bad.

Bottom-line: 'Kaala' is political movie with lot of Tamil flavour. We see less of Rajini-ism, more of political propaganda. Although some sequences in the middle-portion are arrestingly good, rest of the drama doesn't hold interest at all. An underwhelming film. However, those who have leftist ideology and those seek for Dalit and Dravidian identity in the movies might connect with this more.

Reviewed by: 
J Gudelli