After ‘Kabali’ in 2016, ‘Super Star’ Ranjith and Director Pa.Ranjith are back with ‘Kaala’, their second collaboration together​. In early 2017, the film was rumored to be a biopic of the gangster Haji Mastan; however, after receiving a threatening letter from his son Sundar Shekar Mishra, director Ranjith denied that the film is not a biopic and clarified that the film was based on fictional events. Unlike ‘Kabali’ which had humongous publicity and promotions, ‘Kaala’ has released with such a low key advertising. This could be a strategic move from the production team, to avoid skyrocketing expectations which could work against the film (just like what happened for ‘Kabali’).

‘Kaala’ begins with a voice-over narrating the audience about the history of land and the societies dwelling in it and the politics behind it. The story of the urban poor who are deceived deliberately by the government, corporate & land mafias and how they are expelled from their own territory in the name of development & growth is told. Then, we are introduced to Dharavi and its people. ‘Kaala’ is all about the fight between Harinath Dada, an influential fascist politician who wants to clear all of Dharavi slum in the name of ‘Pure Mumbai’ scheme and Karikalan, a gangster and people’s leader from the slum.

Beyond all the flaws and lags in the second half, ‘Kaala’ is lovable for its ideologies and what it has got to tell the audience. Though leisurely placed, the first half is gripping​ enough. Ranjith has taken his own sweet time for the characters’ introduction, which has resulted in a very strong character establishment. Other than Kaala, there are many more memorable characters in the film such as his wife Selvi, Zareena, his sons Selvam & Lenin; even smallest characters like Lenin’s girlfriend (played beautifully by Anjali Patil) will stay close to your heart. The romance track (with both Eswari Rao & Huma Qureshi) and the emotional scenes of Kaala & his family have been finely written and filmed. The idea of narrating the story of Kaala & Zarina’s love and the past of Harinath Dada & Kaala’s father Venghaiyan in a single flashback as an animated story was brilliant. The pre-interval action block and the interval sequence with Kaala and Hari Dada’s face-off will be a treat to hardcore Rajini fans, for sure.

Whereas, the film falls into a ‘regular action cinema’ template post interval. Logic goes for a toss in many scenes. The film loses its momentum after the scene where Kaala’s car is hit by a lorry. Convenient writing, lengthy & tiring sequences, the predictability and cliches – altogether makes it a middling experience in the second half. ​When we expect that Zareena’s character might be put to good use​ in the second half, her character does not actually add any value at all after the interval block. The same happens with Harinath Dada role who is introduced to us after so much of build-ups and slow motion shots; except for Nana Patekar’s extraordinary acting, that character looks so weak (who sends a gang of goons and thugs to Kaala and gets defeated every time). The scenes involving the slum houses set to fire and the protest were not really inspiring or rousing at all. Kaala’s bright moments are deteriorated to an extent, with equal number of dull moments in those portions. However, towards the climax, the film gets it all set right again. The way the climax has been staged is striking! ​The dialogues are sharp and impressive​ such as ‘Panam, padhavi vandhuttaa rowdy ellaam vallal aagiduraan’ and ‘Baashaiyai maathi, oorai maathi engeyo Raja madhiri vaazhradhellaan oru vaazhkaiyaa.. Maathuradhaa irundhaa, Inga irundhu maathu’.

How often do we get to see the ‘Super Star’ with such a casual introduction scene? We see Rajinikanth playing cricket with kids in a playground, arguing with them teasingly. He sits in his house with a sleeveless vest and lungi, spending time with his 4 sons and grandchildren. It is so delightful to see Rajinikanth do such a role, with his usual charisma & style. Thanks to Ranjith for showing us the superb actor in him fantastically once again. It is endearing to see when he says ‘Hey.. Naam chummaa sonnen, adhai poi nee serious ah eduthukittu’ to Zarina or while he asks Selvi ‘Aamaa, andha perumaalai nee nijamaavaa love panna?’ When he utters punches like ‘

Hari Dada, naan unnai poga sollalaiye..’ and ‘Mudinjaa, en mudhugula venaa kuthikko’, the theater thunders with whistles and applause. Out of all other actors, Eswari Rao stands out as an excellent performer. With no pretentiousness in the character writings in the family episode, all the supporting actors’ performance are so convincing. The authenticity in those scenes are a very big plus point. Huma Qureshi’s performance is let down by a very conscious dubbing sadly.

Though the film did not have any unwanted scenes or any major deviation from the core plot, the film’s length had been a major issue. Cinematography by Murali and Background score by Santhosh Narayanan does contribute a lot of the film’s richness. All credits to Ramalingam, for the stunning Dharavi slum and the bridge set which had so much of detailing into it.

‘Kaala’ is lovable for its ideologies and performances, beyond its flaws and screenplay lags!

Rahman