Revenge of the Proletariat, rage of the bourgeoisie, a polysemous reference to the legitimacy of Jean Jacques Rousseau ‘s social contract all layer over one another and fold backwards before forming an interesting pastiche of a common man’s revolution in Ranjith’s latest Rajini flick, “Kaala”. I personally am not aware of Ranjith’s political inclinations, but with characters named after Lenin, and veiled references to the usurping of power by the haves over a repressed community of have-nots, I am not willing to bet on the fact that he is derisive of the proclamations of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
The Rajini-Ranjith combine have expiated their shortcomings that was apparent in “Kabali” in a seamless and flawless vein in “Kaala”. This, without a semblance of doubt is the most ‘un-Rajini’ like movie which paradoxically results in the Superstar delivering one of his most powerful, indelible and relevant performances. While all along we have been used to viewing, admiring and appropriating a larger-than-life, monarch of all he surveys Demi-God personified Rajini, Ranjith’s “Kaala” is a muted although influential powerhouse who bides his time and plots his strategies with a finesse usually reserved for a revolutionary. A subdued Rajini however does not mean a subservient protagonist. “Kaala” is a low profile arsenal, every barrage of which has reverberating ramifications.
“Kaala” begins with a depiction of the history of mass repressions in India, pioneered by the colonial British Raj, whose riches were accumulated on the back of a poverty that was institutionalized and a bureaucracy that was internalized. The voice over concludes stating that such draconian and antediluvian measures continue even to this day. The movie begins with an altercation between people who are trying to evade forced eviction from the sprawling slums of Dharavi, courtesy an aspiring politician. When heated debates and deliberations boil over to form traces of violence, the folks realise that there is only one soul whose presence can bring relief to a community in peril. Enter Karikaalan a.k.a Kaala! With an unmistakable swagger, uninhibited style and unmatched screen presence, the Thalaivar of a teeming masses is introduced to his irrepressible fans!
This sets off a fated feud between Kaala, the savior of the down-trodden and Haridev Abhayankar a.k.a Hari Dada (Nana Patekar), a dreaded criminal-politician who will brook no obstacle to convert the slums of Dharavi into a hot bed of modern architectural marvels. The tussle is the proverbial battle between the purveyor of hope and the peddler of darkness with only one possible outcome. It is either deliverance or doom. Two of the most admired actors in Indian celluloid history go against each other in a no-holds barred manner regaling a multitude of eager fans in the process!
Rajinikanth exudes hope, while Nana extolls in his evil Avatar. The scenes of confrontation between the warring personalities is to put it very mildly, exhilarating! Fluently alternating between Hindi and Marathi, Rajini and Nana are two incendiary joys to behold! Although bereft of the usual histrionics and pyro technique characterizing a Rajini fare, “Kaala” has its fair share of patented Rajini moments. The elaborate pre-interval fighting scene leaves none in doubt that “THE BOSS IS BACK”! The expected and anticipated slow motion sequences do ample justice to the concerned contextual passages. However, one telling change is the complete absence of the “Thalaivar Punch Lines”. There is no evidence of a comparable to Padayappa’s “Thani Vazhi” or Baasha’s “Naan Orudarava Sonna…”, or Arunachalam’s “Aandavan Solraan…”. Instead what you get are measured dialogues which double up as missives revealing the future political ambitions of the South Indian phenomenon. A scene in a police station bears monumental testimony to the versatility of Rajini the actor where he leaves the audience in splits with a repeated drunken monologue.
Nana Patekar, as his is forte holds his own stupendously well and is in engrossing lockstep with Rajini. With a flowing dialogue delivery and blood curling expressions, Nana the consummate villain steals the show in more scenes than one!
Eswari Rao as “Selvi” is the epitome of innocence in the form of Kaala’s beloved wife. Huma Qureshi (“Zareena”) in the role of Kaala’s former lover and a social activist more than just does justice to her assigned part. Samuthirakani (“Vaaliyappan”) essays the role of an endearing, but perpetually drunk brother-in-law of Rajini. He is the surprise package (refreshingly so) in the movie, excelling both with his wit and emotions. Dileepan (“Selvam”) as Kaala’s trusted son and lieutenant in chief performs brilliantly and provides one of the most poignant moments of the movie. Sayaji Shinde however is wasted in a low-profile role.
Finally, the climax of “Kaala” is something which is both unanticipated and unique. This is as far as one can get from both a novel and normal Rajini climax. Watch out for it!
“Kaala” is a marvelous confluence of Ranjith’s aspirations and Rajini’s ambitions. More than everything, this is a movie where the Director offers an exquisitely crafted niche for a seasoned actor intent on donning the garb of an unseasoned albeit powerful wannabe politician. What the Director offers, the Actor grabs greedily and gleefully.
KAALA – THALAIVAR DA!!!