I finally saw Kaala! And that too with Subtitles!! (IMHO, the best way to see a movie in another language. Dubbing totally kills it!). I try and catch up on Tamil movies as much as I can (mostly mainstream) – thanks to the time spent in Vellore during engineering. It’s like a habit that just does not go away 🙂 Unfortunately for the people around me, the dubbed reruns on Set Max, Zee Cinema and Star Gold (The undisputed champion!) are pretty headache inducing for them and I am quickly implored to change the channel. Enter Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar! Now folks around me can hear a Tamil movie playing and if they are not interested then I am left alone! Which is what happened during large parts of Kaala. And I was immersed in the movie.
Thanks to Amazon Prime, I saw it across two nights – with the first half on day one and second half on day two. I went to bed thinking about the movie on the first night. Took some time for me to doze off. The second night I could not sleep! What was it about the movie?
At the outset, I really liked the movie. It was a seamless confluence of thoughts, emotions, languages across cultures. Folks were speaking in Tamil, Hindi, Marathi but the underlying emotion was so coherent and clear, that everything melted into one giant whirlpool of cinematic experience. The playoff of characters – Husband & wife, Ex Lovers, Parents & Children was on point and stays with you. But the real punch is the face off between Rajinikanth and Nana Patekar. As anyone who has seen Nana Patekar in more movies will attest – this was a unidimensional and possibly not too difficult a role for him. But he nails it like only he can. And Rajinikanth – what to say. The range of emotions, the crowd pleasing scenes, the confrontations. All top notch and just so good. Thalaiva’s game is strong as ever. So strong that I don’t know why he is heading into politics! 🙂
I think mostly why the movie stayed with me was the writing. The first half was riveting to say the least. The build up, the entry, the (slightly longer than needed) romantic interlude, THAT flyover sequence and the Dharavi confrontation just before the break. There was intelligence in the writing – not over simplifying it for the audience. Mind you the good guy wears black and the bad guy wears white. There were references to the masses, the hard working labor class, the significance of the colour black. And having seen quite a few Tamil mainstream movies, it was clear that this one was thought and conceptualised differently. Songs, Scenes, Dialogues, Shots – everything was new age and crisp. Post the first half, I went to bed feeling the buzz.
Resuming the second half the next night, I could see why the reviews said what they did. It was, admittedly, not as gripping as the first half but there was no dearth of action at all. The story moves ahead, but slowly – until a dramatic turn of events picks up the pace and leads to another brilliant confrontation. It was after this point that the movie loses momentum though. If this would have been the Rajnikanth of old, there would have been a high intensity, crowd pleasing action sequence post this, followed by the climax. But instead, we see the Satyagrah approach. Possibly another nod to the politics of the times and maybe even the age of the superstar. And then arrives the climax.
While it didn’t register that much of an impact in the first go, the climax stayed with me long after I hit the bed that night. So what was it that stayed with me? It was the way they showed the sheer elevation of Kaala – from human to a demi-god. I think therein lay the brilliance. The final fight against impossible odds, the heroic intervention, the slow-mo shots, the open ended question on the final fate of Kaala, Nana Patekar’s final scene ending in a riot of colours – that overwhelms both black and white, and finally – the conclusion after the conclusion. So was Kaala right? Were his methods right? He was definitely a flawed character so why were we rooting for him? Because Nana was worse? But both of them are shown to have a softer side to them as well. Then who deserved what they eventually got? And at the end of it all – Does good win over bad? Or does bad win over good? Like I said, brilliant writing. The movie had me thinking for a long, long time.
Hats off to the superstar. And amazing job by Pa Ranjith. Definitely a notch up from Kabali. I really hope a trilogy with Rajinikanth happens soon. It could be the best of the lot!