Director: Pa. Ranjith
Cast: Rajinikanth, Nana Patekar, Huma Qureshi, Anjali Patil, Pankaj Tripathi, Samuthirakani and Easwari Rao
If you’re someone who is looking forward to Kaala after being disappointed by Kabali, then let me assure you right in the beginning that the former is a better film and there’s no denying it. As Ranjith and superstar Rajinikanth join hands for the second time, the message is loud and clear – land is one’s right and revolt if required to protect it. In essence, the film can be summed up in a single line from the trailer – “our body is our only weapon; let us show the world. Organise everybody.” In Kaala, the fight is for the land in Dharavi, inhabited by migrants of Tamil Nadu for many years. Rajinikanth plays Karikaalan and he plays the messiah of his people. He’s the king of Dharavi and nobody dares to mess with him.
Kaala opens via an animated story which throws the spotlight on the importance of land and the suppression of the downtrodden in the hands of those in power. Here, Nana Patekar plays an evil politician, who dreams of building a pure and clean Dharavi and Mumbai by wiping out the dirt – referred to the migrant population. The rest of the story follows Rajinikanth and Patekar fighting for what they believe is right and we get a pretty straight-forward and predictable story of uprising, elevated by the terrific screen presence of Rajinikanth. Fireworks fly on screen when Patekar and Rajinikanth lock horns. Scenes between them is a treat to watch, particularly moments where we witness Rajinikanth mouthing lines in Hindi and Marathi is one of the few highlights of the film.
Kabali was written off as a Ranjith film, where fans debated that care wasn’t taken to pander to the superstar’s image. In Kaala, Ranjith doesn’t repeat that mistake and he makes up for it with a brilliant pre-interval action sequence staged on a Mumbai flyover. We witness a raging Rajinikanth in this scene, owning the screen with the kind of charisma we haven’t seen in a while. It’s one of the best scenes of the film and fans will dig it.
The recent Jallikattu and Tuticorin protest will resonate strongly in Kaala, where Ranjith talks about how the suppressed are only heard when they protest against the establishment/government/system. A twist is given to the classic tale of white-is-pure and black-is-evil analogy. In Kaala, black is pure, colour of the working class while white is evil, colour of power-hungry politicians. In the trailer, Nana Patekar refers to Rajinikanth’s Kaala as Raavan, and according to Ranjith, his Raavan is not bad.
If you liked the Rajinikanth – Radhika Apte love track in Kabali, you’ll love the scenes between the former and Huma Qureshi. Ranjith is smart to not waste too much time on their love track and brings a scene where Rajinikanth clarifies his priorities. When it comes to the actors, it’s safe to say this is one of Nana Patekar’s best performances. Only a star of Rajinikanth’s stature can match Nana’s towering screen presence in Kaala, which also features Anjali Patil and Easwari Rao in very significant roles and they play their parts with conviction.
Kaala works as a predictable but hard-hitting tale of uprising, which gives Rajinikanth an opportunity to shine on screen without any inhibitions. It’s his show all the way and he boy he pulls it off in style. However, the film struggles to make an impact in the second half, ending the proceedings on a slightly dull note.