For a schizophrenic look at the same movie in Tamil, please visit here...
(Mild Spoilers Alert)
Ever since our dear Lord created us (or is it evolution of?) human beings, there have been the oppressors and the oppressed. And shortly thereafter, the oppressed were fighting against the oppressors for their rights.
Kaala (Rajinikanth starrer; produced by his son-in-law Dhanush and directed by Pa Ranjith) is yet another offering which can be added to the list of zillion art works that have espoused the cause of the oppressed.
Ranjith's previous movies also talked about them in a touch-and-go fashion and it took someone to tell me that Attakathi and Madras were talking about not the economically 'oppressed' but the socially oppressed Dalits. #IgnorantMe
Kabali was bolder and talked about the same set of people albeit from a different nation. Ambedkar and other leaders of his ilk featured reasonably strongly there; Ranjith even made some not-so-disguised statements about the sartorial choice of the hero (to be in a suit) - and educated us about how a simple suit carried the huge message of self-dignity to the people.
Kaala also picks up a similar theme.
Oppressed live in the 3rd largest slum in the world - Dharavi, where on an average, a dozen people live in a hut(?) the size of which is the same as a typical living room of yours!
Such close proximity can be a fertile ground of great camaraderie, enterprise, numbness, angst, dissatisfaction, revolutionary ideas etc., Of course the ubiquitous health issues are a bonus!
Rajini is the local dada in Dharavi.Rules the place.Someone wants to usurp the place (Rajini himself values it at 40,000 Cr INR)Rajini resists.Loses some.Gains some.Finally villain gets vanquished.
You have been there and done this some 734 times.
So, what is the reason that you should do this for the 735th time?
At close to 70, (68 did you say?), he rules the screen. The scene when he suddenly runs into his ex-girlfriend and the subsequent scene when he plays with his eyes and the associated body language then... Tamil movie industry has lost a very good actor. #SayThatAgain
Of course, his comic sense is impeccable. Whether it is to crack inane jokes to his sidekicks/family or that riotous scene in the police station, he brings the house down with his charm.
What the average fan missed out in Kabali was the WWE kind of stunts - Pa Ra has found space to introduce a few such action-blocks to pander to their needs. There again, Rajini goes hyper and people will now talk about the brolly-stunt for some time.
It does help that Samuthirakkani (social-media savvy, boozy sidekick), Easwari Rao (loud-mouthed, love bundle) his son Lenin (who is the actor? great screen presence), Nana Patekar (as the whiter-than-white Hari dada) and Huma Qureshi (as Rajini's ex) - all of them have worked to enhance the colour of black (Sorry! Could not resist that! :-))
What differentiates this with the other 'Dharavi' type of dada movies is that Pa Ra has created whole host of visual and audio subtexts that talks about (a) the greatness of Oppressed (read as Dalits) and (b) so-called followers of purity (read as fanatical Aryans/Hindus).
- Rajini and his family are Buddhists. His car number ends with BR 1956 (Ambedkar's death year)
- There is reference to him eating beef.
- Someone calls someone the black panther/just panther.
- There are repeated references to Bheem Nagar, Bheem Chawl, Bheem this...
- BR Ambedkar's pictures/murals happen in so many frames that it almost causes a screen burn!
- Villain's company is called 'Manu Builders' after Manu Neethi & his fetish towards everything white and making people fall at his feet.
- Rajini reads the book Ravana Kaviyam (a book citing Ravana as the hero & Ram as the villain)
- When the final riot scene happens, how the villain is listening to the portion of Ravana-being-killed at the temple, while his henchmen go about killing Rajini's people. #ReverseSubtext
- Ambedkar's axiom Educate Agitate Organize is referenced over and over - either as dialogues, or deeds or lyrics.
- If dressing up well was the rebel cause in Kabali, it is shaking hands and not falling at someone's feet here.
So, after some time, one was more interested in finding these hidden messages than the movie in itself (not that one lost anything by digressing this way!)
There were a couple of things that impressed me and the missus.
- The immense pain that has gone in recreating Dharavi - right down to the sets (makeshift staircases inside the house), the pottery - making of which is a key small-scale industry in Dharavi, the lanes, the toilets - I have been in some crazy ones in Varanasi; but these take the cake! #GreatArtWork
- The scene in which Nana Patekar and Rajini meet in the second half, where both men do not given an inch away
R: Land is my rightDespite the fact that Nana Patekar's Tamil was yucky, (dubbed by himself), he managed to convey the emotions beautifully in this scene.
N: Power is my right
R: What are you going to do with so much land? You are going to be buried over 6-feet!
N: Don't preach me what Krishna has preached me already. Even if it is for a day, I need that land!
- The climax scene and the interpretation of Black morphing into a rainbow of colours. Very nice imagination & a beautiful way of creating a legacy.
- The fact that there is a group of hip-hop street dancers who break into a song in Tamil/Hindi/Marathi for any occasion - it was novel.
Naturally, since we have seen this 734 times before, one gets bored fast. One succumbed to ennui quite quickly & the yawns could not stop for sometime, especially when Rajini over a lengthy sequence tries to tell his ex- to stay away. (It is a delightful sequence alright, as he wants to rekindle it; but he loves his wife dearly too...So, that trishanku effect comes out nicely albeit slooowly!)
Pa Ra does try to draw out the characters in the first half & decides to throw them into the Mahim Creek in the second half - only to be substituted by a Tuticorin-type violence with a little bit of redemption in the climax. #NotEnough
Someone told me that Rajini wanted Pa Ra to make such a movie. Bad choice.
Since the movie talks about Politics & was supposedly leaving a political message, I was intrigued by Rajini's portrayal as an agitator where he organizes the agitation.
He organizes the people.
Instructs them about how to agitate.
Someone from the public even calls his agitators as '60% criminals!'
Violent skirmishes between the agitators and the police erupt.
Police atrocities follow suit.
TV footage comes to rescue.
Thankfully, no press conference! :-)
Heard this somewhere recently?
Only that in the reel life, the police are from Mumbai and therefore evil!
But in real life, the TamilNadu police are epitome of goodness and the anti-socials were the only reason for the shooting! That #BloodVersusKetchup moment!
And somewhere in Tuticorin 13 families are mourning still.
PS: My Top-5 Rajini movies stay intact. No, Kaala has not even broken into the Top-10.