Kaala Mirrors the Simmering Anger of the Underprivileged in Our Country!
Reviewer’s Thumb Mark
“There May be Times When We are Powerless to Prevent Injustice, But There Must Never be a Time When We Fail to Protest.”
The strongest antidote to anger is a democratic political system that allows open dialogues and dissent to be expressed that is followed by prompt solutions to genuine issues. If not, men and women may be killed but not a movement. PA Ranjith's film Kaala reminds us about the hundreds of common man’s struggle going on in our country against the dubious welfare schemes of people in power that are packaged as pro-poor; whereas, it is in real sense pro-corporate and pro-rich. Though an out and out Rajni’s usual commercial outing, Kaala portrays the fight of the have-nots for their basic survival and how the mighty leaves no stone unturned to crush people's struggle by calling it as anti-nationalist movement and anti-development. The Pure and Clean India slogan in the film is apparently a cue to people to revisit and check the real intentions and credibility behind similar slogans that have taken our country like a storm since last few years.
The Bhangarh movement in West Bengal, the Anti-Sterlite Movement in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, the Anti-Posco movement in Odisha and many others are tagged as anti-development and anti-national. The debate is on whether it is anti-national and anti-development or not. Let's Leave it open.
Here, the film Kaala takes Dharavi, Asia’s and the world’s largest slum as it's center of the action. It seems PA Ranjith takes a cue from the flagship project the 1990s Shiv Sena-BJP government mooted in the name of ‘Slum Redevelopment Scheme’ for his film’s plot, however, this project never took off due to policy and vested interests flip flops. Union Minister Haridev Abhyankar alias Hari Dada (Nana Patekar) has dubious plans to take over the control of Dharavi in the name of development. He ropes in corporate-backed NGOs and private builders to come up with a redevelopment plan where the slum dwellers will be given houses, toilets, and schools. The plan also features commercial spaces and a sprawling golf club. Hari Dada’s only obstacle to getting the plan through is Karikaalan aka Kaala (Rajnikanth) the local messiah of the slum dwellers who like his father a migrant from Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu safeguards the interests of his people selflessly. Hari has a two-pronged plan to either win over or annihilate Kaala.
Kaala (means Black in Hindi) is in general terms considered unclean, dirty, and symbol of bad. Whereas, Safed (means White in Hindi) is pure, pristine and is good. But here, PA Ranjith reverses this general notion about Kaala and Safed. He without much ado reiterate that Kaala is the color of Yum ( The Hindu God of Death). And Kaala is the death knell for all that is evil. Kaala is the color of labor, grit, and courage. Kaala is the symbol of revolution, resistance, and protest against everything that is anti-people.
Rajnikanth and Nana Patekar are the perfect choices for playing the hero and villain and their performance keeps the audience enthralled. What is more important to mention is the casting of Easwari Rao as Selvi, Kaala’s wife. She with great ease and comfort slips into her role so well that there are moments you leave the rest on the screen to watch her perform as a doting mother, nagging Mom-in-law and a loving yet loud better-half of Kaala. We have Anjali Patil as Charumati aka toofani the firebrand among the women folks in Dharavi. She as the lover of Lenin the youngest son of Kaala makes her mark the way she made as a tribal block volunteer in the much-acclaimed film ‘Newton’. As rightly nicknamed as Toofaani she is the voice of the women in the film. She is humiliated and disrobed but resists bravely not succumbing to the tactics and strategies of the power to disarm the grit and courage of a woman and to weaken her self-esteem and moral. Something similar that happened with many women activists who took up the cudgel against tormentors for social causes. For instance, the lady counsel of Kathua rape victim's family was threatened with dire consequences and she feared that she may be outraged, killed or even might be raped.
What is commendable about PA Ranjith's latest venture Kaala is its style of raising relevant contemporary issues marinated with the so-called commercial masalas and often seen Rajni style of actions without making it boring and tiring to watch.
Huma Qureshi is a mismatch and disappointing in the department of acting, whereas there are many scenes where she could have excelled but unfortunately she is poor in emoting the character on screen. Kaala’s huge family with sons, daughter in law's and grandchildren seems to be a huge crowd. Pankaj Tripathi’s acting skills are underutilized and could have been given some more space and relevant dialogues to perform.
The climax scene of Kaala is spectacular and artistic when various hues splashes on screen conveying a strong socio-political message that irrespective of our beliefs, religion, caste and creed, political inclinations people should join hands against the fight against oppressive forces in our country, Kaala reminds the media to be courageous like the reporter in the film played by Ramesh Thilak who captured the riots and its perpetrators. Very interestingly black is required for all other colors to have depth and variation of hue. Cinematographer Murali has done a good job.
In short, PA Ranjith's film can be summarised in the famous Mexican Proverb – “They Tried to Bury Us. They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds”. Go and watch Kaala and take home a compelling message that the oppressors have a shelf life, sooner or later a Kaala will channelize the mass anger into a social movement.
Life Connoisseur Rating: 3/5
Cast: Rajnikanth (Karikaalan aka Kaala), Nana Patekar (Haridev Abhayankar), Easwari Rao (Selvi), Huma Qureshi ( Zarina), Samuthirakani (Vaaliappan), Anjali Patil (Charumathi aka Toofani), Dileepan (Selvam), Manikandan (Lenin), Aruldoss (MLA), Sayaji Shinde (Minister), Pankaj Tripathi (Superintendent of Police Pankaj Patil), Ramesh Thilak (Reporter)
Genre: Social Drama
Director: PA Ranjith
Written by: PA Ranjith, Aadhavan Dheetchanya, K Makizhnan
Music by: Santhosh Narayanan
Cinematography: Murali G
Edited by: A Sreekar Prasad
Production Company: Wunderbar Films
Distributor: Lyca Productions
Duration: 159 Minutes
Language Tamil, Telugu, Hindi