Kaala teaser may seem like a Rajinikanth masala entertainer but has subtle political references

TS Sudhir

Mar,02 2018 12:25:07 IST

At 12:09 am on 2 March, a good ten hours before the appointed time, Kaala decided to arrive. The decision to embrace YouTube early was because of a leaked version of the trailer. Producer Dhanush, who is also Rajinikanth's son-in-law, tweeted the timing is of no consequence when it comes to a Thalaivar product.

His tweet can be translated as: "Whenever you release Rajinikanth's teaser and however you release it, that day is like Diwal."

Looking at the feast of colours that have lit up the make-believe Mumbai's Dharavi slum in the teaser, it is only appropriate the first detailed look has been released on Holi. Incidentally, Holi was the day when Shivaji Rao Gaikwad was rechristened Rajinikanth by his mentor K Balachander in 1975.

Thanks to the buzz around his political entry, Kaala has become one of the most important movies in Rajinikanth's 43-year-long career. And the punch dialogues that have been incorporated into the teaser, seem to have been dictated by the urge to let the audience savour the political double entendre.

If his rival in the celluloid-cum-political field, Kamal Haasan, chose Madurai as his stage to reach out to the rest of Tamil Nadu, Rajini has taken the virtual route. It reminds you of their 1977 starrer Aadu Puli Attam (The Goat and the Tiger game). In the movie, at several critical junctures, when the tension between the protagonist and the antagonist reaches a zenith, who is called in the movie, has a signature line. He laces his retort saying, "Idi thaan Rajini style'' (This is Rajini style) followed by a menacing laugh.

The teaser has been edited keeping the Rajini fan in mind, giving him an overdose of the Superstar swag. And for those accusing Rajinikanth forever of not having the killer instinct so needed in politics, this line seems directed at the sceptics. "Indha Karikaalan oda muzhu rowdy thanatha neenga pakala la, paapinga.'' (You have not seen Karikaalan, the complete rowdy yet. You will)

But the mass element aside, what are the takeaways from the teaser?

For one, Kaala suffers from a massive Kabali hangover. The background music, the dance movements, the Neruppa da-like war cry — all indicate director Pa Ranjith and music composer Santhosh Narayanan have borrowed heavily from their previous project. The difference however, would be that while Kabali showed Rajini's character brooding over his past in most part of the film, the energy in Kaala seems high-octane.

Rajinikanth in a still from Kaala. YouTube

Rajinikanth in a still from Kaala. YouTube

Two, it has snatched black from Kamal Haasan. The founder chief of Makkal Needhi Maiam has all along said that while Rajinikanth's colour seems to be saffron, his hue is black. With Kaala, where Rajini plays a Dharavi don with a kind heart called Karikaalan, the wannabe politician has challenged Haasan's right to claim exclusivity. The character says, "Black is the colour of the working class. Come to my chawl, dirt will seem colorful.''

Three, the jarring note is Rajinikanth's rather generous wig given that he is said to be playing his age. In Nayakan, the iconic 1987 movie in which Haasan played a Mumbai don, he shaved a bit of his hair to show a balding pate and a receding hairline. Rajini in Kaala shows no such attention to detail, surprising given Ranjith's reputation of being a realistic director.

Four, the antagonist played by Nana Patekar is shown mouthing platitudes on making India "clean and pure''. Wonder if Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in Tamil Nadu, who took actor Vijay to the cleaners for criticising GST, will see this as a not-so-subtle dig on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.

Five, the movie will position Rajini as someone who fights for the poor and the deprived. In effect, this 2018 version of the MGR celluloid template, is aimed at hardselling Rajinikanth's version of a welfare agenda. For a Tamil Nadu that has been deeply influenced by Kollywood, the intention seems to be to canvass with the voter in every viewer, in the darkness of the cinema theatre.

The movie releases on 27 April, the same Friday that Baahubali 2: The Conclusion released on last year. That is a good sign for the production house and the distributors. But if the viral reaction to the Kaala teaser is anything to go by, the Rajini fan in many may prefer that the Superstar continues to do what he does best — entertain and leave the politics to the rest.

Published Date: Mar 02, 2018 12:25 PM | Updated Date: Mar 02, 2018 12:25 PM