Kaala movie review: Rajinikanth's charisma and style elevate this socially relevant, entertaining film
The story of Kaala is as old as the hills, but the packaging, Rajinikanth’s style factor and dialogue delivery makes the film worth a one-time watch.
Following Kabali, the Rajinikanth–Pa. Ranjith combination is back in Kaala, with a social message film packaged as an entertainer. The film works largely due to Rajinikanth’s charisma and his style. Like fine wine, the superstar is getting better with age and has chosen a role which helps him bring out his larger than life image in a convincing manner.
The film has been made keeping Rajinikanth’s political entry in mind. He is portrayed as a common man and a leader of the downtrodden who takes on the politician – or real estate mafia — and saves a slum from demolition. Right from his entry, in which he holds a cricket bat high, Rajinikanth plays it straight and steals the show in the climax.
The story of Kaala reminds you of the rich-versus-poor story line, which was the staple commercial cinema formula of the '70s and '80s. Karikalan aka Kaala’s (Rajinikanth) family had migrated from Tirunelveli and is now settled in one of the biggest slums in the world – Dharavi in Mumbai. After his father’s death, Kaala emerges as the slum lord and the saviour of the locals. He has a large family – a loving wife Selvi (Easwari Rao), four children and grand children, a relative and ‘jigri dost’ (Samuthirakani).
Eventually, his old flame Zarina (Huma Qureshi) turns up and kindles a mature romance. But the politician – a powerful leader Hari Dada (Nana Patekar) who heads the real estate mafia — wants to demolish the slums and build a modern, digital Dharavi . The local police and the corrupt system are dancing to the tune of Hari Dada. The rivalry between Kaala and Hari goes back in time and both have scores to settle.
The story is as old as the hills, but the packaging, Rajinikanth’s style factor and dialogue delivery makes the film worth a one-time watch.
One of director Pa Ranjith's ideas is to rework the old formula where the colour white is perceived as pure and good while black is considered as bad and evil. Here Kaala is always dressed in black and Hari is in symbolic white (the colour worn by our political leaders). Ranjith also pushes his agenda of showing the downtrodden as the oppressed while the rich can kill and get away with it. Infact, in an important scene, Nana Patekar’s granddaughter tells him that Rajinikanth looks like a good man and he should not kill him.
There are a few scenes in the film that will surely resonate with fans of Thalaivar. The interval block scene stands out among these, when Rajinikanth is seen in the pouring rain on a Mumbai flyover, using an umbrella as a defense for his confrontation with Nana Patekar. Those looking for romance will love the hotel terrace scene between the hero and his old flame, portrayed excellently by Huma Qureshi. Ranjith has injected more emotional scenes into the film, as compared to his prior movies, especially in the climax.
The supporting cast is as impressive. Easwari Rao makes her mark, and the fiery Anjali Patil appears as one of Rajinikanth’s son’s lover. Nana Patekar is left to play second fiddle as a menacing antogonist in white. Santosh Narayan’s music is pedestrian but he makes it up with a terrific background score. The production designer Ramalingam has done a neat job in creating the Dharavi slum, and camerawork by cinematographer Murali results in a handful of visually stunning scenes.
The major drawback of Kaala is the length of the film — at 2 hours and 46 minutes, there is nothing new in the story. Kaala is an out-and-out Rajinikanth film and he is one of the biggest reasons to go watch it.
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