KGF: Chapter 1 movie review — Yash-starrer has a gripping story that deserved better treatment
KGF: Chapter 1 tries a little too hard.
It’s all very well to want to repeat a Baahubali, but filmmakers aspiring for that kind of scale must know this: at the core of every great epic is heart. It scores above everything else, including effective performances, great visuals, rousing music and direction.
That way, KGF: Chapter 1 tries a little too hard. The film has a solid story line. A young orphan grows up to become a don who seeks his place in the world. Helping him retain his moral core and propelling him towards greatness are nuggets of advice handed out by his mother who died young. But, KGF: Chapter 1 fails to tap into the emotional side of the characters. That effectively prevents you from buying into why the characters behave the way they do.
The film is structured in such a way that Yash (well-chiselled, suitably grim) is present through the film but hardly has 15 minutes of talking to do. His valour and strength are narrated by others, and when it gets a bit much, you’re reminded of the original instruction rookie writers are given: Show, don’t tell.
The film opens with the country’s Prime Minister announcing in 1981 that she’s sending the Army to capture India’s worst criminal. And then, you see Yash’s silhouette. You’re told the Government has banned a book written on him by journalist Anand and the entire stock is burnt; one survives, and the film is about the author speaking about the man whose story was never told.
Veteran Anant Nag plays Anand, who recites poetry from his book and page numbers by rote, nearly four decades after it was banned. Listening to him is hotshot journalist Deepa (Malavika Avinash) who initially gives him half an hour, but is listening even as the end credits roll.
Young orphan Ramakrishna heads to Bombay from Karnataka, polishes shoes for a living and slowly grows up the ranks of the city’s underworld to become don Rocky. He gets a chance to make Bombay his, if he finishes some work in Bangalore. In between, he meets a girl (Srinidhi Shetty) and sets out to the place after which the film is named. His brief is to vanquish the enemy, but he also ends up empowering 20,000 workers.
There are scenes with great potential. In one, which also sees the heroine falling for him, Rocky stops the car in the middle of a road and helps a woman with a child pick up her bag and a bun that’s rolled off. He begins speaking about how he could buy a bun only after polishing eight pairs of shoes and how a mother is the biggest warrior of them all, and even as you wait to see if you’ll get glimpses of a tortured childhood, the scene cuts to the heroine melting for his actions.
This, after a typical hero-heroine introduction in the middle of the road (again!), where she has stalled traffic so she can party with her friends. He fights her goons, she’s miffed, but he thinks she’s lucky he’s fallen for her. “Congratulations, I love you,” he says. “How dare you,’ she replies. “How fair you,” he retorts, even as you wince. Elsewhere, the misogyny in the dialogues continue. Men are told to wear bangles twice. Rocky is dared to touch the girl in front of everyone; he does not, and the girl’s face falls. Sigh. You expect more from a film that supposedly celebrates the mother as warrior.
The film ambles around in Bombay and Bangalore (with even a club song, featuring Tamannaah Bhatia) till it moves to the actual theatre of war – Kolar Gold Fields.
Tighter editing (Srikanth) would have smoothened out the kinks. About 20,000 labourers are enslaved and made to dig out gold from the giving mines by antagonist Garuda (Ramachandra) and his henchmen. Girls are killed the minute they are born – this is a brutal place. The boys grow up seeing those blind with age get killed, and live in hope of the saviour the storyteller (another worker who narrates stories to keep their hunger away) promises them.
The action sequences by Anbariv are beautifully executed and performed by Yash; the interval block and the fight deep inside the mines using torches and a red-hot rod are poetic. Of course, there’s gore too, and human sacrifice. But, like Rocky’s mother told him, if you inspire a 1000 people who stand behind you, you can conquer the world. How Rocky did it will probably be the big reveal of Part 2, even if it’s not a question on the lines of ‘Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali’.
Music by Ravi Barsur is soothing and inspiring in turn, while cinematography by Bhuvan Gowda is suitably panoramic. Credit to art director Shivakumar for bringing alive the grime and heat of the gold mines. The costume department slips up, though, and in the midst of the 80s wide collar, you suddenly have clothes that would feel right at home in 2018.
This film begins in 1951 and narrates the story till the 1980s. Part two will hopefully capture the gold rush and the quest for power too. So, who will take over the empire that Suryavardhan (the man who operated the mines, enslaved people, and told the world it was a limestone quarry) built and parcelled off among five people?
Just one question. What’s the possibility of two totally different films – one in Kannada and another in Tamil (Maari 2) releasing on the same day having a similar dialogue. “If you think you're bad, I'm your dad.”
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