(Shubha Shetty Saha)
Direction: Pa Ranjith
Cast: Rajinikanth, Eswari Rao, Nana Patekar, Samuthirakani, Huma Qureshi, Anjali Patil
Watching a Rajnikanth film at 7 am in the morning amidst his fans, is a different experience altogether. I have experienced this jubilation, this excitement many times earlier during his releases. But every time it seems like the fans come back with renewed energy.
So, Kaala opens to a theatre full of cheering, clapping, whistling audience, who don’t seem to much care for the film, as long as Rajni sir is making a dashing entry on the screen and throwing punches now and then. The story of the film is jaded and done to death.
Rajni plays Kaala, the undisputed king of Dharavi slums. His word is the ultimate, and people can enter but not exit without his permission. As is the case with most of Rajni’s roles, he fights for the downtrodden and invariably rules the hearts of the masses.
Kaala has a full family of sons and their families, and a loud mouthed but endearing wife (Eswari Rao). The local politician, Kaala is fighting against the land mafia led by the local politician Haridev Abhyankar (Nana Patekar). Haridev, who loves saying ‘Born to rule’, wants Kaala and his power eliminated to make life easier for himself.
Caught in between the fight between Kaala and Abhyankar is Zarina (Huma Qureishi), a human rights activist and a single mother. Kaala and Zarina have a romantic history and evidently still have feelings for each other. While Kaala’s other sons are in full support of his violent tactics, one son, Lenin is not too happy with the way he deals with situations. Supporting Lenin (Manikandan) is a brave girl from the locality, Payal (Anjali Patil).
The film is directed by Pa Ranjith, whose earlier film, Kabali with Rajnikanth in the lead was a big success. However, the 166 minute-movie is too long and the story is not engaging enough to hold your interest. Only Rajnikanth’s towering screen presence holds the movie together.
Clad in black, Rajni is not your typical gangster. He veers between being invincible and endearing. While with an umbrella alone for weapon, he can single-handedly demolish dozens of goons, he is also the one who gets clean bowled when playing with children.
His romantic track with Huma Qureishi, however, works against the flow of the film. Eswari Rao is loud and verbose but she has some fun lines to utter. Huma Qureishi and Anjali Patil have good enough roles to play and fortunately, not mere props in a hero centric film. Anjali is spunky enough, but Huma disappoints with her one-dimensional performance.
Rajnikanth as usual is in his charming best and even though he looks too frail to be a dreaded don, his powerful performance makes it all believable. However, the best performance in the film is undoubtedly by Nana Patekar. Even though saddled with a character that is predictable and without many layers, Patekar plays Haridev Abhyankar with amazing ease and perfection.
Veering away from histrionics, Patekar’s Abhyankar is sober, sometimes even soft spoken but his eyes reflect his hurt ego and pride. This movie only makes you want to watch Patekar more and more on screen. Pankaj Tripathi is wasted in a small role as the corrupt police inspector.
Music by Santosh Narayanan is fun and upbeat, and the concept of introducing rap songs and dancers in between the scenes works well.
If you are a Rajni fan, you are going to watch this film anyway. If not, this film has nothing much to offer in terms of novelty or storytelling.