That Mumbai is a cauldron of cultures is a well-known fact. But few know that the amount of blood that’s spilt to give that cauldron such a vibrant hue. Much of this hue comes from the slums of Mumbai – and Bollywood loves its slums. However, apart from Amitabh Bachchan and Kamal Haasan (“Agneepath”, “Nayakan”), Rajinikanth has become the biggest name to star in a film that’s set in a slum – and that film is “Kaala”.
The movie has Rajinikanth playing a gangster named Kaala who’s now retired and living in Dharavi with his wife and family – his four sons, their respective wives and grandchildren. When a corrupt politician devises a plan to take over Dharavi, life comes to a standstill for Kaala. He now has to take law into his own hands and once again fight for the downtrodden.
As a film, Kaala works. It has the right emotion and intensity to keep the audience transfixed. This is one of those rare films where apart from the main character, the main cast have well-written roles, and they perform them well. Rajinikanth, to his credit, plays his part excellently. He not only plays his age but makes an onscreen declaration about it. Keeping that in mind, his action sequences have changed too. His first action sequence has him fight with the precision of a surgeon instead of being a heavy hitter. It would take another paragraph to describe how well the actors have portrayed their characters. It was a master stroke to get Nana Patekar to play the antagonist. Only a handful of actors could have played this with such toxicity – one of them is the late Amrish Puri, and the other one is Prakash Raj.
The climax would have been one of the best on paper, but the execution of it isn’t as awesome as it could have been. “Kaala” is in no way a perfect film, though, even when it comes to production. To the trained eye, the CGI is evident in one of the long confrontation scenes. It’s a little less embarrassing than the CGI-filled climax of the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer “Aarakshan”. Then, Rajini fans who go to see such an intense film will want to see smoke with their fire. It’s surprising that screenplay writers still write sequences that involve fire. Why do they, when they know they will be shot will the help of CGI?
Going away from the film, with “Kaala”, the message is clear, the narrative is changing. India is a country of diverse cultures, and we are here to say. So, when Kaala’s wife talks about beef soup (Bade ka), the censors didn’t dare to dilute it. However, when another character talks about cow leather – leather, mind you, not meat – that one dialogue goes bleep. The villains are no longer politicians who have dummy prime ministers; the villains are those with orange-hued posters plastered around the city. Kaala himself wears only black or blue, and there are references all around in the direction of Gautama Buddha, Ganesha and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.
If films are the mirror of society, this one tells us that we need a makeover – and it’s coming, soon.