Director: Pa. Ranjith
Cast: Rajinikanth, Nana Patekar, Eshwari Rao, Huma Qureshi
Ranjith starts Kaala with an animated version, where he throws spotlight on the significance of land and how over a period the people in power and higher strata of society grab these lands from the oppressed and the poor. Moving on, the scene shifts to Dharavi where we see Vishnu Bhai (Sampath), a close aide of the politically influential Hari Dada (Nana Patekhar) threatening people of Dhobi Ghat to vacate the place for his own gain. Cut to yet another corner of Dharavi, we see our Kaala aka Karikaalan (Rajinikanth) and it is one of the simplest intro scenes of the Superstar that we’ve ever witnessed. Kaala is seen playing cricket with young kids in the slum. Giving him company is his childhood friend Vaaliappan (Samudhrakani), a perpetual alcoholic. And, to our surprise, Kaala is clean bowled the very first delivery! Thus marks the entry of Rajini – king of Dharavi and messiah of the downtrodden. Vishnu flees, fearing grave repercussions.
The story of Kaala and his father Vengaiyan from Tirunelveli has finally arrived. With the murder of his dad at the hands of politician Hari Dada, Kaala rises to prominence and gains the loyalty of the people of Dharavi.
Kaala leads a happy life with his wife Selvi (Eshwari Rao), sons and grand children. The trouble begins after the arrival of the power hungry politician Hari Dada who sets his eyes on their lands. Hari plans to destroy the slums of Dharavi in the name of projects ‘Digital Dharavi’ and ‘Pure Mumbai’ (an obvious indication of our government schemes.) Meanwhile, Kaala’s ex-flame Zareena (Huma Quereshi) returns to Dharavi from abroad, which rekindles their nostalgic moments. The scene where the duo gets together for dinner, where Kaala explains his priorities to Zareena is one of the best-shot sequences of the film. You’re bound to experience an acute rush of aesthetic emotions – of the sublime, and of the beautiful. Such moments are rare, but worth the wait.
What follows next is the fierce battle between the black yet pure Kaala who wants to protect his people and the white yet wicked Hari Dada who wants to usurp their lands.
Rajinikanth is in his full element and he carries the film with effortless ease. His terrific screen-presence aided with hard-hitting dialogues (which for the large part hold up) against the system and politicians takes the movie to a new level. Ranjith has projected Rajini as Raavan (like playing with black and white) and according to him Raavan is good. The matured romances - be it with his wife or with his ex-lover are a treat to watch and kudos to Ranjith for portraying it in a refined manner. The two ladies Eshwari Rao and Huma do their part with lot of conviction. Nana Patekar utilizes his limited screen space and presents a towering villain. Santhosh Narayanan’s BGM whenever Nana appears on screen elevates the dark nature of the character.
We can make out that Pa Ranjith has worked on things that he was critiqued for in Kabali. There are plenty of slow-mo walks, mass scenes and keeping intact the style of the Superstar with some customized background score by Santhosh. While the first half is entertaining, post interval the film drags and is more dialogue oriented. One gets reminded of Jallikattu and Thoothukudi protests in Kaala, where Ranjith reiterates how the downtrodden are only heard when they protest against the government or the system. The long drawn climax is a bit dismal. Sreekar Prasad’s cuts and Ramalingam’s artwork improve the movie’s narration. Murali’s cinematography captures Dharaviin its original essence. On the whole, Pa Ranjith’s second outing with Rajinikanth is worth a onetime watch!