Director Pa. Ranjith resumes from where he left in “Kabali” (2016) by observing the same austerity and creative discipline in depicting a mass hero like Rajinikanth in “Kaala” (Karikaalan). Perhaps, he is the sole filmmaker apart from Bharathiraja and K. Balachander, who has made a deliberate attempt to explore the acting frontiers of Rajini, instead of wholly hinging on his larger-than-life image.
Ranjith’s typical narrative style and subtlety have immensely aided both his flicks with Rajini, albeit the fact that they hardly brag of any out-of-the-box plot.
“Kaala” too has a predictable storyline that has been nurtured on the premise of a slum, Dharavi in Mumbai. When Rajinikanth plays the eponymous character and considering the peculiar milieu of the tale, it’s a snap for a viewer to predict the proceedings. Yes, he’s the saviour of the slum dwellers (most of them are Tamils), who struggle to defend the attempts of a wicked politician, Hari Dada, played by Nana Patekar, to capture their slum. So, obviously, it’s the conflict between the destitute and those in power. The lion’s share of the film is set in the slum.
The emotional quotient in family relationships works well for this familiar premise as Ranjith’s own approach to it is neither hammy nor exaggerated. Easwari Rao as Selvi appears as the eloquent and lovable wife of Kaala. Through Zareena, essayed by Huma Qureshi, Kaala aka Karikaalan’s past is unveiled. The graphic representation of this part returns the desired effect. Kaala’s romance in the past with Zareena does not qualify for the inclusion of a duet, and it’s a smart move by the director to stay off such regular devices.
Rajinikanth does not seem to be flexible in his usual mien, but it’s nullified by his convincing portrayal of Kaala.
Female actors like Huma Qureshi, Anjali Patil (Puyal Charu) and Easwari Rao are prolific in their performances. Kaala’s close aide Arulesan, played by Samuthirakani, is always in an inebriated state. Nana Patekar is a treat to watch, because of his stolid portrayal of the character.
The film is co-written by Pa. Ranjith, Aadhavan Dheetchanya and Maginan. Though songs are disappointing, the background score by Santhosh Narayanan shines throughout. Murali. G captures some brilliant visuals especially the arraying of colours in the climax scene is laudable.
The major drawback is the run-of-the-mill story of struggle for survival led by an influential leader. The fear of a population being displaced from their dwellings finds resort at the foot of a saviour. You tend to feel heavy dose of déjà vu as such tales have happened many a time on screen. The solace is the treatment and the new premise.