Rajnikanth movies are where you get to realise and count the actual number of hairs you have on your body. He manages to get each one of them to stand straight up for almost the entire time when you are watching his films. Goosebumps are what he has built his career upon but this time around, in his second consecutive outing with Pa.Ranjith, he has revealed a cinematic side of his that was more or less locked away since Dalapathi hit the screens almost three decades back. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge for Rajni since, and Kaala arrives at a crucial time for the Superstar when he is wading into the volatile world of Tamil politics. Kaala is unique as a Rajnikanth film in many ways, it is his most political film to date which could obivoulsy be attributed to his change in stature and the man at the helm, Pa.Ranjith. Rajnikanth did try to make a political statement a while back with Baba and that did not help him much then.The politics and symbolism in Kaala were more than evident, right from the day the first look was released. One of them had Rajni sitting atop a Mahindra Thar sporting a number plate BR 1956, a not so subtle reference to B.R.Ambedkar ,the architect of the Indian Constitution and champion of Dalit rights who passed away in 1956. If that did’nt put things in perspective for you, Nana Patekar’s villain who called for a “Pure India” in the teaser, must definitely have.
I am not sure who has used whom here exactly, if it’s Rajni using Pa.Ranjith to declare his political ambitions or if Pa.Ranjith is using Rajni to speak about his political outlook, maybe it’s both, symbiosis I think is the word. Kaala is set against the backdrop of Dhaaravi, in Mumbai and Kaala is the protector and defacto leader of the people there. Pitted against him are real estate tycoons and Nana Patekar’s Hari Dada who is the representative of the deep reooted regional politics in Maharashtra, especially Mumbai which we know by the name of the Thackrey’s and the Shiv Sena. The director’s intention is anything but subtle here and stops just short of using actual names. The movie takes it’s sweet time to tell the story and woven deftly in there is a love story involving mature adults too where Rajnikanth the actor flexes his muscles after ages, no I am not talking about the Rajni-Huma scenes exactly. Easwari Rao who plays Kaala’s wife will win your hearts and Huma Quereshi is perfectly at ease in her role as Kaala’s long lost love. It’s Pa.Ranjith’s masterstroke here again if you ask me because for all their talk about Dravidian culture and politics the leading men of Tamil Cinema have always chosen to sing and dance with the fair skinned leading ladies from the North.Samuthirakani plays a perpetually drunk man Friday of sorts to Kaala and giving him company are a bunch of less familar faces playing Kaala’s extended family.
If you are a hardcore Rajnikanth fan looking for another Padayappa or Bhaasha you might have to wait for 2.0. Kaala has it’s fair share of Rajnikanth moments but it also tells a tale of oppression and fight for survival without going over the top as a “Superstar” movie.The movie is loaded with symbolism and makes sublte statements randomly to provide food for thought for the keen observer. At one point in the film a policeman named Shivaji Rao Gaekwad ( yeah right !) is shot dead, which triggers violence that leads up to the climactic showdown.Nana Patekar’s holds his ground with elan in the scenes where he faces off with Rajnikanth. There are some worthy exchanges between Rajni and Nana where both actors leave their mark. Pa.Ranjith has used a Ramayana recital to build up the crescendo towards the end where Kaala’s Ravana is taken on by Haridada’s Ram in a role reversal of sorts.Periyar would have smiled at this reference.It doesn’t end there and Ranjith has gone ahead and depicted the Lankadhanam chapter of Ramayana here in the battle finale.Dhaaravi is Lanka and is being burned down by Hari Dada’s goons. Ravi Kale, who plays Haridada’s lead henchman is in fact Hanuman, replete with a piece of iron that passes for the mythological character’s weapon of choice, the mace. B.R Ambedkar’s call to educate and agitate finds place in the lyrics of the background score and is played aloud in the ending scenes.Kaala himself advises the younger generation to get educated.The ending of the movie reminded me of Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises where a hero becomes more than a man, becomes an idea and one could almost see inspiration there.On a closing note, Pa. Ranjith has managed a coup d’etat with the climax I think and this has to be one of the most important films in Rajnikanth’s career as an actor and a politician.