Cast: Rajinikanth, Easwari Rao, Huma Qureshi, Nana Patekar
Director: Pa Ranjith
If I said director Pa Ranjith towers over Rajinikanth in Kaala, would you believe me? Kaala is Pa Ranjith’s political commentary that Rajinikanth has just lent his voice to. Is it a spectacular film? Not really, but it’s a spectacle all right.
Kaala Karikaalan, the don who rules Dharavi, is not the star of the story. The plot revolves around the people who live in Mumbai’s sprawling slum. These are the people who left Tamil Nadu for a better life and ended up living in world’s third largest slum, which has an annual turnover of $1 billion. These are blue collar workers who earn their living doing manual labour and are looked down upon. Taking a cause close to his heart Dalit oppression, the director successfully tells a relevant story, exactly what the audience expects. He also understands that he is borrowing Rajinikanth’s voice to tell his story and he will have to honour the strings that come attached with it.
“Kya Re Setting ah,” is a nod to the sharp dialogues that are hallmark of Rajinikanth. The superstar entering a protest in slow motion is Pa Ranjith’s response to fans who believed the superstar was not shown as one in Kabali. In Kaala, Pa Ranjith has ensured Rajinikanth gets the complete superstar treatment and it stands out because it’s something we have never seen the director do before.
What we have seen Pa Ranjith deliver before are films that are truly layered and keeping with that practice, Kaala is various shades of black. Kaala is a film relevant to our times and the director is making sure you understand all of it. For instance, the first time that Hari Dada (Nana Patekar) faces Rajinikanth, he is offered a glass of water by Kaala’s wife Selvi and he doesn’t accept it. In many places it is still a practice to not eat or drink anything offered by those who are seen as lower castes. While earlier he left it to the audience to understand the references, the director weaves it into dialogues to make sure you don’t miss it.
The Raavanan’s tale is a beautiful maze of references weaved together and when it hits a peak, it is an entertaining film and social commentary all rolled into one. With Kaala, Pa Ranjith questions the status quo in a way we have rarely seen before; perhaps Mani Ratnam in his film Raavanan.