Clad in black kurta, beads and black lungi, Kaala Karikaalan (Rajinikanth) gets his middle stump knocked off while playing cricket with kids in Dharavi (Asia’s biggest slum situated in Mumbai), this is how Pa.Ranjith’s massy cry for revolution KAALA introduces the phenomenon, the superstar, Thalaivar in his next after KABALI.
Keeping the charismatic aura of Rajinikanth intact, Pa.Ranjith gets much better with KAALA - a mass appealing battle of Karmabhoomi (place of work, inhabitant) with Janmabhoomi (place of birth) that flags the message that land is the common man's right. The story is simple but powerfully told and colorfully presented with layers and is proud to have an ideology.
Kaala as a child moves to Mumbai from Tirunelveli with his father. Living in the slums of Dharavi, Kaala becomes the uncrowned king of the area, which gets populated by migrants from Tamil Nadu. Haridev Abhayankar (Nana Patekar) a politician who runs a land mafia sets his eyes on Dharavi. Who wins and how?.
Pa. Ranjith’s story where Shivgopal Krishna has given the Hindi dialogues, does remind of Mani Ratnam’s NAYAKAN starring Kamal Hassan in a way but it changes its route quickly as it fights for the inhabitants of Dharavi and leads a struggle with the local politicians and land mafia.
Pa.Ranjith marvelously keeps a good balance and uses the on screen demi God stature of Rajinikanth to good effect. The director adds some touch of reality though the slow motion walks the 360-degree shots, etc. are all there and astoundingly other characters do get the rare space. The action set pieces are choreographed and it’s the charisma of Rajinikanth that makes it believable.
Laced with occasional humour that brings freshness and relief to this intense saga, the banter between Selvi (Easwari Rao) and her husband Kaala is pleasantly funny. However the first love track of Zarina (Huma Qureshi) with Kaala is not easy to digest, though Huma’s character gets some voice later.
Pa.Ranjith smartly uses similes in his voice. Rajiniknath is called Kaala (black) the colour of darkness, dirt, which the local politician wants to ‘clean’ in his agenda of neat Mumbai. He is always seen clad in white that clearly depicts the class divide. Mass appealing scenes when Nana Patekar pays a visit to Kaala’s house and politely refuses to drink water and when Rajiniknath visits Nana’s residence before the final fall out is the reason why we love mass appealing potboilers. When Rajiniknath says, “Kaala… mehnat ka rang... mere chawl me aakar dekh gandigi bhi rangeen dikhayi degi’ (black... the colour of labour... come to my place, you will find colours in dirt too”), makes the fan whistle.
You will find superstar Rajiniknath happy with the actor Rajiniknath in this film. He gets mocked, faces failures, gets drunk, dances with glee and showcases that magical aura with panache. His trademark dance moves and enigmatic screen presence powers this massy cry for revolution with panache. Rajiniknath as Kaala is the Rajinikanth we all have always loved.
Nana Patekar is outstanding as the antagonist; he uses his voice to such a great effect. He is just perfect as Haridev Abhayankar. Watch the scene when he says, ‘Valmiki ne likha hai’.
Samuthirakani as Vaaliyappan Kaala’s trusted friend leaves his mark. Eswari Rao as Selvi is brilliant. Huma Qureshi shines as Zareena and has her moments. Anjali Patil as Puyal Charumathi Gaekwad the Marathi mulgi living in Dharavi is excellent. Sayaji Shinde is fine. Pankaj Tripathi as the corrupt police officer is competent.
This review will be incomplete without the mention of Santhosh Narayanan’s brilliant score that adds to the tempo. Murali G does a marvelous job with his camera capturing the lanes of Dharavi and the city of Mumbai in brilliant tones.
And last but not the least, Pa.Ranjith’s KAALA starring superstar Rajiniknath is massy cry for revolution has an exceptional climax that makes this movie an unforgettable experience for the lovers of Thalaivar and potboilers.