Excerpts & links to reviews of Kaala, a Pa. Ranjith /Rajinikanth film
Starring: Rajinikanth, Nana Patekar, Samuthirakani Director: Pa. Ranjith India release date: June 07, 2018 Genre: Action, Crime, Drama Certification: U/A Language: Tamil Duration: 3 hrs, 5 mins
“It is hard to figure out what Kaala is saying. Rajinikanth plays a power-to-the-people champion but a policeman assaulted by crowds in this film—in an ill-conceived parallel to the Sterlite Copper police firings—is shown not only as heroic, but also given the name Sivaji Rao Gaekwad, which is the superstar’s own name. So does Rajini now stand for protests or against protests?”
“The subtext is absolutely revolutionary for a film with a megastar like Rajinikanth. It’s not about a single hero. It’s about a people’s movement, where if the hero falls, someone else will rush to take his place and continue his work.”
“Questions the histories and mythologies perpetuated by the rich and powerful, going to the extent of flipping around the Ram-Ravan binary in a fierce life-and-death tussle between ‘outsiders’ and the politically entitled elite in India’s financial capital. That he banks upon a megastar whose leanings seem to represent neo-liberal status quo to propel this provocative project makes the film all the more intriguing.”
“Pa Ranjith’s canvas is not monochromatic—the frames are awash with hues of political red and Ambedkarite blue… In the later parts of the movie, a protest is infiltrated, stones are pelted, and the common man gets shot by the police. The irony—read, the Thoothukudi firings and Rajini’s reaction—is stark.”
“Unmistakably political film… which isn’t shy of revealing its secular and socialist leanings, and its allergy to Hindu nationalism. Ranjith conveys some big ideas in a relatively straightforward story that hat-tips to multiple influences including the Ramayana, and The Godfather.”
“The film’s most powerful moment for me was when a woman protestor’s pants are removed by the police in an attempt to shame her. Between her soiled churidar and a lathi, she picks up the lathi and charges straight at the men. She is claiming her right to occupy a space in a protest and not let anyone use her gender against her wishes… Kaala isn’t a film about a gangster but a film about revolution.”
“Part semiotics lesson about the Rajinikanth mythos and part sermon on housing rights for the urban poor… Into the literal-mind struggle between noble black and hypocritical white, Ranjith throws in shades of blue to point to Kaala’s possible Dalit heritage and his position as the mascot of those at the bottom of the social pile.”
“This is a film wide-ranging enough to include references to Kenyan activist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai and the South African Landless Peoples Movement’s slogan of “No land, no house, no vote”… There’s a lifelike chaos to the crowd scenes, with bodies packing the frame and the camera either right in the middle of everything or retreating overhead for perspective.”
“Nana Patekar is effortless in his portrayal of Hari dada… the mix of Hindi-Tamil-Marathi that he slips into crawls under our skin in the way it is meant to. His face-offs with Rajini work so well because both stars are at the peak of their game.”
“Kaala is… courageous and pertinent, placing a star at the centre of its story, asking all the right questions, dislodging many prejudices. Indian mainstream cinema can be much more than a dumb list of stale stories, of jokes that punch down, of fading superstars’ egos, of needless jingoism, of the vanity and ignorance and arrogance of the privileged. If it can be done once, it can be done again. Kaala should walk into the sunset with a lot of pride and satisfaction – and a wink that suggests, “The unpacking of myth has just begun.””
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