The story of Kaala is exactly what you would’ve guessed from the trailers. Karikalan (Rajni) is a kind-hearted don, who is loved by the residents of Asia’s largest slum area “Dharavi” in Mumbai – yes the same setting as Nayagan(1987) and Thalaiva (2013).  One of Maharashtra’s powerful politician Hari Dhadha (Nana Patekar) wants to displace the people from the slum so that he can benefit from the ₹40,000 Crores land parcel. How Karikalan saves the poor from Hari Dhadha is the story.

The first half where instead of lengthy back-stories, Director stopping with an animated sneak-peek and focusing on the present happenings was good, especially the failed love story with Rajni and Huma Qureshi’s characters was told warmly. Similarly showing Karikalan as a 60-year-old family man with four sons was different. The recreation of Dharavi on screen was great.

Following Kabali (2016) a film which I liked a lot, the same team has made Kaala (2018). With Rajni announcing his political ambitions and Pa.Ranjith known for his Dalit ideology, there was much speculation on whether Kaala will be a Rajni’s political entry film or it will be a Director’s film. After watching the film I felt Kaala was neither –  it was confused on its identity, just like the climax in which Kaala is shown to be believing on violence, then peaceful protest and finally on violence!

Rajni’s black costume reminded me of Director Bharathiraja’s Kodi Parakuthu (1988) in which too, Rajni appears as a local don to fool Amala. And the dog he pets in Kaala brought back memories of Basha (1995). And that summaries the film, lacking any new creativity in the filmmaking.

I enjoyed Pa.Ranjith’s earlier films Attakathi (2012) and Madras (2014), and it would’ve been a treat for the audience to see his imagination shine on a canvas as big as a Rajni’s film. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way and he has given with Kaala just a forgettable film.

Kaala leading his people, reminded of the Jalikattu movement of 2017

Rajnikanth and Eswari Rao

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