U/A: Drama crime
Dir: Pa Ranjith
Cast: Rajnikanth, Nana Patekar
This is the most layered, heavily cathartic, even if fairly visceral, in-your-face, sort of political film, that you’re likely to see in ‘hardcore mainstream’ — let alone with Rajnikanth in it, who inhabits a parallel cinematic universe anyway. What sort of superstar is Rajni, in a global context? A Superhero, obviously — a character all by himself, that a captive fan-base walks in for, essentially to check out his antics (dialogue, daredevilry).
Kaala, in that sense, isn’t exactly a Rajinikanth (super-hero) film. Outside of two sensational action set-pieces, superstar Rajni comes across as a rather fallible, even slightly feeble, one-man vanquisher of evil, chiefly deriving his super-power/strength instead from a vast army of die-hard supporters, who can build a wall around him that the enemy’s lathis and bullets will find hard to penetrate.
Or maybe this is only in line with the super-hero genre in general. We’ve reached a point (Avengers: Infinity War) where a full inter-galactic coalition of superheroes have to submit themselves before the might of the anti-hero Thanos. This perhaps only reflects the popular world-view at present, with undisputed ‘evil’ appearing to have a winning hand over uncontested notions of what’s good, fair, or the right thing to do, or say. As for politics, only recently, Black Panther became the first Marvel film with a predominantly black cast.
Who’d be the closest equivalents of blacks in a wider Indian scenario? Dalits, of course. Kaala is most overtly about Dalit emancipation. It questions practices and notions around purity and colour, that have helped develop tools and constructs for oppression over centuries. Some of this is dealt with through imagery, of Ambedkar in a corner (or “Jai Bheem” for a chant); sometimes it is …read more