Kaala is a classic example of what happens if the Ambedkarites make political movies. It has got symbolism throughout the narration and director leaves it for audience’s interpretation. Let’s see the detailed review.
Rajinikanth’s Kaala is first of its kind movie for the Super Star. Pa Ranjit, noted as a politically aware man and of course an Ambedkarite tries to make lot of points in this commercially charged political drama. Karikaala (called Kaala) is the son and successor of late Veeraiah, a champion of Dharavi. Kaala is an undisputed leader for the majority of Dharavi and fights with the villain, a politician-builder played by Nana Patekar in very BJP-Shiv Sena vein.
Unlike Rajini’s conventional introduction scenes, Kaala comes like an old man playing cricket with street kids, thoroughly enjoying the silly cheat games. Perhaps, director felt that the traditional introduction hype can spoil the multiple heroic scenes in the rest of the flick.
No Gandhi’s & Tilaks; but Buddha-Phule-Ambedkar
Pa Ranjit narrates the story with a political backdrop. There is Right, there is Left and for the first time, there is also Bahujan philosophy against the former two. Ranjit strategically conveys his political thoughts charged with Phule-Ambedkar philosophy. It is very common on Indian cinema to find Gandi-Tilak photographs in the background art work when you watch some ‘good’ message scenes. But here, you cannot find them even by mistake. What you see are Buddha, Phule & Ambedkar portraits throughout the film wherever possible. You may also be surprised to see a statue of revolutionary Periyar in Mumbai’s Dharavi and posters of Tamil popular Dalit leaders like Tirumavalam. Ambedkarits are sure to have goosebumps when they hear ‘Jai Bheem’ during the pre-climax. More than the film’s narration, following symbolism attracted my attention during the run time.
The Beef Shop:
Kaala gives his political speeches from a Buddha Vihara, and his house is situated opposite to a Beef Shop.
The Manusmriti & the Left:
Ex-gangster and now politician Hari dada (Nana Patekar) launches a ‘clean Mumbai’ (imitates Swach Bharat) campaign targeting Dharavi. He makes several failed attempts to destroy Dharavi and finally sets a plan through his construction company ‘Manu’ constructions. Unaware of the trap of Hari Dada, Huma Qureshi comes to execute the clean dharavi and conflicts with Kaala. Kaala’s son Lenin and his love interest (Anjali Patil) stands in support of Qureshi.
Construction Company’s name is perhaps representing ‘Manusmriti’ which is criticised by Bahujan ideologists while Lenin and his friends are symbolic of Left wings. Kaala fights the entry of ‘Manu’ to rebuild their homes; instead he says they will do it on their own.
Kaala treats his son Lenin (thus the left wing) as innocent political infantile who doesn’t understand the reality of India (castiest society not class), as criticised by the Bahujan ideologists. Kaala asks Lenin to ‘know and act in the face of reality’ and he sarcastically once says ‘did you (left) found only our people to play around?’ At the same time, Director also clarifies that he does not have any doubts on the sincerity and commitment of Lenin towards this land though he disagrees with him.
Lord Ram not a hero; White is not pure:
Lord Ram is no more a hero in this story nor is the white a symbol of purity. Hari dada wears white cloths and has a Lord Ram’s statue inside his house. Kaala, as the name is wears Black and Black (or sometimes Blue cloths) and is portrayed as Raavan, but this time, Raavan is not a villain. In a meeting between Kaala and Hari Dada, Kaala says “you cannot defeat me with legitimate means, if you want, try backstabbing”, isn’t it criticising the way in which Sri Ram kills Vaali and Ravana in Raamayan? I think yes!
Don’t miss to observe how politely Kaala denies accepting ‘Tilik’ on his forehead in a Rakhi festival scene.
The Blue Colour:
Blue is a colour chosen by Dr. Ambedkar and is also a colour of Buddhist Flags in India. Significance of Blue colour is managed in almost every possible scene by having blue flags, blue posters consisting of Phule-Ambedkar images and Blue cloths in the Dhobi Ghat. Even the Villain Hari Dada is flooded in dark blue colour symbolising that the Blue wins at the end.
Do not forget to also observe the last end-frame after the title cards, it ends with a Duddhist Dhamma Chakra Flag in Blue colour!
Depressed classes are protected by the laws not the state:
Kaala says to the local politicians that ‘you let us live because we are protected by our special laws’ referring to the constitutional guarantees and SC-ST atrocities act. And then he says ‘our asset is our bodies’ which is a very high political philosophy tied down to the depressed classes. Do not forget that the villains in this story are self proclaimed ‘patriots’ as captions on the signboards read.
Pa Ranjit also uncovers a new philosophy by threatening no vote if no land is given to the landless.
You may not understand what the director is trying to say if you interpret the narration from the traditional Aryan theorist’s point of view. You may want to know why Ravan and other Dravidian kings are celebrated in the south India and why the Brahmin Gods are criticized. In my view, Kaala is one of the finest politically charged commercial flicks very well narrate the story from a Dravidian point of view, questioning the authority and Right wing Hindutva politics.
As far as the artistic values of film are concerned, Cinematography, Art Works and performances compete with each other. However, there may be certain scenes where you feel little dragging or repetitive. As a political narrative, I wish I give 4.5/5 stars, but this is a movie after all, so I will give this 3.5 stars for now! Don’t miss watching the visual feasts of Rajinikanth, Pa Ranjit did not give up the establishment of Rajini’s heroism, by the way!