K.G.F: Chapter 1 – A Film That Looks Like An Epic, But Doesn’t Have The Heart To Become One
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
What do all successful epics have in common? Why do people reference films like Baahubali, Black Panther and Lord of the Rings, even today? They are all driven by great content which holds an innate ability to have its audiences invest in the journey of its characters. Even though KGF: Chapter 1 may look like an epic, and sound like an epic, it lacks the content for it to go in the books as an unforgettable epic. Directed by, Prashanth Neel, this grand, larger than life, period drama is proof that great visuals, phenomenal stunt, and path-breaking sound design are not enough to make a film outstanding. As cliched as it may sound, content is always the king.
Set in 1981, the film begins with the Prime Minister of India sending out a special team from the army to capture India’s most dangerous criminal, on the other hand, you are also a witness to the ban of a book on the said criminal, Rocky (Yash) written by Anand (Anand Nag). Here on, Anand narrates excerpts from the book and you dive into the story of how, Ramakrishna, an orphan from Karnataka came to be the don named Rocky. His journey from being a young boy who polishes shoes in Bombay to empowering more than 20,000 men, who are enslaved at a gold mine run by Garuda (Ramachandra) forms the crux of the film.
On paper, an idea resembling the one KGF takes up sounds great. An orphan who polishes shoes goes on to rule Bombay. This sounds like quite a magnanimous vision, doesn’t it? It undoubtedly is. It even looks the part. The problems with KGF arises from departments that should have been solid; namely, story, screenplay, direction, and characterization. Sadly though, these departments are at their weakest in this film. A story such as this one has one key requirement, which is for the audience to connect with the happenings in the film.
Let’s take Baahubali as an example. In the first part itself, you are drawn to Rajamatha, you want to know more about Baahubali and his estranged son. You root for each of these characters and become invested in their actions. This is why, at the end, when the first part leaves you with the question ‘Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali’ you actually want to know the answer. Here, KGF leaves you with a question too. But you want to get as far away from the answer as possible because none of the characters contain enough depth to pull you into their journey. The story takes a predictable direction too, contradicting itself, every now and then.
A film of this scale relies on its characters for emotional support. Rocky cannot be the sole focus all the time. It is important that other characters are established just as well. Sadly though, from Rocky’s mother to Anand, the narrator, all characters appear shallow and are developed sans any dimensions, making it impossible for you to find them or their journey worthy of your attention.
Another problem with the film is its tendency to buff up the ego of its hero. Rocky is hardly seen speaking in the film. Instead, all those around him sing laurels about his valor. From Bombay to Karnataka, they build him a halo with their words no matter what he does. This becomes frustrating beyond a point. What is the point of simply telling the audience that he is brave, great and all that jazz? Why not establish these qualities of his visually? This is what differentiates a film from a novel, isn’t it? How can a film of this scale comprise on the basics of visual communication?
Furthermore, the film takes a non-linear approach to narrate its story and yet this manner of narration leaves no impact on you because of the screenplay’s predictability. In one scene, an incident brings back a painful memory into Rocky’s life, instead of unraveling the reason behind his pain, the film uses his recollection as a driving point for his leading lady to fall in love with him.
From the beginning, Rocky’s mother is painted as a warrior. You would think that a film that pays heed to mothers and their bravery would extend the same respect towards other women too. Sadly though, the film cannot cover its apparent streaks of misogyny. There are multiple scenes where men who are referred to as cowards are asked to wear bangles. Why then celebrate the mother as a warrior? It seems pointless in a film that often makes politically incorrect statements towards women. As though this alone isn’t frustrating enough, the writer leaves you completely annoyed with the film’s absurd dialogues. Rhyming lines like “How dare you” and “How fair you” makes you wish you left your brain at home.
As Rocky, Yash has a great screen presence and he performs his stunts quite well too. But his extremely limited range of expressions leaves you disappointed. As the author, Anand Nag is good. Srinidhi Shetty barely has anything significant to do in the film. Her performance too is quite conventional and dull. As Garuda, Ramachandra isn’t as intimidating as he should’ve been.
Bhuvan Gowda’s cinematography captures the raw yet violent essence of the gold mines quite well. His visual story-telling brings alive the drama in the story. Anbhariv’s stunt choreography is innovative and compelling. Shivakumar’s art direction is simply fantastic. He is the reason why the gold mines appear incredibly realistic. Ravi Bhasur’s music complements the story with tunes that are melancholic, motivating and mellifluous without ever becoming too overpowering.
On the whole, K.G.F: Chapter 1 is a visual treat that fails to engage you with its shallow characters and predictable narration.