Kaali: A Daunting Tale
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Kaali, Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi’s second outing as a director is an action period drama film. From the story-telling strategies the film uses to performance of the lead actor, Kaali turns out to be a disappointing experience. The incessant flashbacks in the film along with Vijay Antony’s limitations as an actor pulls the story down and fails to create an immersive impact among the audience.
Bharath (Vijay Antony), a bigwig doctor in US has recurring nightmares involving a snake, cow and a woman. In the days that follow, an emergent situation he gets involved in lets loose a huge secret that turns his world upside down. He comes to know that he is adopted. This sets him on a journey to India to hunt down his biological parents. The revelations he meets with and the interesting characters he encounters in this journey forms the crux of the story.
Vanakkam Chennai, director Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi’s first film as a director sailed through quite breezily. It strung together elements from young adult romance novels and spruced it up to suit the taste of the Tamil audience. Even though it did not surprise people, it was entertaining enough for a one-time watch. Unfortunately though, the inconsistencies in the director’s second film, Kaali makes it look like this is her first film. For one, Kaali banks on two core themes: Mystery and Sentiment. But both these themes are written and executed quite weakly in the film.
Kaali houses three stories squeezed into one main plot. But the reason why you remain an inactive spectator is because the central story is barely given any importance. In fact, when Bharath sets off in search of his biological parents, there is no reasoning and justification for this sudden decision. In Kannathil Muthamittal, Amudha too is devastated when she learns that she is adopted. But as an audience, you know the moment she learns this, she will insist on looking for her biological mother. This is because, from the beginning director Mani Ratnam establishes the fact that she feels like the outcast no matter where she goes. There are enough setups and payoffs in the story for it to appear convincing. Here, he makes such a life-changing decision in the spur off the moment. You don’t see this coming, so you detach yourself from his journey.
Moreover, throughout the first half, you never understand where the story is going or what it is trying to tell you. What should’ve ideally been established in the first thirty minutes slowly unravels only in the second half. This mishap triggers the audience to lose interest in the film.
One of the biggest blunders Kaali makes is the way it handles its flashbacks. The first flashback begins with Periyaswamy taking Bharath to his youth days. Here, the older Periyaswamy is played by Madhusudhan Rao whereas in the flashback you see Vijay Antony playing the young Periyaswamy. He plays the younger counterparts of two other characters as well. This creates an enormous inconsistency in the screenplay. Not only is it completely unconvincing but the manner in which these flashbacks are squeezed in one after another make the experience quite daunting for the onlooker.
Playing four different characters in the film, Vijay Antony’s performance is expectedly sub-par. Except for the varying physical appearance of the characters; Antony takes no effort to differentiate between them. There are completely no changes in his voice modulation or even body language as he transforms into one character after another. Succumbing to his limitations, his performances fall flat and bland.
The characters of Shilpa and Sunaina have comparatively larger scope in the film. But, Anjali’s character has nothing significant to do in this film.
If you look closer, there are plenty of flaws in the director’s characterizations. For instance, when Vijay Antony plays a college-going youngster, he constantly spins a notebook in his finger. This personality trait which is meant to speak of the character’s style has been used to death in Tamil cinema by now. Stringing together already used elements in a tale that demands heavy emotions is the film’s major setback. If the film was much more original in its rhetorical approach, it could’ve fared better.
Cinematographer Richard M Nathan has helped the audience differentiate the various events that take place within the same timeframe in the film. Using tonal and angular changes, he effectively strikes a balance between blending and differentiating between the various twists and turns in the film. His appealing visual storytelling makes it slightly easier for you to sit through the first half.
As the music director, Vijay Antony’s soundtracks and background music are average. Tracks like Arumbey fare well. But considering the fact that the film already takes a slow pace, these duets drag down the pacing furthermore.
On the whole, the unconvincing flashbacks and disappointing performances sink the tale director Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi tries to tell. Unfortunately, Kaali’s strengths fail to overcome its recurring flaws.