Most reviews of Kaala talk about Rajinikanth, filmmaking, and Tamil Nadu. What we need to talk about is the film’s critical take on national politics.
Kaala constitutes many tales based out of Dharavi, Mumbai. Through these stories, the film talks about Dalits and their sufferings. The film also portrays Lord Ram and Raavan in a different light – which is in line with the Tamil and Dravidian version of the Ramayana.
The issues that the film tackles with are not only restricted to Tamil Nadu or southern India, but also encompasses the political scenario of the entire nation.
Kaala (Rajinikanth) and Haridev Abhayankar (Nana Patekar) take the centre stage of this fight. Haridev is the leader of Naubharat Rashtrawadi Party that caters to the elite. He’s a Ram devotee and claims that he will do just about anything to quench his thirst for power. But his ideology shares uncanny similarities with that of Raavan. He displaces Dalits, minorities and the poor to build high-rise buildings. Haridev talks about clean Mumbai and digital Dharavi. The film cleverly hints and comments on the Clean India and Digital India campaign.
Kaala, who sympathises with the poor, is Raavan in the eyes of Haridev, but the truth is that he stands for all that’s right and true – ideals that Lord Ram stood for. In Tamil and Dravidian version of the Ramayana, Raavan is considered to be the ‘good guy.’ His perception of Lord Ram is not the same as the widely accepted perception of him in other Indian states.
In the film, when Haridev orders the killing of Kaala, there’s a story of Ram killing Raavan being narrated in his room simultaneously. This hints at the chaos that surrounds Hindutva.
Haridev symbolises the collusion between cops, criminals, political leaders and builders. Kaala symbolises the rebellion against the establishment. The film also features all that is symbolic of the Dalit community – Ambedhkar, Bhim, blue flags, etc.
The film has been directed by Pa Ranjit. He’s 35 and a Dalit himself. Even though his first movie was a romantic film, it was still based on a political and communal backdrop.
The poster of Rajinikanth’s Kaala.
In Kaala, Ranjith has stolen the spectacular, superhuman image that Rajinikanth usually portrays, and turned him into an ordinary man. This is also an experiment for Rajinikanth. The film makes it quite evident that Bollywood is in dire need of directors like Pa Ranjith.
The film’s director sympathises with the Dalit and the minorities. It is a film about rebelling against a system established by and for the elite communities. Rajinikanth has been in the news of late for entering politics. And the BJP is trying to get him on their side – which isn’t a secret anymore. This film discusses ‘BJP-type politics.’ That’s why in the real world, Rajinikanth doesn’t want to risk working hand-in-glove with the BJP.
This can have an interesting part to play in the upcoming elections of 2019. But what’s more interesting is watching this heavily-political movie.