The sheer brutality of the one-to-one battle to a bloodied finish between estate owner Shaji (Tomino Thomas) and the unnamed adversary (Sumesh Moor) from the underprivileged sections, is a metaphor of the class-war.
Yeah, I got that. What else? What is Kala, which by the way has been widely appreciated, actually trying to say? Or more importantly, do? There is a huge chasm in the way the plot is pitched and the way the director executes the plot. To begin with , this is a scuffle between the haves and have-nots which takes on a very personal and brutal tone when Shaji, a bit of a wastrel and a wheelerdealer though a caring husband and father, gets into a fight with a local low-caste brute whose dog he has killed.
Now the unnamed underdog wants Shaji’s dog. You know, an eye for an eye and a woof-woof for a woof-woof.As the plot progresses the class war is narrowed down to two grownup men slumming it out by slamming each other like two angry coconuts ready to explode.
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Evidentlyy the director enjoys the Chinese martial arts films which specialize in one-to-one combats. We even see Shaji’s son watching a Jackie Chan film on a video tape(is this the 1990s?). This endless pointless combat film shot in the cinematic greenery of Kerala, resembles a Bruce Lee or a Jackie Chan film .
The violence is underlined by a tone of menacing anger referencing centuries of inequality based on the class and caste system. Inequality breeds ire,we get that. But that reference, I am afraid, is lost in acres of a stylishly edited two-man gangwar which after a point begins to appear ridiculously and disturbingly gratuitous.
The first-hour is devoted to establishing Shaji’s troubled relationship with his father(Lal, brilliant as ever) and his sexually charged relationship with his wife(Divya Pillai). The intimate sequences between the pair filled with cigarette smoke(smoking is not injurious to the characters , they do it non-stop) and kinetic passion bears no significance to the plot as it hurls into a violent anarchic combat between two men behaving like boys fighting in the school playground .
The hour-long fight which stretches from the foliage-thick plantation to inside Shaji’s home gives us two heroes, and none of them is on screen. It is cinematographer Akhil George and editor Chaman Chakko who must have had a really tough time following the two violent men through their one-to-one warfare.
It’s a miracle how the pair survives after the way they batter and bludgeon one another.The bigger miracle is how this pretext for a stylishly freestyled scrimmage has impressed some critics who obviously think raw is beautiful. Not always. Not when the intention of the film is to mix Shyam Benegal’s social protest with Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo. Not when the underdog is made to snarl and make faces suggesting a deeprooted psychological apathy.
When the fight is about to reach a climax, the unnamed underdog played by Sumesh Moor(over-acting till his jaws must have hurt) suddenly imagines his opponent as a pig awaiting slaughter. ‘Porking’ fun at the class difference, eh? Good luck to a world where men settle scores with their bare fists. The cops, I guess, are busy elsewhere.
Image source: IMDb
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