From August Print Issue
Director Pa Ranjit’s film, Kala, was released on Friday, June 7, 2018. The movie has received a lot of praise and has been surrounded by controversies, but the Supreme Court refused to ban the release of this movie. Rajinikanth fans need to know that this is not a typical Rajinikanth movie,it is different. The story of the film revolves around the character ‘Kaala’, who is a well-known and powerful don of Dharavi in Mumbai, who is proud of his Dharavi culture and life. He fights with his family , the powerful politicians, the people of the township and his ex- girlfriend if anyone calls the place a garbage. Through this movie Pa Ranjit has shown the sadder side of Mumbai’s slum culture and life to the people.
Kaala is a person who is called by the same name by his wife, friend, powerful people, and children. This does not seem to be disrespectful to Kaala or hurting his ego in any way. Despite being an illiterate don, Kaala has good terms with people of all religions, which attempts to defeat the fascist forces of the country. The movie portrays what all the poor people can do if they stay together against the rich people who want to throw away the ‘garbage’ outside the city. It shows the involvement of a powerful politician who dreams of projecting Digital Mumbai and Clean Mumbai ideas by removing Dharavi and making big buildings, which will only brings diadvantage to the settlement people and benefits to the builders. But the “godfather” of Dharavi makes this impossible through a big movement, in which the poor people of Mumbai’s settlement get involved.
Director Ranjit has been able to send across messages such as “Our body is our strength, all the people need to be told” from the beginning of the movement, to “cooking is not the responsibility of only a woman” through small small scenes in the movie.
If anyone has any doubts, then we must tell that this film is against the saffron camp / such forces which want to divide the society, want to break the unity of people. Pa Ranjit had started speaking about it in Kabbali and taken the message forward by openly supporting Ambedkarism in this movie.
The important issue of the film is the middle ground of Mumbai, where Dharavi is settled. The land mafia, politicians and NGOs want to grab this land. The police, the politicians and the government also support this plan. Dharavi’s settlement holders keep thier words collectively not only emotionally but with figures. Prior to Rajinikanth’s speech, his friends keep their point of view. After a plan of a meanningless golf course was discussed, an old woman asks, is having one toilet sufficient? Those who have lost the faith in anyone sustaining in this system, Kala gives them the belief that people are not slaves and can change their circumstances. In the second case, when a woman says that it is better to die than to suffocate in this way, then Kaala tells them why should we die? Living is better than dying, and we will live. We will fight.
Rajnikanth can be seen in varying roles, sometimes telling children the path of peace, sometimes beating the police, the politicians, the government officers who bring unrest to the society, sometimes he is seen leading the movement.
When Kaala had an ideological debate with his son, he explains to him that only bookish knowledge does not make sense, we require practical sense as well, and we need to understand our roots. This is an indication towards those leftists who take revolutionary inspiration from other countries rather than from the people here itself. Frustrated with the talks with Kaala, Lenin leaves home with a branded travel bag, on which his uncle comments that he seems to be going on a tour and asks him to bring a gift. Lenin gets irritated over this and calls his uncle “ghar ka bhedi.”
Neither bowing in front of a high caste nor fearing him, going to their house fearlessly and advising a helpless, cultured child not to touch the feet of a person but to say namaste, and to abhor the “black means dirty” thinking, all these characteristics makes Kaala a brilliant powerful character.
One of Kaala’s wishes and commitments is when he says, “These are the black fortresses, and you can not take away even an inch of sand from here”, which gets completed in the last scene of the movie, in which a combination of colorful festivities has been shown from the gathering of hard-working people by portrayal of black, red and blue as the colour of hard working people. This is the scene in which Rajnikanth tells Nana Patekar to come to their settlement where he will find even the garbage colourful.
Kala’s Last scene which is filmed on the Ramayana’s Raavan-Ram War, in which Ravana is the hero Rajnikanth and Ram is villain Nana Patekar who destroys Lanka with his army. Here, the ideas about Ravana in the South are projected. And this is not something new. If we understand it well, in our neighboring countries which are familiar with Ramayana stories, the heroes, heroine and villain of Ramayana vary according to the country. Similarly, it has happened in India.
Kaala defeats the agendas of the builders and companies which talk fake things about the development of the poor. “The rich started thinking about the poor people, the first priority can never be given to the poor, the first priority will always be the benefit of the rich” he says. “Let the poor think of themselves.” He touches the heart by raising the morale of the people by saying such things and trying to see the truth from the its depth.
In the film, poor and hard-working man are seen as the cleaning employee of a municipality, Buddha Vihar, Ambedkar and Mahatma Phule are in background, by which people themselves can feel that the film is linked to our life, whether it is a matter of private space or a simpler issue of toilet construction.
In our society, if the movie is good then always the hero is celebrated, not the director, but the entire credit of this film goes to young Pa Ranjit and the credit of helping it reach the masses goes to Rajnikanth where the director has been able to send across the message of Ambedkarism. Talking about politics, the right wing parties, who have been flourishing on the agenda of Hindutva and nationalism, not only did Kaala but also the Basti people defeated that ideology and came forward to fight it.
Rajinikanth’s personal life does not match the character of the movie though. The incident whereby Rajnikanth called the Tuticorin protestors anti-social elements had angered the common masses. He had said that if people start protesting on every issue, then Tamil Nadu will become a cemetery. People out there are protesting against the company Vedanta. A dialogue from Rajni’s movie too suits on this situation where he says, “It is our ancestral land, please tell the government to only help us, and do not say that the government has no money. All government officials, politicians are living a relaxed life”.
In this film, an attempt has been made towards gender equality through the relation of Kaala and his wife. Her role is portrayed as a woman who can scold Kaala, her law functions at home, whether bovine meat should be cooked at home or not is decided by her, and their acceptance of their son Lenin’s relationship with a girl of Marathi society, their equal respect and love for her as their daughter makes Kaala and his wife’s character seem quite wise.
But people get influenced by the talks of heroes like Kaala rather than the comments of politicians like Rajnikanth. Or rather they are more influenced by films? In the history of Tamil Nadu, MGR, Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi all joined this profession. Only a few months back, Rajinikanth announced a political party and joined politics by deciding to contest the Tamil Nadu State Assembly election of 2021, but the results of the election will only reveal Thaliva Rajni’s effect. Already Rajinikanth’s is quite influential through his movies, but how much impact his personal or political life can make is difficult to say for sure. Thaleva Rajani’s BJP affection could not be hidden from the people . He had supported BJP in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections and in 2004 supported the BJP and AIADMK alliance. In 2014, Narendra Modi had met Rajani, and people have seen Rajinikanth writing in support of Narendra Modi on social networking site like Twitter. BJP’s attempt to spread in South and its need for a strong leader there, both these factors show how beneficial Rajnikanths presence in the party can be. This way Rajnikanth can get a strong political party and BJP can get a strong politician.
The films which seem to show the reality of the society, such as Sairat, PK, etc. have received negative feedback from the society, why are the same Casteist/ Hindutva forces silent today even though the movie openly speaks against religion? Why are rallies not organised for the closure of the movie. What are the factors that are keeping these forces silent? Is Rajinikanth’s entry into politics and putting the BJP under pressure its aim?
The location of the film, the camera work, the camera angle points towards a thinking which is clearly evident in the movie. The direction by a young director Pa Ranjit, the depth of the story, the heavy rebellious metal rock guitar music, the use of rap songs which flourish in conflict, the whole life of the dialogue, it all reflects their belongingness from a Dalit community and their understanding of different situations. It seems beyond the imagination of any other communities.
Leave aside some fight scenes of Rajnikanth in the film, the rest of the film seems quite realistic.