‘Kaala’ Trailer Review: Nana Patekar is Rajini’s Biggest Villain

Only someone who’s been under a rock for the past year or so will be clueless about Rajinikanth’s Kaala, set to release on 7 June. Since you’re not one of them, I’m sure you know by now that it stars Nana Patekar as the antagonist, and has a host of other characters both from the south and Mumbai, including Huma Qureshi, Eashwari Rao and Samuthirakani.

Check out the trailer, first. Then, let’s talk.

The Best Comes First, Before the Trailer

The trailer (Tamil, Telugu or Hindi) begins with a still frame of Amitabh Bachchan in front of an A/C, and we hear his voice (in Hindi and Tamil) saying ‘Switch on happiness’. He was quite convincing in Hindi. In Tamil, full marks for trying! Now on to the trailer.

I mention this random ad, because Amitabh and Rajinikanth go back a long way. They’ve been good friends. Even in the trashiest movies they’ve acted in as co-stars (Hum, Andha Kanoon), one gets the feeling that they work (and play) off each other beautifully.

So yeah, subconsciously, at least for the Tamil audience, there is this Rajini-Amitabh association that’s instantly warming.

Bigger the Villain, Greater the Hero

And you don’t get a villain bigger than Nana Patekar. Remember Man of Steel (2013)? General Zod, Superman’s arch nemesis, was played by Michael Shannon. Michael was so convinced that he was right, it raised the bar for the whole film. The man actually brought in a layered performance to what would otherwise have been a comic book story.

And this is exactly what Nana Patekar brings to the table. He’s always played characters that were driven by their convictions; whether it was a self-righteous Yeshwant or the brilliant weaponised version of himself in Prahaar, or even the zero-f!@ks-given cop in Ab Tak Chappan.

Also, that Nana Patekar chose to dub for himself in Tamil, is quite a cool move. Like Mohanlal in Ram Gopal Varma’s Company (it was a good movie), Nana doesn’t hide his accent. And frankly, it only adds to his character, especially when he says, simply, but with conviction:

"Anyone who opposes me, will die." - Nana Patekar in Kaala

So it is safe to say that Nana Patekar could just be Rajinikanth’s biggest villain, even considering Raghuvaran ( Baasha) and Ramya Krishnan ( Padayappa).

The Weight of Pa Ranjith’s Politics

The trailer carries the weight of director Pa Ranjith’s politics. Nana Patekar refers to Kaala as ‘Raavan’. In the very next scene, the ‘Raavan’ of the chawl (aka Kaala) is shown walking in slo-mo with the song ‘One-headed Raavan, show all your ten heads’.

The idea of Raavan as dark-skinned, as the hero and saviour, is a deeply ingrained Dalit belief, shared also by those who stand by a Dravidian ideology. Raavan’s descriptions even in Tamil version of the Ramayana (written by Kambar, 1180AD) are superlatively beautiful.

It takes an actor of rare brilliance to play a believable antagonist in such a politically loaded film. And that actor is Nana Patekar. Sorry, not sorry, for gushing.

Also Read: Kaala, and the Tamil Identity that’s Made Up

Easwari Rao is Amaze!

Easwari Rao has played a wide range of roles, but remains under-used as an actor.

There’s something about this decade that seems to bring out yesteryear actors out of hibernation to deliver brilliant performances. Sridevi served a memorable ace with Mom. There was Jothika with her 36 Vayathinile and Naachiyar, Nadiya with a host of Telugu and Tamil films, notably Naa Peru Surya Naa Illu India. And now Easwari Rao! Wow!

There’s something about dark skin sans make-up that is innately earthy and beautiful. Balu Mahendra was probably the only director of his time to understand this, and tap into it. None of the female leads he introduced or cast, were powerless or fair skinned. Easwari Rao returns to the screen as Rajinikanth’s wife after a 12 year hiatus to Tamil cinema.

In an interview, Easwari Rao spoke of how she was afraid she would be cast as superstar’s mother.

Pa Ranjith wanted her to grow darker, and also put on weight for the role, with no make-up at all. And the effect is beautiful to watch. While people from Tirunelveli might not completely agree, she’s got the slang almost right. For an actor whose mother tongue is Telugu, this is no mean feat.

Great Start, Low Quality Finish

The trailer is all of 90 seconds. The first fifty seconds are unpredictable. The characters are introduced one after the other, and each of their shades adds colour to the whole experience. And then, after Nana Patekar’s warning, everything becomes predictable. Like a 90s film trailer that’s missing a voice-over, you know exactly what’s coming next, including the final shot of Rajinikanth rallying the masses.

That Rajinikanth looks awesome in every frame (I still can’t figure out why?!), is besides the point. As far as trailers go, this one trails behind Kabali.

One can only hope that the full length movie will offer a different, unexpected ending.

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