Sometimes, as much as you try to watch a film with an open mind, and enter the world the writer and director have envisioned, it becomes a tad impossible. Kabzaa, starring Upendra, Sudeep, Shriya Saran and Shivrajkumar, is ambitious in terms of scale and grandeur, but the KGF hangover is evident through the movie.
This is another pan-India attempt, but even the Kannada version seems surreal, and you’re not really able to place the film anywhere, even geographically. Some characters speak in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil, and that is akin to ticking off all those languages in the pan-India check-list, I assume.
One of the reasons for the KGF hangover is the similar colour scheme as Narachi — grey, dark grey and charcoal black — and even as you peel your eyes to make sense of human outlines in that darkness, the characters, blessed with way better eyesight, shoot on target, like they were meant to be. But, cinematographer AJ Shetty captures this dreary world well. The art director is the usually-versatile Shivakumar, who also did KGF and Vikrant Rona.
The film is about very many people — there are so many character names, but only a couple of them last the course; the others appear and perish within minutes. The characters include Arkeshwara (Upendra), Madhumati (Shriya Saran), the king of Amarapura (Murali Sharma), Bhargava Bakshi (Sudeep) and Sudha (Tulsi, Arkeshwara’s long-suffering mother).
Tulsi flees the North of the country with her two sons when her freedom fighter husband is killed and moves to the South. There, she raises her two sons — the elder one works and supports the family, and the younger one Arkeshwara is an Air Force pilot. Arkeshwara is in love with princess Madhumati.
Of course, the film is sprinkled with villains — minor and major. The first killing results in Arkeshwara losing his brother. And then, suddenly, an officer who insisted the rule of the land has to be followed, turns a don. Of course, every single don in the many opposing camps is Muslim. Such blatant stereotyping is awful and continues without any respite.
They all play with lives — kill one person here, retaliate and kill another there. The gangs don’t seem to lose members despite these murders, though!
Why must the audience back Arkeshwara even when he is definitely in the wrong? You understand vengeance up to a point. After that, survival dictates his race to the top? After that, what?
As much as I hate to compare, KGF worked because there was a strong sentiment that drove Rocky. He had a reason to want to be there. Here, that reason seems flimsy at its best, non-existent at its worst.
They’ve really spent money on guns and bullets and the sets, but some thought and some money could have gone into script development. This seems like it was written on the backside of a paper on which a blockbuster was once written.
The best part about the film is Sudeep’s sheer screen presence and his voice. Sigh, that voice deserved better.
I closely observed the credits — there’s a jewellery company too. Shriya and the actress playing her mother look like a dream in an arid desert — all decked up in regalia and sporting dewy fresh flowers when the rest of the population is smeared in grease and dust and every other dark makeup there is. How Sir, how?
Upendra’s presence elicits cheer from the audience and Shivrajkumar appears in the final few minutes before the end credits roll, with the promise of a sequel.
By the time you leave the theatre, a pounding headache is in order even though the duration is just 136 minutes — there’s simply too much sound. No one on the set seems to understand silence can be music too. Guns rattle, bullets fly out and explode, everyone screams, god everyone screams. No one ever speaks normally. Even the romantic dialogues seem like a terrible cross between Barbara Cartland and Uncle Pai’s Amar Chitra Katha.
I understand the urge to make pan-India films. I understand KGF and Kantara have left filmmakers tempted by the possibility of a multi-crore hit. But please make something original — we and the rest of the country have already seen what those films did. Do something different.
Ravi Basrur, whose music worked well for KGF, feels like a real letdown here. In some places, the background score totally obliterates the dialogue.
There’s one teeny hope — that the sequel promised will flesh out the characters better, have a story and leave us in a better frame of mind. For now, where’s that headache balm!