Kasargold Review: A Frustratingly Wannabe Crime Caper

The rhythm of this sub-genre and the kind of people that populate it might seem familiar, but the novelty seems to have come from one question: what if we set a Guy Ritchie movie in Kasargode?
Kasargold review
Kasargold reviewFilm Companion

Director: Mridul Nair

Writers: Mridul Nair, Sajimon Prabhakar

Cast: Vinayakan, Asif Ali, PP Kunhikrishnan

Duration: 139 minutes

Available in: Theatres

Mridhul Nair’s Kasargold begins promisingly, taking you to a place you wouldn’t expect from the film’s trailers. It first narrates a timeless folk-tale about two bamboo gatherers who stumble upon a pot of gold and what this discovery does to their friendship. It is intense and real and in minutes, this tale primes you for the kind of morality Kasargold deals with. This prologue then makes way for another, replacing the period setting with one set on a beach in modern-day Malabar. Here too, the scene is peaceful at first until a tiny incident snowballs into a series of crimes. If the first episode stands in for the soul of Kasargold, the second one is important to understand its dog-eat-dog universe where everyone is a shade of grey. 

This world is chaotic and confusing with Murphy’s Law making sure things go from bad to worse. The rhythm of this sub-genre and the kind of people that populate it might seem familiar, but the novelty seems to have come from one question: what if we set a Guy Ritchie movie in Kasargode? That question remains a great starting point too, even if you’ve come out of Kasargold having watched a disappointing film. Apart from the setting of a border town reminiscent of the movies set in the US-Mexico border, the place also ensures a free flow of oddball characters from politically tense places such as nearby Kannur and Mangalore.

A still from Kasargold
A still from Kasargold

That’s also what Mridhul has tried to do with this film. Apart from the place and its people, his film is also about the gold-smuggling racket that operates out of the Kannur airport. But instead of dealing with it realistically, like how Thankam did (which also had a male friendship at its centre), Kasargold embraces the madness with awkwardly OTT characters put in the weirdest of situations. Yet strangely, the effect the final film has on the viewer is mild at best with long stretches in between where you’re completely indifferent. 

A major reason for this is the way the film self-destructs by forgoing the narrative tension. For a film that revolves around a massive chase with its two central characters having to get from point A to point B, it is inexcusable that they take a detour that doesn’t fit in with their escape plan. When Asif Ali’s Alby decides to take off with stolen gold worth Rs. 2.5 crore, the tension we feel arises from the need to see Alby stay alive even though he is inches away from getting caught. But when his character decides to stop at Goa and that too without a convincing reason, we begin to side with the bad guys. When most movies of this genre fail because the villains aren’t scary enough, here is an example of a crime caper that fails because the protagonists appear too silly to root for. 

A still from Kasargold
A still from Kasargold

Not only does this detour set up room for extremely convenient writing choices, but it also deflates the tension the film has so successfully built up until then. What’s equally jarring is the inconsistency with the film’s stylistic choices. At first, the film somehow manages to keep us engaged even when it tries to pull off a random party number set in a local Kerala bar, right before a major fight sequence. But then you find the film slowly abandoning this tone and settling for characters and patterns you would find in any random movie. Take for instance the way we begin to understand the Vinayakan character. Pitched as someone extremely eccentric and brutal, we remain entirely engaged even when we see him mix his rum with a tall glass of fresh cow’s milk. But later on, when we keep cutting to him doing equally absurd things, the film itself has toned down several notches, making him look like a clown. From a scary villain you do not want to mess with, he soon becomes a hilarious distraction when you see him sit in different bars in Goa, sipping milk in one corner like a good boy, before going to bed. 

Which is among the many instances where you feel frustrated with the film. You’re not sure if the plot got sacrificed for the style or if it was the other way around. Without committing entirely to its otherworldly pitch or its tense starting point, Kasargold remains stuck somewhere in the middle. It begins with great potential and a set of bad guys (especially those played by Siddique and PJ Kunjikrishnan) that are far more interesting than the plain protagonists. But somewhere along the way, in its attempt to stay cool, we get a disappointing mix of badly executed ideas in a bland, artificial world.

Watch The Official Trailer of Kasargold

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