From Satyadev Kancharana And Ritu Varma To Adhi Pinisetty: 10 Underrated Actors In The Telugu Film Industry

Director: Desingh Periyasamy

Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Ritu Varma, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Rakshan

The influence of Mani Ratnam’s Thiruda Thiruda over Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadhithaal extends beyond the title, borrowed from the 1994 film’s best song. KKK is also about two morally-ambiguous conmen, the two women they love and a police officer struggling to crack a case. It also borrows the overall mood — a lighthearted comedy caper, with a special love for the audacious. In a sense, KKK is what one can call a spiritual update of Thiruda Thiruda with technology playing a bigger part, and a neatly done gender-role reversal. It’s also a film that survives on surprises alone, so you understand what the makers were trying to say, or NOT say, with that terribly-cut trailer.  

But these surprises take a long time coming. The setup scenes that introduce us to Sid (Dulquer Salmaan in his 25th film) and Kallis (Rakshan), for starters, are particularly ordinary. What’s the deal with our young filmmakers struggling to write real, lived-in young people? Why do these characters come across like their outlines were written by judgmental boomers who see youngsters as mere alcoholic man-children who have nothing going on in their lives but cars, girls and partying? Now even if that’s exactly what they are, something feels messy about these characters because the film desperately needs us to like them. 

This becomes even more difficult when you realise that one of them, Sid, has been ‘following’ a girl for weeks to the point where he knows her schedules, the nature of her job and even what scooter she’s riding. What doesn’t help is how both Sid and Kallis are also part-time conmen who use the Internet to do mini-scams to fuel their “typical millennial” lifestyle. 

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But what writer-director Desingh Periyasamy lacks in creating likeable characters with a dubious moral compass, he more than makes up for with his ability to write a screenplay that keeps us guessing. In fact, it takes almost an hour for us to really get what he was trying with the first act. In a sense, the film has an ability to get you to re-look these very scenes through fresh eyes as and when it gives you fresh information, to the point where you ask yourself, “Who was actually stalking who?”

This becomes a pattern later on, with large stretches of the mundane getting lifted by some very clever writing. The film comes into its own only when it evolves into a heist film with a definite goal on the loot, giving it the direction it desperately lacked early on. But again, it’s always ONLY the writing that keeps things moving. Apart from one hilarious recurring gag involving a mobile ringtone and his moods, Rakshan, who plays the comic sidekick, struggles to give the film some much-needed relief. That’s pretty much the same with Dulquer’s Sidharth, especially in the emotional scenes that could have gone a long way in registering this character as someone with some depth and honesty, especially in that bromantic stretch where Kallis declares his undying love for Sid. 

The connective tissue between these punch moments too is, at times, wobbly, and one finds it hard to keep track of how one event leads to another. For instance, the logic that is applied to take the leads from Chennai to Delhi is so conveniently done — the characters don’t need to go, the screenplay desperately does.  But the aforementioned twists are always just around the corner, and come with the ability to let us forgive the bigger picture. 

Of all the performances, I found Ritu Varma’s the best, not just in terms of what she brings to the character but also for how clever the casting decision turns out to be. Barring the banal party song right at the beginning, Masala Coffee’s songs help keep things light even when the audacious takes over. But if it’s anything, it’s how the film interprets Gautham Vasudev Menon’s character — essentially GVM playing a GVM hero — that becomes a gift that keeps giving, including a genius final reveal. KKK would have been a far superior film had the writer plugged the holes that keep appearing every now and then, ensuring the film’s highs are always shortlived. 

It’s also a film that could have really used some better staging of these duller scenes to maintain the tension that’s inherently part of a film in this genre. If the quality we see in scenes like the one where Dulquer gets a phone’s unlocking code was maintained throughout, we would have ended up with a far more fun, far more consistent film. In its current form, KKK is still a lot of fun, but it requires a lot of patience too.

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