The stupendous success of Bahubali injected confidence in the more risk-taking southern film industries. While a lot of multilinguals are on the anvil, director Prashanth Neel’s KGF (Kolar Gold Fields) opened in five languages this week. Starring Yash in the lead with a large ensemble, the movie was primarily shot in Kannada, making it Kannada Film Industry’s biggest moment in the limelight. But, does only scale and magnitude make up for the lack of emotional connect? Does mounting a movie with a big budget, make it appealing to audiences across India? Most certainly not!
In a starkly similar opening as Gangs of Wasseypur (interestingly, it was also a two-part franchise like KGF), we are introduced to the birth of a boy, Ramakrishna AKA Rocky (Yash), born to a single mother in poverty. At the same time in the year 1951, a feudal lord, Suryavardhan (Ramesh Indra) takes over Kolar Mines in Karnataka by force, upon learning of the gold it carried under its surface. Over the next 3 decades (till 1980), Suryavardhan climbs up the ladder of power, might and wealth, along with his partners, by forcefully making the poor work in his mines, which is guarded like a fortress. Meanwhile, Rocky loses his mother, moves to Bombay and in his quest to become rich and powerful, takes the unlawful route. He soon becomes a known goon in Bombay. Expectedly, the story moves to Kolar where half a dozen characters fight it out for the control of KGF.
As I mentioned, the beginning looks quite like Gangs of Wasseypur, with the mines, the birth of a kid and the thirst for power and might. But what Anurag Kashyap and Akhilesh Jaiswal achieved in a real setting with layered characters, is lost in the blood and gore of KGF. For the first one and half hours, the movie runs in quick shots with a narrator (Anant Nag) revering the invincible Rocky. Most of the story is explained through montage shots and the movie slows to normal pace only for the blood-laden fight sequences. Essentially, it is a series of 2-minute long montage shots followed by a 10-minute long fight sequence. And the cycle repeats. The director and writer, Prashanth Neel, does not give the audience enough time to connect with the characters. It is more engaging in the second half, when the narrative thankfully slows down and starts to build a story. Since the narrative does not let the audience understand the dozen-odd characters in the first half, it ends up an as incoherent mess.
A striking feature of the movie was its off-beat screenplay, which switches between 1970s in Mumbai, 1980s in Kolar, Rocky’s childhood in 1950s and the present day. In the present day, a senior journalist Anand Ingalagi (Anant Nag), who revers and uses atrocious dialogues to mount Rocky on a pedestal, narrates his story to an annoying news anchor, patently similar to Navika Kumar! The flashbacks of Rocky’s unhappy childhood are used well to layer his character and justify his ways. Yash, with a chiseled body, plays the flamboyant goon well. Bagging the only well-written character in the movie, he plays the baddie-hero, for whom ends justify means. All of Suryavardhan’s partners and sons looks like descendants of Kalakeyas from Bahubali – wild beards, messy hair and menacing looks. Tammanah, in a guest appearance as a bar dancer, is called ‘Milky’, which explains the kind of importance the writers give women in the film. The female ‘lead’, Srinidhi Shetty, is barely there for 4 scenes and is as important to the narrative as the background dancers in Yash’s introduction song.
Not only were the gory fight sequences exhausting and repetitive, the overdose of reverential dialogues for Rocky made me dizzy. Every fight sequence is supported by over-drawn praises for the hero, who single-handedly beats 100 people to pulp. The melodramatic scenes showing the atrocities on the slaves in KGF mines remind of Hitler’s holocausts, but even there, the reverential dialogues do not end. Like the people oppressed by Bhalaladeva waited for Amarendra Bahubali, KGF had people wait for their Messiah too. But unlike Bahubali, the pain and gore are crude in KGF and evoke disgust rather than empathy.
At the end of the two-hour-forty-minutes tirade, I was tired and emotionally exhausted. KGF had flesh and blood in abundance – both literally and figuratively. All it lacked is some soul. As I exited the theatre, all I could do is dread the second part!
My Rating – 1.5/5