When heroes become angry, they thrash evil, fight against injustice and question the establishment. Don't we love it? It was Amitabh Bachchan's deft portrayal of anger - not love, compassion or humor - that catapulted him into India's biggest superstar. In Malayalam, we've had Mamootty, Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi successfully riding on their rage to deliver so many super hits (Inspector Balram, Irupatham Noottandu and Commissioner, to list a few.) Still, their anger was blended with other virtues essential for a hero; they fell in love, they sang, they joked, they cried, and yes, they got angry.
Compared with these traditional heroes, Siddharth (Dulquer Salmaan), the protagonist in Sameer Thahir’s Kali, is anger personified. Every now and then, this 20-something youngster succumbs to the fury boiling within, creating situations for himself and others around. We don't really get to know what incidents in his life caused this personality disorder, but since childhood, Sidhu, as he is called, has had a short fuse. Nevertheless, that doesn't hold back Anjali (Sai Pallavi) from falling in love with this troublesome tornado. They get married against the wishes of their families and start a life on their own. Early on itself, Siddhu's personality issues began to flare up, eventually landing them in a horrible situation you and I won't ever want to be in.??
An interesting theme for a Malayalam film, but do Thahir and script writer Rajesh Gopinathan deliver? Well, they could've done better. Dulquer Salmaan ably straddles between the boy next door and the menacing angry man, but his character is not without flaws. At times, we wonder whether Siddharth has an anger management issue or he is just downright stupid. In the crucial second half where things become an edge-of-the-seat affair, this is the feeling we get when Siddhu goes about exploding. He loses it in a wayside restaurant over the payment of a glass of juice. That's not the welling up of anger in a person with anger management issues; it's sheer lack of common sense. At least the setting of this scene makes you feel so. You get similar thoughts when Siddhu gets into fights in college and when he beats up a colleague at a party. Does this guy need counseling or a dose of common sense? And is he struggling with his personality traits or enjoying being trigger happy?
A couple of people shine in Kali. Vinayakan as John, the restaurant owner, and Chemban Vinod as the truck driver. Both will send shivers down your spine without making much efforts. Chemban Vinod has arrived as one of the finest actors in our cinema (He eclipsed Prithviraj in the recent Darvinte Parinamam.) Sai Pallavi is as adorable as she was in Premam. Anjali is troubled constantly by her husband's bad temper, but she handles him and even controls him pretty well. She left her parents to live with the man she loves, and at one point is even bold enough to walk out from that life. But that smart and pragmatic girl is reduced to a stereotypical weakling later, in the face of danger that only the male hero can deal with. I wish the writer added a bit more steel in Anjali in that situation just to give justice to her character we'd seen so far.
Like most of the so-called 'new generation' movies, Kali too is slickly made. The chase scene, superbly shot, is one of the best in Malayalam cinema in a long time. It's not over the board and a real cliffhanger. The background score by Gopi Sundar is another top-notch work in this film, though the songs didn’t really register.
Only when writers and directors delve deeper into their characters, they will come up with men and women on screen who live forever. Like that wretched tabalist Ayyappan in K.G. George's Yavanika. Missing such nuances while creating Siddharth is palpable. A little more attention toward the details would have given us a character loaded with many idiosyncrasies, and challenged Dulquer to explore many more dimensions of Siddharth. Unfortunately, Siddharth fails to become a once-in-a-lifetime role; he is just another hero. Rather than creating a loathsome, irritating trouble monger, the makers of Kali probably wanted Siddharth to be an endearing young man with an anger management issue. That’s a paradox in real life. Ask anybody who has had to deal with a short-tempered person, and they will show you the scars. And that's where the makers of Kali slipped.