We are not sure if it was the movie itself, or the incredible crowd that we gathered. The atmosphere at Varnam’s Kaala screening on the opening night was electrifying, to say the least. This movie of Rajinikanth’s may be bereft of all the hype that Kabali came with, but to say that the movie delivered would be an understatement. It blew our minds! And here’s why.

The Superstar Himself

Needless to say, Rajinikanth’s charisma hasn’t left him. He plays Kaala, the titular character, based in Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai. Pa Ranjith appears to have honed Superstar with his trademark entry scene, the brilliant song and dance that followed and just subtle moments here and there throughout the movie. It was reminiscent of Baasha minus all the unnecessary pomp, a don that has aged gracefully but still makes our hearts skip a beat.

Rajini fans, like this writer, were in awe of his trademark moments, the little nuances that Ranjith has factored in while meticulously executing this film. Simply brilliant! Oh, and there’s an awesome fight scene in the rain which beats Enthiran’s flyover bridge fight scene. How Rajini carries this signature style of his decades later baffles us. But then again, can we expect any less from our Thalaivar?

Santosh Narayanan’s Music

The reviews of Kaala’s audio before the movie was released weren’t that great. As with Santosh’s previous projects, the songs feature beautifully as the story unfolds and we fall in love with the tunes we initially dubbed ‘a Kabali hangover’. Dopeadelicz, a rap crew hailing from Dharavi themselves were on point at every appearance throughout the movie. Nikkal Nikkal was fantastically timed, and we almost felt like chanting with them. Kudos to Santosh for bringing beatboxing into Tamil films. Thanga Sela was a superb dance number, redolent of Kicku Eruthe from Padaiyappa. Kannamaa was lilting, and we almost floated into the screen with Rajini and Huma Qureshi.

A Deviation From the Usual Rajini Movies

In most of his movies, Rajinikanth dons two roles – father and son, or youth Rajini and older Rajini. In Kaala, it was just one persona. And it was one hell of a persona, that we didn’t even need a second character to do him justice. This movie is also devoid of the usual heroines on the Superstar’s arm. Two senior actresses, Huma Qureshi and Eswari Rao feature opposite the Superstar. While the two are polar opposites, they are both endearing, especially Eswari Rao.

No Unnecesary Songs

One pitfall of an average Tamil movie is the placement of a song that has absolutely nothing to do with the storyline (We’re looking at you, Athinthom from Chandramukhi!). The songs in Kaala are not only well timed, they are absolutely necessary. And yes, an introductory song for Rajinikanth is something we NEED.

A Lesson on the Slums of Dharavi

The movie is based in Dharavi, a locality in Mumbai that is the third largest slum in the world. Dharavi is occupied by Tamils who came to Mumbai seeking a better future in the 1920s. Their origins from Tamil Nadu, their way of life and the problems they face are all articulated beautifully in Kaala. A scene where the slum dwellers take turns to voice their needs leaves us wanting to laugh and cry, because there really is too much that we take for granted.

Glimpses of the Proletarian Movement

The usage of the colour black, Kaala’s son named Lenin, his dog named Asami. It was the “Let’s show the government that the people have the power,” slogan that rings throughout the movie. It was Huma Qureshi yelling that the fate that befell them is facsism, when they are clearly simply victims of capitalism.

Or is it the Ramayana?

In the movie, Kaala is likened to be the Raavanan of his time, with his multiple heads that pop up when one is killed. Pa Ranjith has weaved the Ramayana in addition to the themes Kaala has to offer, all of which keep the viewer at the edge of her seat.

Finally, Some Gender Equality in a Rajinikanth Movie!

Pa Ranjith may be a feminist at heart. We saw it with Dhansika’s character in Kabali. In Kaala, there is no needy damsel in distress to be saved. All the female actors are strong in different ways, a testament to what women are capable of if we put our minds to it. Anjali Patel’s role is full of grit and determination, even when pushed to her limits. She carries it out effortlessly. Huma Qureshi carries her role with poise and elegance while Eswari Rao is lovable and steadfast in her own ways. The relationship between Kaala and his wife is nothing less of couple goals, with mutual respect and camaraderie.

The Last 10 Minutes

We are going to go out on a limb here and say that the last 10 minutes or so of Kaala are the BEST OF ANY RAJINIKANTH MOVIE EVER. The cinematography by G Murali praises the use of colour and having our own Yogi B’s Katravai Patravai play in the background still gives this writer goosebumps! It was the perfect ribbon to tie up the gift of Kaala.

Kaala isn’t a movie for the classic Rajini fan who is expecting the fanfare and “Oru thadava sonna” punch dialogues. It is a movie the mature Tamil audience will enjoy. It is nuanced and paced. Why rush a Rajini movie anyway?