King Of Kotha
It is a Thursday but I did get a chance to squeeze one review in from a film of the last week. After much deliberation, I decided to watch and review the new Malayalam film King Of Kotha starring Dulquer Salmaan. And it is not often that I use the term ‘deliberation’ for a Malayalam film. My love for Malayalam films is unparalleled and if you have been a regular reader of my reviews then you would definitely echo this sentiment of mine. But I was admittedly worried while venturing into King Of Kotha.
When you hear the term ‘mass cinema’ then the industry which you would least associate with, would be the Malayalam Film Industry. And this is not because they cannot make mass masala entertainers(which they have in the form of Lucifer or Bheeshma Parvam), but primarily because they often choose to make rooted stories which have some brilliantly nuanced screenplays. But every now and then, I do wish that the industry does forray into these commercial entertainers too which would be a refreshing change as well. One of my wishes did come true when I first watched the first look and teaser of King Of Kotha. Be it the blaring BGM or the slow motion walk featuring Dulquer Salmaan, I was totally sold at the idea of the film and I had no doubt that we were in for something spectacular. But when the D-Day finally arrived, the film was met with criticism about its writing that sent me in a deluge of deliberation. Yet, I still decided to give the film a fighting chance while venturing into King Of Kotha with a blank slate. So then does King Of Kotha manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
King Of Kotha follows the story of a dreaded gangster who rules the crime-infested town of Kotha before leaving his throne behind one day. Yet, the turn of events force him to make a comeback once more in his place of origin. The story here had all the elements for a mouth watering gangster drama that would have accounted for an iconic mass masala entertainer. Yet, the screenplay standing at a daunting runtime of nearly three hours just ends up being mid while not quite rising up to its potential. And yes, the runtime is quite a deterrent here as well!
The drama does open on a phenomenal note with the introduction of a police officer freshly posted in Kotha. Slowly but surely as a part of the world building, he gets acquainted with the people featuring a couple of dreaded gangsters – one ruling the roosts in Kotha while the other lost in oblivion. Thus, begins an extended flashback that lays out all the characters and draws the lines of war for the viewers. One thing that you have to give to the Malayalam Film Industry is their ability to build a world and its characters consistently, film after film. And King Of Kotha isn’t any different. The world building is fascinating also allowing things to simmer in its heat before the eventual explosion. The only issue is that the eventual explosion doesn’t arrive in the manner which I had expected!
The proceedings are interesting to begin with, focusing on the various facets of the life of the gangster. So there is a football rivalry underway between two local gangsters while also a supposed business of drugs underway. The family of the protagonist has abandoned him while he still longs for his little sister. He has a love interest who may or may not reciprocate the kind of love towards him. And there is a track of friendship between the gang members. Each of these tracks had so much potential to form a cerebral kind of a narrative. And this is particularly accentuated in the interval block which was noteworthy in promising an exhilarating second half. But that is where the generic writing set in.
One of the biggest flaws of the writing(and yes, I am doubly critical given that this is a Malayalam film) was that the second hour turned out to be as generic as things can get without exploiting the politics of the area. The entire revenge plot was just too middling for me to care about the proceedings. Even with this track, if things were layered or if the creative decision was to divide the film into chapters just like KGF or Pushpa, things need not have been rushed. The writing could have afforded time towards other tracks which had potential which would have raised the emotional quotient of the film.
Sadly that wasn’t to be considering how the film felt like a collection of events in the second hour that began losing out on its coherence. The events felt repetitive and because enough time wasn’t invested in the emotional track of the film, some of the critical plot points in the film did not evoke the right kind of emotions. Some of the twists and turns are decent including a decently satisfying final act but the buildup to it just made the film dip, and therein lay the issue. 50 odd minutes of brain fade from the writers! Overall, the screenplay here had a promising premise but ended up being middling primarily due to its generic second hour.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are massy but measured in their intensity that slightly made the overall product dip. The music and the BGM have to be the strongest pillar of the film. While that one song was good, the BGM was absolutely fire. I was so impressed by Jakes Bejoy who understood the world of Kotha and his protagonist just so well. I found myself grooving to the BGM more often than not. Sadly, the BGM was trying to accentuate the drama which was often found wanting due to its below par writing, particularly in the second hour.
The cinematography is good capturing some stunning frames with a lot of flair yet I wished the slow motions sequences weren’t overused. But the editing was found wanting here. The multiple jump cuts during the football match and in combat sequences just did not deliver on the intended intensity of the drama. The sequences did fall flat apart from the finale fight sequence which did show the much needed flair! Director Abhilash Joshiy does a decent job here but the drama gave me an impression that he couldn’t quite get a grip on the scale on which the film was mounted. A better director would have elevated the drama even more but Abhilash will learn from this and will surely get better with time. The direction wasn’t bad, it was decent.
The performances are quite good here. Shammi Thilakan as Kotha Ravi and Gokul Suresh as Tony had their moments to shine. Chemban Vinod as Ranjith was phenomenal and quite hilarious in his little role that was brutally cut short. Nyla Usha as Manju was impressive. Prasanna as Shahul was good but I wished his character had a little more skin in the game. Aishwarya Lekshmi as Tara is decent but has practically nothing much to do and is pretty much wasted. Shabeer Kallarakkal as Kannan is excellent and plays a worthy nemesis to the protagonist.
Dulquer Salmaan as Raju is pretty good as well although he subdues much of the intensity which was required in his character. The gentleman that he is, he was visibly awkward and uncomfortable dancing in front of a girl while having to touch her waist. Yet, his eyes are immensely expressive and that is where his aggression did lie. Overall, he was impressive but if I were to compare his act with Yash from KGF or Allu Arjun from Pushpa(I name these two as they were in the same zone) then it was a shade lesser than the barometer of brilliance.
King Of Kotha is a routine gangster drama that falls short of its desired potential. It isn’t as bad as most people are saying yet you can’t help but think that this middling drama ends up being a wasted opportunity. Available in a theatre near you.