February 23, 2018
Shebin Benson, Joju George, Baburaj, Shammi Thilakan, Aiswarya Suresh
Kaly is a film with a split personality. The first half lolls about for too long establishing the six male leads, best buddies from a lower middle class background in a Kerala city, who shoplift and indulge in other petty criminal activities to sustain their obsession with branded clothing and shoes. The second half is devoted to a plan that goes completely awry with far-reaching consequences for them and a group of absolute strangers.
The former is just another clichéd storyline with clichéd characters featured so frequently in commercial Malayalam cinema. We have seen them even recently in films ranging from completely low-brow fare like Chunkzz to the more tolerable Velipadinte Pusthakam, these directionless Malayali youth (students or unemployed adults) hanging around doing nothing beyond drinking together, eating together, picking fights with each other or others, behaving as if sightings of women are rarer than visitations by Haley’s Comet, stalking women and having conversations steeped in sexism, parochialism and colour prejudice.
It does not help that in Kaly these roles are played by an ineffectual lot of male artistes, while an equally ineffectual Aiswarya Suresh contributes the token attractive female presence.
The rest of Kaly is the part with potential, when a crime is committed, irresponsible behaviour has a ripple effect on everyone around and the effort to cover up one wrong leads to another and another then another, until you wonder how the persons mired in that situation could possibly extricate themselves from their self-created mess.
What the writer of Kaly needed to do was dispense with the first half almost entirely and invest just a little more thought in the writing of the second to chop out its predictable portions and the trivialisation of the leads’ earlier actions. It could then have been a taut thriller on how casual crime can have disastrous consequences and the differing police reactions to crime based on the financial status of the victims and perpetrators. Its flaws notwithstanding, it remains the tighter, better-written, better-acted part of Kaly.
The film takes too much time to get here. Once it does, it takes a while as a viewer to settle into the complete alteration in tone. That said, there is some fun to be had guessing where everyone’s misdeeds will ultimately lead them.
From the moment of arrival of the unscrupulous, conniving senior policeman played by Joju George, Kaly lifts off to another level. The impact of this corrupt cop is the combined effect of the interesting characterisation and George’s chameleon-like transformation from role to role. His portrayal of amorality here is in sharp – and intriguing – contrast to the stiff-necked, eccentric school principal he played just a few months back in the Manju Warrier-starrer Udaharanam Sujatha.
It is as if a completely new team is handling Kaly post-interval, or the existing team had a proper night’s rest and then proceeded to roll out the second half. Here is an idea, dear director Najeem Koya: how about catching up on your sleep before, instead of after, starting work on a film? Kaly is a half-baked affair that looks and feels as if there is a good film lost somewhere inside it.
Rating (out of five stars): *
CBFC Rating (India):
This review was also published on Firstpost:
Poster courtesy: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7548378/