Director: Praveen Prabharam
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Samyukta Menon
Praveen Prabharam’s Kalki is set in a Kerala village bordering Tamil Nadu that is ruled by a family of notorious criminals who hold high-profile political posts. The sons run a company of goons and deal in an illegal ammunition business while the father, sick and grumpy, rests home looked after by his physician daughter, played by Samyukta Menon. As a group of social activists led by Suraj (Saiju Kurup) starts a fight to rehabilitate a Tamil minority community chased away from its rightful land in the village for the sake of corporate companies, the family embarks upon a spree of violent attacks and murders. Into this mess comes a dare-devil self-righteous cop (Tovino Thomas) who wants to annihilate evil and save the innocent.
Kalki doesn’t digress much from this basic premise. There are no unrelated sub plot-tracks. The film always moves on to the next event like a video game – a murder, an explosion, a groundbreaking decision, or again, a murder. There is a glimmer here and there, but the narrative is largely old and achingly obsolete, built up in broad strokes. The film pays no attention to the nuances that bring the audience closer to the larger-than-life characters. It is set in a strange place in a strange era.
There are no surprises, because everything in Kalki is borrowed or rehashed mindlessly from the garage of Indian mainstream masala that is centred on machismo. When a villain asks for a matchbox, the cop sets him on fire. When another threatens a constable’s mother, the policemen raid his home and makes scandalous videos of his wife. Instead of great moments or character arcs, we get tasteless punch dialogues and a chest-thumping background score that stabs the audience throughout the film’s running time. The opening scene where the man addressing a political rally introduces to the audience the antagonists by their names is composed of shots that look alike – slow-motion , an arousing background score, and a self-congratulatory expression writ large on the characters’ faces. You don’t learn of their idiosyncrasies or the personal detail that differentiates one from the other.
Instead of setting a mass movie in a realistic place and scenario, like how a Spadikam or a Irupatham Noottandu did years ago, Kalki takes the shortcut, creating an absolutely implausible universe for its characters to exist in. Curiously, no one but this sub-inspector of police seems to be bothered by the village’s well-oiled arms market or the series of high-profile murders, many of which happen in public places. No army comes marching in, and there are no calls from the higher decks of power either.
And unlike cop films such as Gangaajal or Avanazhi, Kalki isn’t against the system, but sings peans for its iron fist. As the first step to eliminating criminals from his police station limits, the cop transforms his forbearing subordinates into killing machines who, in a later scene, cheerfully ask him for permission to amputate goons and torture men without context. An unreasonable sense of humour runs in the scene where a senior constable rushes to execute third-degree torture measures on a suspect in custody. This morally ambiguous stand on crime and punishment becomes a problem when combined with the self-righteous tone of the film. The hero isn’t overcome by emotional trauma even when a close colleague bleeds to death in front of his eyes. In another scene, the prime antagonist decides to slice his dying brother to death inside a hospital for no particular reason other than the film’s general tendency to use unimaginative scenes of violence as a selling point. It doesn’t take interest in the inner lives of these men.
Tovino Thomas looks healthy and fit, but nothing prepares you for the scene where he beats down a hundred men after being stabbed on chest, back and abdomen multiple times. He pulls off the cop’s arrogance and devil-may-care attitude, and excels in action scenes. Samyukta Menon gets good costumes and a few slow-motion shots, but her presence in the film amounts to nothing. It isn’t the actors’ fault, though. Kalki is a testosterone balloon that sacrifices elements of good storytelling at the altar of popular images of masculinity.
The Kalki review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.