Debutant Rohit VS' Kala is a Malayalam thriller starring Tovino Thomas, Moor, Lal and Divya Pillai. Tovino, who is also the producer of the film, plays the role of Shaji Raveendran, a narcissist young man who is obsessed with his looks, his masculinity and his privilege. But at the same time, he is also insecure about living under the thumb of his autocratic father, played by Lal, and the many failures he brought through his businesses. And one day, he meets a match in a man holding a severe grudge against him for which Shaji was not at all prepared for. Kala Movie Review: Tovino Thomas’ Thriller Is a Brutal Saga That Pokes Holes Into Alpha Masculinity.
From hereon, we will be entering SPOILER territory for Kala, otherwise what's the whole point of this article? Shaji's nemesis is a Tamil tribal, played by Moor, whose dog was killed by Shaji during a hunt. While Shaji claims it was an accident, the Tamilian seeks the life of Shaji's dog in return. For Shaji the loss of his dog, whose international breed he is proud of, would have been hurtful because it would affect his own manhood. The result is a series of brutal and bloody fights, where clothes are torn, bones are broken, wounds are further damaged, before there is one clear victor.
So let's understand what happens in the climax of Kala:
The Tamilian brings the fight right into Shaji's house, but by then, a bloodied and battered Shaji is already on the defensive. His father can't do much. and Shaji even stops him from calling the police. Even his wife and son are helpless onlookers. Shaji tells his opponent to kill his dog if he wants, but the latter instead goes more brutal on Shaji. Finally, a beaten Shaji, runs off to hide in his bathroom, where also his opponent lands and seats himself on the European closet there.
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Not able to do anything about the humiliation, Shaji waits for his foe to land the final blow on him. However, his enemy only asks how does it feel to have this pain and whether he is liking it. He then cleans himself up, walks out of the house while giving victorious parting glances to all the occupants there, before we find out that he is also taking back Shaji's dog with him to his abode. Since he is the victor, he becomes the protagonist of Kala (and we will refer to him as such ahead).
Why Shaji Lost?
There is no doubt that Kala is a revenge story, of an underdog avenging the loss of a loved one on the man who took it away from him. But the revenge saga works on various levels - unlike the famous Gandhi saying 'An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind', the protagonist's revenge for Shaji killing his dog was not about murdering Shaji's Cane Carson. Tovino Thomas Birthday Special: From ABCD to Lucifer, 7 Movies Where This Handsome Malayalam Star Stole the Show Even in a Supporting Capacity.
For the protagonist, his Bhau was his sole companion, his friend, and the dog's killing is like losing a family member for him. Shaji, on the other hand, is seen to be attached to his canine, Blackie, but he is no dog-lover. For him, Blackie is a both a status symbol and represents his aggressive manhood. His intro scene has him bathing the dog. His son asks him why he never bathes him but do so for Blackie and Vidya (the wife), leaving Shaji embarrassed.
But there is more to the child's question than what meets the ear. Bathing his wife is an extension of Shaji's ardour, while bathing Blackie is taking care of his own privilege. If Shaji was truly a dog-lover, he would never have murdered Bhau. Remember, he only killed the dog to take out his frustrations after his friends keep reminding him of his failures. This was his way of showing his superiority over an innocent, defenseless animal. What's more when he had enough of the protagonist's beatings, he tells him to kill Blackie, the very reason why the fight got so vicious.
Shaji's vanity needed to be defeated, and that happens in a spectacular fashion. In the beginning, we see him preening without his shirt, towards the end, Shaji may have his shirt on, but he loses his mundu (that too twice), rendering him humiliated. He could have easily backed out of the fight, but he kept on trying to hurt the protagonist because he could do so. His vanity continued to dominate him even when he was at the receiving end of the bloody blows. Which is why he stops his father from calling the police, because he still wanted to own this win. He doesn't.
The humiliation is complete when he sits on the corner of his bathroom, near-naked and bathed in his own blood, while his opponent perches himself on the European closet, taking it as a throne. All Shaji wants is that final blow to end his suffering, but the protagonist spares his life, and thus leaving him further ashamed.
Even more interesting are the reactions of his father and his wife to Shaji getting beaten badly. His father first disregarded the injuries on his son's body, and instead was more worried about the missing sacks of pepper (in fact even Shaji cared for the pepper more than his own self). Later, when Shaji brought the fight to his house, even then the father was admonishing him more for trying to pick up a fight. Without knowing the matter, he knew his son was at fault. Tovino Thomas Birthday Special: 11 Performances of the Handsome Actor That Endeared Him To Malayali Movie Buffs.
Meanwhile Vidya is disappointed to see her man being so mercilessly beaten and humiliated, and more so, for trying to get their dog be killed to save his skin. When Shaji's father asks her to be with her badly wounded husband, she refused to go there. Maybe because she is tired of being a soothing balm for her spouse. Or maybe the destruction of her husband's alpha masculinity was more hurtful to her.
Why The Protagonist Won?
In a scene in the second half, the labour-leader tells his workers, while looking at Shaji and his mansion, that these lands belonged to his ancestors before they were driven away by the outsiders (Shaji's folks) and they now have to work for these invaders. This scene blurs the lines between who is the outsider and who are the real occupants in the scenario.
Which is why, Shaji, for all his alpha masculinity, wasn't able to beat his opponent, because he is not truly one with his surroundings. Meanwhile, the protagonist is the nature's own, he has defeated wild beasts before and he knows how to use his environs to taunt and beat his opponent.
Violence may not be right, but if we call the battle between Shaji and the protagonist a righteous war, then the protagonist is on the right side. He is not here to hurt an innocent animal just to seek revenge. He is here to show Shaji how much it pains when you are hut near to death. If Shaji's ancestors took away the lands of its original inhabitants, then the protagonist took away the symbol of their vanity - the dog - right from under their noise as a spoil of war, back with him to the nature. The cycle is complete, though going by Shaji's final expression, he might never let it go. Kala is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on May 21, 2021 04:59 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).