As an industry that produces the highest ratio of realistic films in India, Mollywood has had an unusual dearth of ‘mass’ commercial films in recent years. In the past, Mammootty and Mohanlal had attained their superstardom by doing larger-than-life characters in mainstream commercial films. Perhaps, the current mantra of ‘content being king’ has something to do with the shortage of commercial potboilers in Mollywood.
Nevertheless, well-packaged commercial entertainers are guaranteed to rake in the moolah in Kerala—amply demonstrated by the fact that other-language big-budget films shot on a large canvas have many takers in the state. It’s not surprising then, that young actor Tovino Thomas decided to go down this route with Kalki. The teaser promised a lot, and it was expected to be a paisa vasool entertainer. Sadly, that was not to be.
Kalki is set in a fictional village, Nanjamkota, located in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. A large number of people dwelling in slums have moved away fearing the ruthless nature of the local goon Amarnath (Shivajith) who also controls the major political party in the village. Everything happens according to his whims and fancies with no opposition whatsoever. The suicide of an honest cop sees a replacement officer (Tovino) who is fearless and quirky with a no-nonsense approach. The clichéd good versus evil narrative forms the crux of the film.
For starters, the film is a clichéd action film. Director Praveen Prabharam had promised an out-and-out mass film, and while his intentions are frank, the execution comes across as a dampener. Films that have a predictable plot or theme often rely on the writing, which needs to be sharp and smart to keep the audience engrossed.
The screenplay of the film is a letdown as viewers mostly know what to expect in the next scene. It didn’t start off that badly, with the first half of the film engaging the viewer. Tovino, who has been impressive with his film choices of late, seems to enjoy his makeover as a superhuman cop does a fair job at it.
It is Tovino’s performance and the peppy background score from Jakes Bejoy that holds the film together till the interval but the second half falls apart dramatically. The sub-plot looks unconvincing and writers Praveen-Sujin seem lost for ideas as they try to get the film to the finish line. Their biggest flaw is in the character sketch of the antagonist. There is a heavy buildup and slow motion walks for Shivajith’s character but it doesn’t work. His confused expression doesn’t help either.
The support cast playing Tovino’s fellow cops are decent and are perhaps the only other bright spark in the film. All the other characters are either irrelevant or poorly written to be of any significance. Many of these negatives wouldn’t have mattered much if the screenplay was tighter. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen and the cracks start to widen as the film progresses, eventually collapsing in the second half.
There isn’t anything wrong with Tovino’s choice to do a hero-centric mass film, and he has done a fair job of enacting it. However, selecting a box office-friendly genre is only the starting point for any project, and it is the final product that determines the outcome of the film. The director seems like a man with a lot of ambition, but he couldn’t translate his vision on-screen. On the whole, Kalki is like a misfiring piece of ammunition. It’s all over the place.