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Yash in a still from <i>KGF: Chapter 1</i>
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‘KGF’ May Be a Visual Treat but VFX Can Only Take You so Far

Yash dominates the otherwise lacklustre film.

Updated
Movie Reviews
4 min read

‘KGF’ May Be a Visual Treat but VFX Can Only Take You so Far

From the second KGF: Chapter 1 starts, the stage is set for a one-man show.

Yash, or Rocking Star Yash as he is known to fans, dominates the screen as Rocky and it is clear that we are all about to be treated to nearly three hours of his heroism.

After being teased with stupendous sets, larger-than-life graphics and an incredible scale in the trailer, audiences were raring to see the unfolding of this epic drama.

And the film delivers, albeit only visually. The movie is fast-paced in both halves, with quick cuts jumping from one scene to the next and destroying any expectations of a linear narrative. From Bengaluru to Mumbai and back again to Karnataka’s Kolar Gold Fields where the film is set, the entire experience is a whirlwind of powerful men trying their best to gain ultimate control of the gold rush in South India, rendering puppets out of ordinary men. Yash, of course, is the perfect foil to each corrupt gangster.

Although set in the very real Kolar Gold Fields, where gold was actually mined until 15 years ago, the movie is a far cry from any imaginable reality. It is fiction that borders on fantasy and relies greatly on one of the most common tropes of Indian cinema — an ordinary boy, born into nothing, takes on the big, bad world but eventually returns to his roots (occasionally accompanied by a suitably supportive consort though Yash goes it solo in the first instalment of this film).

While it was nearly impossible to catch all the dialogues due to the hooting and screaming from the stalls, which betrayed Yash’s very loyal fan base, here’s what worked and what didn’t for arguably the biggest Kannada movie of this year.

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Yash Is Infallible; We Get It

Set in the ’70s and ’80s, the film captures the gang wars of the time and gritty reality of those who hungrily move to the City of Dreams rather well. Rocky heads to Mumbai to fulfil the dying wish of his mother and it is where he first earns a name for himself by attacking a cop at the behest of his gangster boss.

He rises through the ranks of the underworld to a point where no gold enters or exits Mumbai without his approval. In all of the scores of fist-fights, encounters and gang wars that we witness, nobody is ever, EVER able to lay a finger on him. He disposes of his enemies as though they were mere flies.

Each scene with Yash is packed with intense theatrical value — Rocky using the hand of someone he is suffocating to push his hair back as he attempts to woo a pretty girl; breaking off chains that are suspending him from the ceiling as though they were trick handcuffs; finding the time to smoke even as his enemies quiver before him and son on.

Rocky is worshipped with the reverence usually reserved for gods, with even children on the street chanting his name. But this seems over the top as the audience is never privy to what exactly justifies his exalted reputation.

Mere Paas Maa Hai

Despite his aggression, Rocky’s only Achilles heel is his love for his mother. And all mothers, actually. “The first and true warrior in this world is a mother,” he says. Though not one to give a damn about what his friends or foes have to say about him, Rocky is troubled by his mother’s passing. He wakes up in sweat from a nightmare about her while working undercover to take down the overlord of the Kolar gold mines.

Rocky was ostensibly sent on a mission to murder the autocratic guards of the mine but he also ends up leading 20,000 slaves to freedom and emerging a hero. His mother had once said to him, “With the support of a thousand men behind you, you can win only a battle. But if you inspire 1,000 people with confidence by leading them, you can conquer the world itself.”

We are also treated to a rare show of his softer side as he stops traffic on a busy road for a mother to pick up a piece of bread to feed her child. This act of kindness endears him to an otherwise reluctant love interest.

But Where Are the Women?

There are a grand total of three female characters in KGF. They are: Rocky’s mother, his love interest and the dance partner whom he uses to make aforementioned love interest jealous.

The testosterone-fuelled film leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to giving women adequate agency. The only female lead, Reena (Srinidhi Shetty), is just a prop.

Rocky insists on calling her ‘chinnu’ as a term of endearment despite her obvious disgust. He holds her captive in a hotel room, calls her father ‘mava’ (father-in-law) and kills her driver just to get more alone time with her. We are expected to appreciate his persistence and admire his resolve, but to be honest, it’s a little difficult to digest in the year of #MeToo. The mother is a warrior but the ‘wife’ a plaything?
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Focus on the Action and All Will Be Fine

Despite its shoddy script, lack of character development and uni-directional take on the world of men, KGF is entertaining enough to warrant a watch.

The sets and scenes are terrific, with special effects and graphic design better than any recent Kannada movie, making a comparison to Baahubali understandable. It’s fast-paced with good camera work and cinematography to keep you from losing interest. The action scenes are riveting and the film is peppered with quotable tongue-in-cheek dialogues. Take for example Rocky’s response to a gangster asking him whether he thought Mumbai belonged to his father. “No, it belongs to your father,” Rocky offers adding, “The only problem is, I am your father.”

The bottom line? Focus on the visual, cinematic experience. Expect any more, and you might be in for a disappointment.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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