“King of Kotha,” starring Dulquer Salmaan, arrives with a promise of excellence. With its roots embedded in the underworld sagas such as “Satya,” “Vada Chennai,” and “Gangs of Wasseypur,” the film directed by Abhilash Joshiy offers an intriguing glimpse into the criminal labyrinth of Kotha. However, despite its technical prowess and commendable efforts, the film falters on its journey towards a truly captivating narrative.
Unveiling the Pan-Indian Gangster Epic
“King of Kotha” ventures into uncharted territory as the first-ever Malayalam film embracing the pan-Indian trend. Aiming to captivate audiences beyond its regional boundaries, the film sets a new precedent for Malayalam cinema. With Dulquer Salmaan essaying the titular role and Abhilash Joshiy’s directorial debut, the expectations are sky-high.
A World Beyond Bullets: The Essence of Gangster Films
Before we delve into the heart of the film, take a moment to reminisce about your favorite gangster movies. Beyond the visceral action and technical brilliance, what truly sets them apart? The unfolding of a story, the interplay of emotions, and the crafting of characters intricately woven into the narrative are what make them unforgettable. “King of Kotha” endeavors to follow this tradition by immersing viewers into the fictional world of Kotha, where power, crime, and emotions collide.
A Glimpse into Kotha’s Underbelly
The film initiates its tale with CI Shahul Hassan (Prasanna) entering the notorious realm of Kotha. Through the eyes of SI Tony Titus (Gokul Suresh), Shahul comes face-to-face with the enigmatic figure of Kannan Bhai (Shabeer Kallarakkal) and his dominion over the drug trade. Shahul’s awareness of Kannan’s invincibility deepens with every encounter. At this juncture, Tony unravels the past of Raju (Dulquer Salmaan), the former King of Kotha who had vanished a decade ago. Recognizing Raju’s potential to quell Kannan’s reign, Shahul devises a plan to bring him back and restore order.
The Craft of Consistency: Genre and Atmosphere
“King of Kotha” diligently maintains its gangster genre throughout its 176-minute runtime. A hallmark of classic genre films, it intertwines characters with their environment, reflecting the lasting impact of the setting and socio-political dynamics on their lives.
Laying the Foundation: The First Act
The film’s first act meticulously sets the stage, delving into the lives of those under Kannan Bhai’s rule. Through evocative set designs, the era’s essence is conveyed without undue exposition. The pacing is deliberate, aiming to immerse the audience in the milieu. However, this segment struggles to leave a mark due to the absence of standout moments.
A Glimmer of Brilliance: Raju’s Resurgence
Around the 30-minute mark, a flashback sequence heralds Kotha Raju’s return in a spectacular manner. From a mysterious silhouette to a full-fledged presence, the scene is a testament to the film’s visual prowess. Yet, amidst the excitement, the plot’s direction remains unclear, impeding engagement. Despite attempts at emotional resonance, the script’s quality falters, undermining the impact.
Narrative Stumbles: Sustaining the Struggle
As the tale unfolds, the narrative’s weaknesses persist. Flashbacks reinforce Raju’s fearlessness, sustained by Dulquer Salmaan’s commanding performance. However, the dialogue’s contrived nature exacerbates the issue. Even the second half’s progression does little to rectify this, and the script stagnates within the confines of the generic gangster formula.
A Tale Untold: Potential and Pitfalls
In an unconventional turn, Raju and Kannan’s reconnection stands as a potential emotional high point. However, Abhilash N Chandran’s writing undermines this pivotal scene, diverging from his acclaimed work on “Porinju Mariam Jose.” Throughout the film, the script’s shortcomings persist, saved only by Abhilash’s distinctive style. Though other elements shine, the disjointed narrative eclipses them, and Abhilash’s debut echoes his father’s blockbuster approach.
The Star-Studded Canvas: Performances and Presentation
Dulquer Salmaan shines as Raju, embracing a new facet of his talent. Shabeer Kallarakkal’s performance leaves an impression, and Aishwarya Lekshmi, Nyla Usha, Chemban Vinod Jose, and TG Ravi excel. However, Prasanna and Gokul Suresh struggle to embody their characters, resulting in a disconnect.
Behind the Lens: Crafting Authenticity
Shammi Thilakan’s portrayal of Raju’s father, Kotha Ravi, is impactful despite limited screen time. The unsung hero emerges in Nimesh M Thanoor, the production designer, who skillfully recreates the atmospheres of 1986 and 1996. Nimish Ravi’s cinematography maintains its brilliance, capturing the essence of each frame. Shyam Sasidharan’s editing elevates action sequences, choreographed by Rajasekhar, into gripping spectacles.
Harmonious Notes: Music and More
Jakes Bejoy’s background score is a cornerstone of the film’s technical aspects. Unlike recent counterparts, Jakes crafts distinct tracks, weaving the King of Kotha theme seamlessly. His tracks enrich the viewing experience, aligning with the film’s tonal fluctuations. Ronex Xavier (makeup) and Praveen Varma (costumes) contribute to the film’s authenticity.
A Missed Triumph: Final Verdict
In the realm of potential, “King of Kotha” could have soared alongside iconic gangster epics. While its technical elements sparkle, the absence of an absorbing narrative undermines its aspirations. Dulquer Salmaan’s performance and technical brilliance shine, but the film falls short of achieving its lofty goals.
King of Kotha Movie Details:
- Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Shabeer Kallarakkal, Prasanna, Gokul Suresh
- Director: Abhilash Joshiy
- Rating: ★★★☆☆
Disclaimer: This movie review is crafted based on references from "The Indian Express." Any inaccuracies or errors are not the responsibility of the author or Empire Weekly.