KGF : CHAPTER 1 (2018)

  • Release Date: 21/12/2018
  • Cast: Yash, Srinidhi Shetty, Anant Nag, Ramachandra Raju.
  • Director: Prashanth Neel

KGF: Chapter 1 is a far cry from anything that we have seen from Kannada cinema thus far. My most recent tryst with Kannada cinema was with Hebbuli (2017) and Yash’s very own Santhu Straight Forward (2016). Both the films were highly entertaining, glossy and polished presentations with lots of romance, song and dance routines and unnecessary comedy here and there.

KGF shuns all that and takes a stark and gruesome look at things. It starts smack in the middle of the action without any unnecessary buildups. The Prime Minister orders the army to take down a criminal who she calls the greatest criminal in the history of the country. In present day, a Journalist, who wrote a book about the same criminal that was then banned by the government, is called in for an interview by a news channel. The journalist, in the presence of a room full of excited listeners begins to tell the story of Rocky (Yash), a man who was born on the day the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) was discovered and who rose through the ranks to become a entity who was looked upon by some as a monster and by others as their divine savior.

I was expecting KGF: Chapter 1 to be good but never expected it to be this good. Everything in the film falls in place and the result is a film that is endlessly entertaining, intriguing and highly inspiring. The story spans from 1951 to 1981. We see Rocky rise from being an impoverished kid — who is ordered by his mother to live a life that would make him the richest man in the world— arriving in Bombay—getting picked up by the local dons and bludgeoning his way to reaching a position where he is on the brink of ruling Bombay. It is at this juncture that he is contacted by an immensely powerful man to take down an adversary that the man refers to as “The Elephant”. The removal of this man would not only affect the balance of a long-standing status quo related to the KGF but would also affect the whole gold smuggling network and everyone profiting from it. Rocky fails to kill the man in Karnataka but then volunteers to lock himself up in KGF to take down the adversary at his home turf.

KGF is 2 hours 50 minutes long and I was hooked to the tale from beginning till end. It must be noted that the film does have some enforced romance and at-least 2 unnecessary songs but they come and go in the midst of so much happening that you will actually enjoy the breather. This is a film that is populated with a lot of characters and they all have different stakes in the story. Most of the characters are there for reasons and they are all well defined. The screenplay though densely populated is lucid enough for anyone to understand but it must be noted that one has to pay attention to what is happening on screen. Any lapse of attention may lead you to lose some vital details.

Having said that, KGF is still a masala potboiler at heart. The film has all the elements that you expect from a Southie entertainer. Grand standoffs between the hero and the villains, rousing action set-pieces that portray the hero as a larger than life indestructible entity, a fearsome villain who finally gives the hero a run for his money and above all a sense of style and gusto in everything that the hero does. The masala elements are wonderfully peppered along with the political drama that is playing out thus serving both the fractions of the audiences. It must also be noted that this film turns into a thriller towards the end as it is only in the final act that we understand what the protagonist was planning all along.

We are given nuggets about Rocky’s future here and there which makes it abundantly clear that he will find a way out of the soup that he has landed up in but how he would do that is interesting enough a proposition to stick around. KGF is almost two films in one. The first half works out as a beautifully envisioned and authentically realized period piece that is high on style and attitude reminiscent of 1980s Bollywood actioner. The second half gives you the feel of bleak torture porn unfolding in a post-apocalyptic world where a landlord is ruling with an iron grip and all the rest under him are mere slaves. This portion does come off a bit slow but that pace was necessary as the manner in which the whole track culminates would not have made such an impact had it not built up slowly.

Yash is style personified. Not only is he exceptionally proficient in the action sequences, but he also brings a brooding charm to the character that comes very naturally to him. The only times when his act feels a bit out of place is when he is romancing Srinidhi Shetty. Thankfully all that is very quickly thrown out of the window and the man gets back to his strength with his arrival in the gold fields. There are moments that are so inspiring and sensational that even the most skeptical of audiences would cheer for. Be it Yash’s introduction, the scene where he penetrates the slave convoy to make his way into the KGF or the sequence where he finally finishes off the guards at KGF who up till that time were committing horrendous atrocities on the helpless. Yash and the film in itself never cease to dazzle you.

Ramachandra Raju plays the primary antagonist and he is mighty impressive. He gives the vibes of being a man who could be the lord of such a gigantic gold field and you never doubt for a second the fact that he could sacrifice his enemies in front of a deity.  He feels like a man who can match up to the superhuman strength of Rocky and that’s exactly what makes him a threat worth reckoning with. KGF would have been a lesser film without him.

The cinematography of KGF by Bhuvan Gowda is one of its high points. While it remains gritty in the manner in which he captures the innards of the underworld and the dwindling of the KGF, it takes a wide and sweeping look at the overall topography in which the story unfolds. I was particularly impressed by the aerial shots of which there are many. The action is also captured in its physicality and in an organic manner that gives you the feeling of being smack in the middle of the mayhem. Gowda knows all too well how to use his lenses to show his characters in a way that will convey their stature in a particular scene. The color palettes of the two portion of the film are also hugely different and here again, Gowda’s inventive usage of what is at his disposal makes the visuals attractive and immersive.

The background score of the film is sensational. Rocky has a few signature tunes associated with his heroic acts and mannerisms and every time it plays, the audience is bound to go nuts. The lullabies that he associates with his mother’s memories are haunting and they are juxtaposed at the right moments to extract maximum emotional impact. The film’s editing is nearly perfect. Apart from some portions of the first half that could have been cut to further reduce fat, the editing remains on point. I loved the manner in which they cut and assembled the action sequences.

KGF is an extremely entertaining and affecting film that made me cheer on more than one occasion. It is the kind of film that can be watched multiple times just to sink in all the details and visual splendor. Yash is in top form. The film has scintillating action. The story has enough twists and turns to keep you interested all the way through. Unlike other duologies and trilogies that prefer to leave the audiences on a cliffhanger, KGF is conclusive and yet sets you up for what is poised to be a rollicking second chapter. Without being overly critical of the superhuman turn of Yash (which is, by the way, a USP of the film) this is a fairly grounded film that will affect you and entertain you at the same time.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

 

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