KAITHI (2019)

  • Release Date: 24/10/2019
  • Cast: Karthi, Narain, George Maryan, Harish Uthaman
  • Director: Lokesh Kanagraj

Kaithi is a roller-coaster ride of action, thrill and intense drama with Karthi at his best

A team of Anti-Narcotics Unit seizes a huge cache of cocaine. The team hides the cocaine in the police headquarters fearing a violent backlash from the drug lords before they can take a conscious call on what should be their next step. The team then proceeds to attend a senior officer’s farewell party where they are poisoned and are in need of immediate medical attention. The attack is orchestrated by the drug lords who now set out to execute phase two of their elaborate plan — Murder the incapacitated officers of the Anti-Narcotics Unit among the ones who have been poised and are being moved for treatment, launch a furious onslaught on the headquarters freeing their gang members stuck in police custody and reclaim their seized cocaine from the police custody. Their plan is ingenious, they greatly outnumber the police, but they didn’t account for one man in the midst of it all. Dilli (Karthi), a criminal who has been released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence and is on his way to be reunited with his daughter gets pulled into the mess and proves to be a force to reckon with. What happens next is what Kaithi is all about.

Kaithi unfolds through the course of one night. We follow the events on multiple fronts. The drug lords are carrying out their plans in different topographies. The head of the Anti-Narcotics Units, Bejoy (Narain) is rushing against time and repeated attacks from the enemy to deliver the poisoned officers to a hospital that is 80 kilometers away. At the same point in time, he knows the police headquarters which houses the arrested members of the cartel and the huge cache of the drug remains unprotected and guarded by a lone 55-year-old constable on duty, Napoleon (George Maryan) and few college students who have been detained for creating a nuisance. Dilli, who is driving the truck carrying the police officers for Bejoy wants no part of the mess. He is unwilling in what he is doing and throws random tantrums. As time passes, the onslaught on the police headquarters and the truck increases in ferocity and it feels as if Bejoy would fail at both the tasks. The film generates immense tension and thrills hopping between different portions of the narrative and still maintaining a lucid flow and a clear understanding of how the events are unfolding.

There is a lot of action in the film but none of it seems unwarranted. The hand to hand combats are beautifully choreographed and even though it makes a superman out of the character of Dilli, it never felt out of place or poorly executed. He is not impervious to pain, but he is hard as a bull and when everyone thinks that he is out, he finds the last bit of strength left in him and uses it to pummel his aggressors. The action is so effective because Karthi brings a sense of physicality to these sequences that feel real and makes you cheer for the man as he goes all guns blazing against his enemies. Since he is so viciously outnumbered, the joy of watching him prevail over his enemies is increased two folds. Without giving anything away, I can safely say that the film has one of the most satisfying and breathtaking climax action sequences that I have seen in Indian films in years. It is so inspiring because the film was building up to it from the very first sequence of the film and the director ensures that he milks every ounce of heroism and thrill that he can from it.

Karthi is brilliant in his realization of Dilli. Apart from the action sequences that always unfold as a result of heightened emotions and are built up to perfection, the character of Dilli has a lot of emotional weight behind it. As the story progresses, we get to know about his past through his emotionally rewarding dialogues with the caretaker of the truck that he is driving. These sequences don’t feel preachy and we get to that point only after a proper camaraderie is concocted between the two. Karthi’s mannerism is very different here and while he is soft-spoken and somewhat disassociated from his surrounding, he feels like someone who is tormented by a torrid past. When he is fighting, he gives out a feeling of it being something that has been his way of life for years. Every time he speaks about his daughter or his past, one can see tears tinkling down his cheeks which, coupled with his starry-eyed look, instantly adds to the warmth of the character.

Narain as the Anti Narcotic Unit Officer Bejoy is apt. he looks uncomfortable and tense throughout the film and it stands as a testimony to his plight throughout the film. His essay is in strong keeping with the character that he is playing and lets you feel the tension and trauma that the character is going through and increases the stakes for the viewer. The moment George Maryan walked into the police station as Napoleon, I knew that his character would be important to the narrative. However, I didn’t expect it to go to the kind of places that it goes in the end and that is something that really made him one of the most likable characters in the film. Maryan has a wonderful sense of comic timing and he makes it a point to extract a few laughs even though it kept to a bare minimum. Harish Uthaman has a cameo in the film, but the man is fearsome. Kaithi may well be a little generic and weak in terms of its antagonist but Uthaman more than makes up for it by the end.

I loved Kaithi’s background score. The score adds a sense of heroism and badassery to the sequences where Dilli is shown in his true elements and it goes a long way into making these sequences a lot more thrilling and inspiring. The score works its magic in the dramatic and emotional sequences as well where the tone is starkly different from the action sequences.

There is no heroine or songs in the film. The protagonist is devoid of any floss or grandeur that we generally associate with a bamboozling south Indian film hero. Still, Kaithi is an absorbing and intense watch from start to finish. There are a few sequences and plot points here and there that one can raise a question about, but the story rolls on at such a feverish pace that most of the viewers will only notice it in their subsequent viewings. For many, that might not even be an issue. My only complaint with the film was that it started to drag a little bit towards the middle of the second half. Also, the film ended with a cryptic expression from its primary antagonist that opened the gates to many unanswered questions if his expression and words were to be taken in a specific way. I felt in a film like this, that was unnecessary. There is a solid chance that they might make a sequel to it and if that is the case, I will be up in arms to watch it. Kaithi is also about to be remade in Hindi starring Ajay Devgn. While Devgn is a solid leading man, I doubt whether he will be able to recreate the raw and unabashed appeal of Karthi. For now, I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a quality action film.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)   

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