What's shocking more than the mindless violence in Kabzaa is every character, including the hero, kills in cold blood without any regret, pity or a sense of guilt.
Last Updated: 08.42 AM, Mar 19, 2023
The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died, and then the queen died of grief is a plot. While we can see a series of deaths in director R Chandru's latest movie Kabzaa, what we can't find is the plot. Starring Upendra in the lead role, Kabzaa has a complicated story that begins in British India. Upendra plays the leading man named Arkeshwara. When Arkeshwara was a young boy, his father dies in a freedom struggle. After the death of his father, Arkeshwara's mother brings him and his elder brother Sankeshwara to a fictional town in south India. The family of three manages to survive the British rule there and begins to thrive in post-colonial India. And Arkeshwara's life begins to unravel when Sankeshwara is killed by a mob boss. One thing leads to another, and before we know it, Arkeshwara emerges as the new mob boss. His quick and ruthless rise in the ranks of the underworld leaves a trail of dead bodies.
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The story of Kabzaa lacks any internal logic and it never pauses for a minute to reflect on the losses suffered by the protagonist. The movie keeps hoping from one violent scene to another, painting a grim picture of humanity that is beyond redemption. The movie is so dialled in with the violence that it no longer worries about the emotional toll that all the killings must have taken on Arkeshwara's conscience. Arkeshwara was an airforce officer before he became a victim of his circumstances. His tryst with clod-blooded murders begins with the beheading of one of the cops, who played a role in the brutal murder of his brother. It's one of the first beheadings by Arkeshwara and he goes on to soak himself in the hot blood of all his rivals. There would have been some sense of sanity if the movie were to track the protagonist's rapid descent into madness and how a law-abiding man, a son of a freedom fighter, was turned into a blood-thirsty gangster. But, no. The movie sells all the gruesome killings by Arkeshwara as part of the heroism. The grammar of the visual narration lacks any philosophical or moral base. It has been done purely on the thesis that "if it bleeds, it leads."
Kabzaa is almost inhuman in his storytelling. We see Arkeshwara massacring his rivals without any hesitation, and then he washes off his blood-stained hands and returns to his castle, where he lives happily with his beautiful wife Madhumati (played by Shriya Saran) and two sons. It's messed up.
What's shocking more than the movie's mindless violence is every character, including the hero, kills in cold blood without any regret, pity or a sense of guilt. The movie has no value for human lives and we see images of the hero hanging the dead bodies of his rivals upside down on the streets to make a statement. He embraces the psychopathic attributes and amplifies them with a swagger, that makes killings look cool. It's as if his conscience is Teflon coated and the trauma of killing another human doesn't stick to it.
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Things get really dizzy as the movie progresses. Sudeep plays the narrator of Kabzaa. His character Bhargava Bakshi is a top cop and he narrates the violent rise of Arkeshwara to a bunch of hardened criminals. Why? Maybe he hopes that Arkeshwara's life would serve as an example and discourage them from the path of violence. Yes, this theme looks directly lifted from Upendra's classic OM. But, who's keeping count of everything this film has lifted from other movies?
Some may call it plagiarism and the filmmakers may describe it as a homage. There is no wrong with taking the ideas of others and reusing them in one's work of art, as long as it elevates the original work and shows it in a different dimension. But, just lifting things verbatim to achieve the same effect that the original idea intended is not a sign of competence.
There was no doubt that Chandru wanted to recreate the success of the KGF series . But, he has tried to achieve that without any real substance. Even all the star power that he has managed to muster cannot hide the reality that this film is a tasteless copy of a copy of a copy of KGF. In other words, the copy is of poor quality.
Upendra looks confused and out of place. Upendra, who gave Kannada cinema's classic gangster movie OM, struggles to give a convincing performance in this. And that speaks volumes about how ill-convinced the world of Kabzaa is. The bad lip sync from Shriya Saran and Murali Sharma looks unprofessional and silly and the cheesy dialogues add to the shame.
Will Chandru fix all these problems in Kabzaa 2? Let's hope he does.