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Kaala turns 5: Rajinikanth's most polarising masterpiece yet. Thalaivar's best or worst?

As Kaala turned 5, some remembered it as "the worst" movie in Rajinikanth's career, and some called it his "best work" to date. 

Kaala turns 5: Rajinikanth's most polarising masterpiece yet. Thalaivar's best or worst?
Rajinikanth in Kaala.

Last Updated: 05.59 PM, Jun 07, 2023


Superstar Rajinikanth's Kaala turned 5 on Tuesday. The movie was first released in cinemas on June 7 in 2018. And to date, the movie remains one of the polarising movies in the glorious career of Rajinikanth. In a career-spanning nearly five decades, Rajinikanth has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows. His movies were either good or bad. 

Even Kabali, which was Rajinikanth's maiden collaboration with director Pa.Ranjith, fell in this category. While the movie became of the highest-earning movies in the history of Tamil cinema, the majority of the crowd felt it was mostly underwhelming. Of course, an intellectual analysis of this movie would throw up a different picture. But, the larger consensus was the film didn't work for many. 

Kaala is an excepetion. Even after five years, the jury is still divided. On the movie's fifth anniversary, a section of people remembered the movie as "the worst" movie in Rajinikanth's career, some called it the "best" work he has done to date. The feeling towards this movie remains at extremes. 

And I belong to those who believe Kaala is the best work that Rajinikanth had done in the past decade. Some seasoned distributors claim that Kaala hurt Rajinikanth's image and undercut his box office potential. And some state that this movie didn't make profits for its producers because of the politically controversial statement made by Rajinikanth on the anti-Sterlite protest just a few days before the movie's theatrical release.


Opinions on the film vary, influenced by a range of factors. However, from a purely film criticism standpoint, Kaala was and will remain an important movie in Rajinikanth's career. 

Kaala is the closest that Rajinikanth came to making a movie with contemporary sensibilities. This movie was devoid of unnecessary adulation, and over-the-top heroism. Instead, the film portrayed Kaala as an embodiment of the people of Dharavi, reflecting their culture, politics, pain, and aspirations, rather than a shallow extension of his own persona, strength, vices, and ego. Even in the end, Kaala transcendence the limitations of the human body and becomes a revolutionary idea that needs to be protected and nurtured by a larger community to bring about meaningful social transformation. This underlying theme challenged traditional notions of heroism and showcased Rajinikanth in a refreshing light.

At its core, Kaala explores the themes of inequality, social injustice, and the power struggle. And it highlights the plight of marginalised communities and sheds light on the harsh realities they face. It beautifully captures the essence of human struggle, resilience, and the relentless fight against oppression.

Ranjith brilliantly infuses the narrative with layers of depth and symbolism, elevating the film beyond a mere commercial entertainer. The gritty visuals and dynamic camerawork immerse the audience in the gritty world of Dharavi. 

Despite all the criticism, Kaala will remain a cinematic gem.

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