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Kabzaa review: Time to sue R Chandru for the brain damage caused by his KGF copy

The filmmaker’s much-publicized gangster flick is quite the dud

Kabzaa review: Time to sue R Chandru for the brain damage caused by his KGF copy
Upendra in a still from Kabzaa

Last Updated: 02.05 PM, Mar 17, 2023


Story: Arkeshwara (Upendra), an air force officer, is forced to take to a life of violence, following a tragedy in the family.

Review: When filmmaker R Chandru saw Prashant Neel’s KGF in 2018, he had an epiphany – ‘I can just lift this entire template, make minor tweaks and use that to make me (and not the film), the next big thing in Indian cinema’. Or so Chandru hoped. After making tall claims that his film is nothing like KGF except in the way it looks, perhaps, it is time for Chandru to eat his words. It’s a disgrace to the word story to suggest that R Chandru’s film Kabzaa has something to that effect.


Where Rocky Bhai (Yash in KGF) is motivated to take over the world because of a promise made to his dying mother, Arkeshwara (Upendra) does not have a solid reason to justify his decision to not only take to a life of violence, but also build his own empire, which he does nevertheless. Rocky Bhai’s love interest was from a higher socio-economic strata and the daughter of an enemy; Arkeshwara goes several steps ahead and romances royalty; her father too is an enemy.

What Chandru then did is to line up recognizable faces from different industries, predominantly Tollywood, and gave them all two minutes in the spotlight. Some got a line or two to say, others didn’t even have that and despite all the build-up that they are dreaded names in the underworld, every single one perishes without even putting up much of a fight. Which is also borrowed from KGF and one of the biggest grouses I had at the time, that for all the big talk about Garuda, there was no real conflict between him and Rocky eventually. I am digressing here, but I guess the point is clear that Chandru, who ‘wrote’, directed and produced Kabzaa, just wanted it to be another KGF.

Sudeep in Kabzaa.
Sudeep in Kabzaa.

To make sure he was on point, he got art director Shivakumar and music director Ravi Basrur on board, both of who had worked on KGF. Cinematographer AJ Shetty also has a KGF connect, having assisted Bhuvan Gowda. The three of them helped Chandru immensely in recreating the template. Trouble is that audiences really are not looking to see a copy, especially one that is not even remotely enjoyable.

To be honest, I am not a fan of the KGF franchise, but after seeing Kabzaa, I have renewed respect for director Prashant Neel and his craft. At the time, he presented Kannada audiences with something different, which clicked then, but those same people will perhaps now turn around and tell him that they’ve had enough of his grey-scale filmmaking and editing style. How then do you justify a film that attempts to be another KGF five years later?

Kabzaa’s failing is not only in terms of story, screenplay and making, but the casting was also flawed. Upendra gets his most action-packed role to date, and the actor gives it his all, but you just cannot shake the feeling that you’ve seen better in Kannada cinema. It got me wondering, though, what if Sudeep and Upendra had role reversals? Try as he might, Upendra just does not have the swag to pull off the gangster vibe in Kabzaa, which Sudeep would have done a lot better. But well, that ship has sailed. None of the other actors on board the film has anything worthwhile to contribute and don’t even attempt to ensure that their characters are noteworthy. The best guess is that they all lined up for a couple of good pay days and left.

A still from Kabzaa Teaser
A still from Kabzaa Teaser

When we had earlier reported that Sudeep only has a cameo in the film, and very little screen time, Chandru had taken offence at the reportage. Well, we’d actually overstated that he gets 17 minutes, when he’s actually onscreen for perhaps less than 5 minutes for a role that, according to Chandru is like a diamond. The only diamond onscreen was the one shining on the actor’s ear. As for Shivarajkumar’s much publicized cameo, if you take the visuals from the trailer and the video of him dubbing and put it together, that’s all there is to it.

Verdict: Kabzaa ends with the promise of a sequel. Trouble is that the original itself is so lacklustre that no one is going to line up to watch Kabzaa 2, if and when it gets to theatres. The film has been sold to Amazon Prime Video already. If you really want to know what Chandru’s been going on about, well, all you have to do is wait for a month.


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