The monster box-office success of KGF 2 across India is making people talk: a Kannada film has gone places where it had never gone before; it has given Bollywood a beating, at last; come to think of it, even the Tamil and Telugu film industries are showing a new regard for the Kannada film industry. The age-old despair about the smallness of the Kannada film market and the yearning for better marketing strategies are now better put to rest. The mood is truly jubilant.
Belonging in the company of pulp noir, KGF 1 and 2 create a distinct fantasy setting: a group of rogues have built a fiefdom around a gold mine where their private militia brutally holds down a captive labour force. Tucked away from the reach of law, the fortressed mine or its well-connected criminal owners have evaded any mention in the newspapers. Rocky, the film’s hero, who is determined to realise his destitute mother’s wish that he become rich by any means necessary and help the needy, breaks through the heavily fortified mine to become its lord in KGF 1 but succumbs to the law at the close of KGF 2.
The ceaseless high-decibel background score and the stylish chiaroscuro visuals, combined with careful art direction and fast-paced editing, do succeed in conferring an atmosphere to the KGF saga. The action scenes, especially in KGF 2, will surely count among the coolest ever seen in Kannada, nay Indian, cinema. And there is no overlooking the high-energy screen presence of Yash, who plays Rocky. Often seen smoking cigarettes and swigging whiskey, his well-groomed beard and crisp suits set him apart from the gruff rival mafiosos with scraggy beards as well as the mass of dust-covered miners and their children in bedraggled clothes. His love for his mother and his sympathies for the poor and his broken English though ensure for him an endearing persona.
The two-part KGF saga smoothly blends elements from disparate film sources like Troy, Mad Max: Fury Road and the recent Viking and Batman films with those from the homegrown underworld gangster films. Focused on serving visual treats through action scenes packed with special effects, it settles for a thin narrative. Its characters are colourful but flat.
The KGF films strive to also ride on punch lines, but they don’t always hold out a punch. While lines like “If you are bad, I am your dad,” or “Everyone is a gangster till they see a monster” are nicely quirky, others like, “History always wins,” or “History tells us powerful people come from powerful places. But powerful people make power places,” simply don’t make sense. But this will seem a minor carp as long as large scoops of stylized action sequences keep coming to mute out everything else.
What kind of a role model is KGF likely to prove for the film industry here and elsewhere in India? We might also wish to wonder what its success might mean for Kannada film-makers used to working with modest budgets. In the meantime, a fun scene from KGF 2: Rocky and Reena, the girl he loves, are sitting outside his palace. A few yards away, two women are laying out papads to dry in the sun. The electricity goes off suddenly. Seeing the table fan stop working, Reena orders Mallamma, one of the two women drying the papads, to fetch her a hand fan. Rocky whispers something to his henchman and loudly asks Mallamma to keep an eye on the papads. The next instant, a helicopter appears in the sky to fan Reena from above and sends the papads flying off the mat.
(Chandan Gowda The ISEC Professor looks for new ways of looking @Chandan_ Gowda73)