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Kaali Review: Perhaps the huge success of Pichaikkaran had made Vijay Antony realise that it is enough if his films had elements that would work in the B and C centres. That was one of the reasons why his previous film, Annadurai, ended up being a disappointment, and now with, Kaali, too, he has taken the same route.

Though the premise of Kaali feels somewhat dated, we expect the presentation to make it different, but we are in for disappointment – at least in the first half. The leisurely narrative style, which would have been OK a couple of decades ago, robs the film of the urgency that the mystery over the identity of the father should have generated.

And unfortunately, it is this mystery that Kiruthiga Udhayanidh banks on to drive the narrative. The film begins with Dr Bharath (Vijay Antony, who gets to play four roles, which differ only in looks), a successful cardiothoracic surgeon in the US, coming to know that he is adopted. He realises that he has to travel to India to find answers to a nightmare that haunts him, and track down his real parents. In India, he learns that his real name is Kaali and that his mother’s name is Parvathy. He goes to her village to track down his father, whose identity is unknown. Does he find what he is after?

The efforts of Kaali and Gopi (Yogi Babu), a villager he befriends, to find out who among the villagers could be leads to some minor comedy. Some of it is derivative, but it is also amusing, with Yogi Babu scoring with his one-liners.

In the first half, it is difficult to predict where the story is headed and that is the only thing that keeps us watching. But otherwise, things are underwhelming. Kaali’s search is hardly compelling. We get a scene where Kaali and Gopi get the village head, Periyasamy (Madhusudhanan), drunk to find out if he could be the father. And when the guy starts narrating his story, we get Gopi’s imagination of this character’s romance (featuring Amritha as the love interest), with Vijay Antony playing the younger version. You are left scratching your head at how this adds to the plot, especially when you find out that it is a red herring. A duet in this episode only adds to the length.

It is only after the second half begins that we realise that this concept – of Vijay Antony appearing as the characters who are the ‘suspects’ in each of their romantic stories – is the very design of the film. If only had the film established this much earlier in the film… This offers a wisp of a promise of things getting better in the second half and there is considerable improvement in how the film engages us after this.

We get another prospective ‘father’ in a robber (Nasser), whose lover’s name happens to be Parvathy. He recounts his tale, involving a romance with Parvathy (Shilpa Manjunath, impressive in her debut), a young woman who has been forced to wed a much older man (Vela Ramamoorthy). Then, there is also the village’s clergyman, Father John (Jayaprakash), who is revered by the villagers, who could be the guy, given his relationship in the past with Poomayilu (Sunaina, solid).

Kaali does get interesting in its second half, but the narration should have been tighter. Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi deserves credit for attempting a concept that has so far mainly been used in whodunits to narrate an emotional drama. But with the reason behind Kaali’s search for his parents not being really strong, we are not entirely involved with his search. And all the three flashback stories are familiar and predictable. Even the scenes in the present day, involving Punithavalli (Anjali, in an underwritten role) , a local healer, who serves as Kaali’s romantic interest, don’t add much value, to the plot. In the end, we are left with a few interesting notes – some characters, like RK Suresh’s negative role, recurring in all the three stories, the reason behind the separation of the real parents. But they aren’t enough to entirely salvage the film.

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