King of Kotha review: Dulquer’s swag and strong performances make this a mass entertainer

Dulquer enters the picture 30 minutes after the show begins. But this doesn't let us down since the director sets the tone and mood already.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published:Aug 24, 2023

King of Kotha poster dulquer salmaan
A treat for Dulquer's fans!

King of Kotha (Malayalam)

  • Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Shabeer Kallarakkal, Prasanna, and Gokul Suresh
  • Director: Abhilash Joshiy
  • Producers: Wayfarer Productions and Zee Studios
  • Music: Jakes Bejoy
  • Runtime: 2 hours 55 minutes

If films are meant for the masses, King of Kotha is one such movie that has all the required elements to be a mass entertainer this Onam season.

Produced by Wayfarer Films owned by Dulquer Salmaan, the action drama is directed by debutant Abhilash Joshiy, the son of veteran actor Joshiy.

Needless to say, the project garnered huge expectations prior to its release for several factors and has even set a record in pre-sale bookings in Kerala.


King of Kotha directed by Abhilash Joshiy

‘King of Kotha’ directed by Abhilash Joshiy. (dulQuer/ Twitter)

The graphic art during the title cards gives us a sneak peek into the backdrop of the film, while an introduction by Mohanlal lets us know about Kotha, a fictional village in Kerala where the movie is set.

The village of Kotha is set in three different periods — 1986, 1996, and 1998 — when it was ruled by gangsters.

The film is all about Raju (Dulquer Salmaan), his friends, family, and rivals.

The movie starts with Circle Inspector Shahul Ahammed (Prasanna) joining the duty in Kotha and facing the wrath of the K Company, headed by Kannan (Shabheer Kallarackal).

Shahul tries to put an end to the drug mafia run by the gang in the village but to no avail. Then, he learns about the village from his colleague Tony (Gokul Suresh).

Related: ‘King of Kotha’ beats ‘KGF 2’ pre-sales record


Raju is a ruthless gangster who lives in Kotha with his henchmen like a king. His gang mainly consists of his best friend Kannan, and Tony.

Raju is good towards genuine people and cruel towards others.

His love interest Thara (Aiswarya Lekshmi) is on a mission to eradicate drug abuse, which is rampant in their village. Raju supports Thara in her mission.

Dulquer Salmaan in King of Kotha

Dulquer Salmaan in ‘King of Kotha’. (dulQuer/ Twitter)

However, after a tragic incident, Raju is exiled from the village.

Soon, Kannan becomes a dreaded criminal and forms his own gangster team called K Company.

The locals of Kotha miss Raju and hate Kannan for turning their village into a drug hub.

On learning this backstory, Shahul hatches a plan to bring Raju back to Kotha and nab the K Company members through him.

He learns that Raju now lives in Uttar Pradesh as Raju Madrasi, an underworld don. The rest of the film showcases the gang wars that take place after Raju returns to Kotha.

Related: ‘King of Kotha’ beats ‘KGF 2’ pre-sales record

Layered plot

The plot has different layers. The movie, till the first half, offers a lot of entertainment as Raju does his swag in style.

He is a football lover. Some of his scenes in the football court give goosebumps to the audience. It also brilliantly depicts Maradona grabbing the World Cup title in 1986.

The first half is all about Raju’s life prior to 1986, how he encounters his rival Ranjith (Chemban Vinod Jose) — who hails from another village named Gandhigram — and rules Kotha.

In the second half, as Raju returns to Kotha as Raju Madrasi, he has to deal with his childhood friend Kannan alias Kannan Bhai and the latter’s wife Manju besides the police.

Will he lose Kotha or will he remain to be the King of Kotha forms the crux of the story.

Related: Malayalam films make me feel like home: Dulquer Salmaan

References to old films

Dulquer Salmaan appears as Raju

Dulquer Salmaan appears as Raju in ‘King of Kotha’. (Supplied)

As mentioned earlier, the movie is set in three different periods.

So, Dulquer enters the picture 30 minutes after the show begins. But this doesn’t let down the audience since the director sets the tone and mood already.

Interestingly, Dulquer’s scenes have background music similar to that of Rajinikanth or Vijay’s film.

In a market fight scene, there are several references to old film posters of the Tamil blockbuster Baasha (1995) and the Malayalam movie Spadikam (1995).

Director Abhilash Joshiy uses these references to give an insight into King of Kotha.

In the second half, some of the scenes involving Dulquer Salmaan appear to have been inspired by Mammootty’s gangster film Samrajyam (1990), for they bear many similarities.

The story by Abhilash Chandran has all the flavours of a gangster film. It also has the format that’s essential for a superhero movie.

Its soul lies in Dulquer Salmaan’s swag and the revenge story.


Aishwarya Lekshmi will pair opposite Dulquer Salmaan

Aishwarya Lekshmi and Dulquer Salmaan. (Supplied)

King of Kotha has stunning performances by the cast.

Dulquer excelled in his acting and fighting scenes. He keeps us glued to the seats throughout.

Shabeer Kallarakkal as Kannan is a charm to watch. This is definitely his finest performance after his Tamil movie Sarpatta Parambarai (2021).

Aishwarya Lekshmi as Thara is good to watch. Her chemistry with Dulquer works out really well.

Nyla Usha in a negative role as Manju is impressive. This is on par with her role in Porinju Mariyam Jose (2019).

Sajitha Madathil as Kaalikutty, the mother of Kannan, makes an impact. Her final scene moves everyone in the theatre.

Shammi Thilakan as Raju’s father shines in all the scenes, while Shanti Krishna gets a decent role as Raju’s mother.

Anikha Surendran excels as Raju’s sister.

The background music by Jakes Bejoy plays a pivotal role in elevating the film.

Nimish Ravi’s cinematography aesthetically presents the fictional village of Kotha.

Final take

In all, King of Kotha has all the elements to be a mass entertainer. Above all, it has the potential to turn Dulquer  Salmaan into a pan-Indian star!

(Views expressed here are personal.)