Pa Ranjith’s Kaala listed in 25 ‘Films of the Century’ by BFI’s Sight and Sound

The film, which featured Rajinikanth in the lead, departed from traditional heroism, prioritising ideology over hero worship.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 19, 2024 | 9:08 PM Updated Jun 20, 2024 | 1:18 PM

'Kaala', directed by Pa Ranjith, explored Ambedkarite politics and themes of social justice. (Facebook)

Rajinikanth’s film Kaala (2018), directed by Pa Ranjith, has been included in the British Film Institute’s (BFI) “Films of the Century” list. The Tamil socio-political drama is now recognised alongside esteemed global cinematic works such as Artificial Intelligence (2001), Divine Intervention (2002), and Old Boy (2003). The list was featured in BFI’s Sight and Sound’s Summer issue, 2024.

Co-starring Nana Patekar, Eswari Rao, Huma Qureshi, Pankaj Tripathi, Samuthirakani, and Anjali Patil, Kaala was produced by Dhanush’s Wunderbar Productions and distributed by Lyca Productions.

“In 2024, marking a quarter of the way into the 21st century, Sight and Sound magazine has commemorated this milestone by consulting 25 critics. Each critic was tasked with nominating a film that holds significant cultural value within our current cinematic era. These films are considered candidates for inclusion in a time capsule, meant for cinephiles of the 22nd century and beyond to appreciate. They represent both the essence and pinnacle of cinematic achievement from the years 2000 to 2024,” stated the BFI post about the 25 films.

Rajinikanth in 'Kaala'. (Facebook)

Rajinikanth in ‘Kaala’. (Facebook)

Kaala faced several allegations and legal challenges from its inception. Shortly after the film was announced, a lawsuit claimed that the story was inspired by the life of Indian gangster and smuggler Haji Mastan. However, the Madras High Court promptly dismissed the case.

Controversies surrounding Kaala 

Jawahar Nadar, son of Thiraviam Nadar—once known as the ‘godfather’ of Dharavi—threatened to file a defamation case against Rajinikanth, seeking ₹101 crore in damages.

Thiraviam Nadar, who passed away in 2003, was a champion for the rights of underprivileged Tamilians in Dharavi and was affectionately called “Gudwala Seth” and “Kaala Seth”.

In his legal notice, Jawahar claimed his father, who moved to Mumbai in 1957 seeking employment, spent his life advocating for the Tamil community’s well-being. He insisted that his father was “never involved in any illegal activities” and “lived a dignified life,” which he feared might not be accurately portrayed in the film.

The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce banned Kaala‘s release in Karnataka due to Rajinikanth’s comments supporting Tamil Nadu’s claims in the 2018 Kaveri River water dispute protests.

Additionally, pro-Kannada activists vandalised the film distributor’s office in Karnataka. However, the film was eventually released in the state following a Karnataka High Court order.

Ideology over hero worship

Kaala marks the second collaboration between Rajinikanth and director Pa Ranjith, following their 2016 film Kabali.

The film’s gripping storyline, along with Rajinikanth’s stellar performance, resonated with both audiences and critics, achieving both commercial success and critical acclaim.

Kaala’s portrayal of the biases related to caste, religion, and gender faced by India’s urban poor transformed it into a powerful commentary on poverty, abuse of power, and exploitation.

The inclusion of Kaala in the British Film Institute’s prestigious list further highlights the film’s impact and its significant contribution to global cinema.

Also read: All is well between me and Rajinikanth, clarifies Sathyaraj

(Edited by S Subhakeerthana)

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