How Pa Ranjith’s Kaala changes the way we imagine the city (THE CARAVAN)


Sadly, I still haven’t seen Kaala but it is definitely on the list!  — qalandar

Excerpt: “Across India, the dominant story of any megacity is untouched by the stories of the marginalised communities that live there. You could be a Pardhi tribal living in and around the same street corner in Mumbai for the last three generations, but your story would always be of the “migrant in the city” or “the homeless in the city”; it would never be the story of the city. This is precisely what makes the Tamil film-director Pa Ranjith’s films path-breaking. When Ranjith tells the stories of Vyasarpadi or Dharavi—auto-constructed neighbourhoods laden with histories of oppressed castes—he is insisting they are the stories of Chennai and Mumbai. Drawing from legendary anti-caste thinkers, Ranjith is moving us towards a greater understanding of a new third-world urbanism.

Ranjith’s first film to buck the trend in urban portrayals was 2014’s Madras, a film about a rivalry between two political parties in Vyasarpadi. …  In this, Ranjith’s ancestor seems to be the American writer James Baldwin, who wrote in his Notes of a Native Son: “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. Kaala does for Mumbai what Madras did for Chennai. Ranjith gives us a quintessential Mumbai film, except through the eyes of a lower-caste Tamil basti in Dharavi fighting to keep its land, which is under the threat of seizure from a politician. …”

Read the complete piece HERE


2 Responses to “How Pa Ranjith’s Kaala changes the way we imagine the city (THE CARAVAN)”

  1. Didn’t know you hadn’t seen this film yet. You must! Like, right now! It is on Amazon Prime. Watch it only in Tamil though. Easily the most ‘important’ film in Rajini’s body of work. And easily the most ‘important’ film for our times, even if it lays it on quite thick at times. Necessary viewing. Masala as social commentary… as it should be, and unabashed. The second half and the climax is nothing short of spectacular, and quite brave in what it does with the Rajini image. That the film came at a time when he was launching his own political career adds an interesting, if worrisome, spin.

    P.S.- Rangan’s refusal, or inability, to read this film for what it is was a bit disconcerting, if not disturbing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra is famous for vada paav which is not an elite dish. It is a favourite from the lowest to the middleclasses. It is quite cheap and tasty.

    Even Bengaluru has middleclassish filter coffee and affordable idli dosa. The higher classes go for chinese, thai, mexican.
    The writers and journalists are mostly from middleclasses and so they write about what they like to eat without spending much.

    And many of these vada paav and dosa eaters also relish meat.

    The question is whether the slum dwellers want to remain there forever like the Rajni character wants in Kaala because it is such a happy space for them? Romanticising poverty is also a sort of Kjo in reverse. In Sairat we have seen how the leads relocate from that space to a cleaner one.


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