King of Kotha is directed by Abhilash Joshiy. Cast includes Dulquer Salmaan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Dancing Rose Shabeer Kallarakkal, Gokul Suresh, Prasanna, Nyla Usha, Chemban Vinod, Shammi Thilakan, Shanthi Krishna, Vada Chennai Saran and Anikha Surendran.
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King of Kotha Review
+ Dulquer Salmaan
+ Well etched characters
+ Enjoyable mass moments
– A tad long
– Underwhelming back stories
Very few Malayalam films have come with so much box-office buzz recently as King of Kotha has. It may be because Dulquer Salmaan has taken a stab at the gangster movie genre, which allows for typical mass moments in mainstream cinema for the first time. Such movies are usually the staple of ‘star kids’ in their growing-up years as actors. But Dulquer Salmaan has consciously avoided taking that predictable, well-trodden path. Instead, the impressive youngster has chosen to experiment with both the genre and language. His recent Hindi web series Guns & Gulaabs is a good example of his yen for versatility.
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Even in King of Kotha, he doesn’t go mainstream with a no-holds-barred gangster pulpy extravaganza. With debutant director Abhilash Joshiy being a little cautious in the genre, we get a much watered-down masala entertainer. Sometimes, we do feel that the director could have gone the whole hog and played to the gallery unabashedly. But what we are also served, in this a tad long 90s gangster drama, is some strongly-written interesting characters — something that is a rarity in this type of movie.
The story starts interestingly with Circle Inspector Shahul Hassan (Prasanna) wanting to cleanse the Kotha of gangsters. But he runs into the immovable object that is the crime lord Kannan (Shabeer Kallarakkal). Unable to dislodge him, Shahul hits upon an ingenious ploy. He understands the story of Kotha and its don Raju (Dulquer Salmaan), now in exile. Raju and Kannan had been friends. Shaul’s stratagem is to bring back Raju and have him faceoff against Kannan. It is a story of friendship filled with befuddling betrayal.
Despite his essential sensibilities being different, Dulquer Salmaan shows he has what it takes — an exciting screen presence — to hold a mass entertainer together. Playing a tough gangster is not all about amping up the sound, walking slo-mo, and delivering punch dialogues with cigarette smoke billowing all around. And this discernment is evident in his performance as he brings a fresh shade to a role that is not necessarily new. He is the one who makes King of Kotha work to a large extent.
And the way the characters have been written also adds gravitas to the proceedings. Shammi Thilakan is excellent, and so is Chemban Vinod. The dancing rose of Sarpatta Parambarai Shabeer Kallarakkal gets another strong role, and he does justice to it. Aishwarya Lakshmi, Nyla Usha are all adequate, and so is Prasanna as the cop who sets it off right at the start.
Nimish Ravi’s gritty visuals provide the heft to the scenes, while Jake Bejoy’s background score stitches a rich tapestry in the background. The debutant director Abhilash Joshiy shows a lot of promise in how he has avoided the genre’s cliches. But at a little less than 3 hours, the film is too long, and the backstories of some of the characters surely pull down the film’s pace. Such mass entertainers need speed, but these flashbacks slam the brakes on the narrative. But the highs that follow kinda make it up. But only just.
King of Kotha works because of Dulquer Salmaan’s flair and form. In a lesser actor’s hand, the film would have floundered.