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King Of Kotha Review: Dulquer Salmaan’s Stab At Massy Fare Is A King-Size Letdown


Dulquer Salmaan in King Of Kotha.(courtesy: YouTube)

Dulquer Salmaan sheds his charming, gentle lover-boy persona and slips into no-holds-barred action hero mode in the Malayalam-language King of Kotha, directed by debutant Abhilash Joshiy and written by Abhilash N. Chandran.

No stone is left unturned to key up the audience for DQ’s rapturous grand entry scene – it comes well over 30 minutes into the three-hour film. The strategy to ramp up the expectations of the audience before the star peddles his wares does have an impact, if only transiently.

Barring stray exceptions, there aren’t too many genuinely rousing moments in King of Kotha. The versatile lead actor takes to the role without letting the effort show. But he is still far more in his elements in the quieter scenes (that draw out the skilled actor in him) than he is in the action set pieces, which are arguably well-mounted but, no matter what DQ brings to the table, are unlikely to be in with a chance to pass into Indian popular cinema folklore.

The three-hour, technically impressive gangster film – it is, packed with explosive action scenes interspersed with occasional emotional passages and buoyed by a propulsive background score by Jakes Bejoy – is irretrievably undermined by a trite script, making Dulquer’s shot at a massy pan-Indian film a letdown, a king-size one at that.

Yes, King of Kotha, produced by DQ’s Wayfarer Films and Zee Studios, is weighed down by its hackneyed substance and style, which stop it well short of the levels of kinetic power that Thalapathy, Vada Chennai, Satya or Gangs of Wasseypur, to name a few, achieved.

The film has a complement of fight sequences and football action. Both the hero and the antagonist are football enthusiasts, which adds a dimension to their approach to life – and crime. The combination of all the footwork and the fist power on show in King of Kotha would have been a real game-changer had it been backed by a better-balanced screenplay.

The first half of King of Kotha is undoubtedly gripping and adrenaline pumping. A large part of it is devoted to conjuring up the rough-hewn world in which all hell is about to break loose as two friends-turned-foes go toe to toe in a fight to the finish.

The second half of the film is a mammoth disappointment. It spins out of control and culminates in a bloated, overstretched final act that could have done with the intervention of an dispassionate editor willing to weed out the flab.

Two of the film’s principal technicians do their very best. Director of photography Nimish Ravi lends the film a layer of visual sheen that serves to paper over the chinks in the text, no matter how difficult that task is. Production designer Manoj Arakkal misses no major detail in recreating the period that the action is set in.

Overall, therefore, King of Kotha isn’t exactly a washout. If only it had been a little less sluggish and not as cliché-ridden, it would have a bit more absorbing. That might have made a substantial difference.

In the mid-1990s, police officer Shahul Hassan (Prasanna) is transferred to Kotha, a fictional town on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, with a brief to wipe out a gang of drug dealers led by Kannan (Shabeer Kallarakal, who played Dancing Rose in Sarpatta Parambarai). The cop fails in his mission because the dreaded drug lord is well-nigh invincible in his stronghold.

The policeman hears stories of Kotha Raju, who was the undisputed king of the underworld a decade ago. Raju and Kannan, he learns, were as thick as thieves until a disagreement drove a permanent wedge between them and the former disappeared from the scene.

Having exhausted his options, Hassan thinks up a plan to bring Raju back to Kotha from a north Indian location where he has been lying low for years. The cop’s aim is to use him for the purpose of ending Kannan’s reign as a drug lord who has taken a heavy toll on the town’s teenagers, left the men cowering in fear and forced the hapless women to suffer in silence.

A classic set-up that no doubt, but what goes missing in King of Kotha are the layers that would have made the film a genuinely riveting story of crime, friendship, betrayal and vengeance. The film does have a few flashes of energy – all due to DQ’s charisma and Shabeer Kallarakal’s presence – but they do not quite add up in the end.

The script expends a great deal of verbiage on setting the stage for Raju’s return to Kotha. Sub-inspector Tony (Gokul Suresh) gives a lowdown to his boss on the gangster’s storied past. Among the pieces of information that are exchanged in the initial portions of the film is the tale of the love of Raju’s life Tara (Aishwarya Lekshmi), whose role in the rift that occurs between him and Kannan is revealed.

None of the actors in the cast other than Dulquer Salmaan and Shabeer Kallarakal is utilised to the fullest. The romantic track isn’t strong enough to give Aishwarya Lekshmi an opportunity to rise above the masculine din. In fact, Nyla Usha, playing Kannan’s wife who can be as mean-spirited as the men around here, has more support from the script to work with.

The line between massy and messy is often very thin. King of Kotha breaches it so glaringly at times that the film it risks turning off the audience. It is meant to be a vehicle for a much-loved actor looking for a new avenue to further the boundaries of his stardom and our guess that DQ fans will find enough in here to lap it all up.

But the fact remains that the wheels that King of Kotha runs on are rusty and wobbly. Needless to say, Dulquer Salmaan deserved much better.


Dulquer Salmaan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Shabeer Kallarakkal, Nyla Usha, Soubin Shahir, Ritika Singh


Abhilash Joshiy

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