Is Kabzaa, KGF’s malnutritioned stepbrother that is high on a cocktail of steroids?
Film poster of Kabzaa
  • Release Date: – 17/03/2023
  • Cast: – Upendra, Shriya Saran, Sudeep, Shriya Saran, Shivarajkumar 
  • Director: – R. Chandru, Shivu Hiremath, Soori

Critics have been vociferous in their criticism of Kabzaa and its blatant misappropriation of almost all the key elements that made KGF one of the biggest Kannada hits of all time and created the iconic image of Yash, its leading man. There is no denying the fact that Kabzaa does feel like a malnutritioned stepbrother of KGF that is high on a cocktail of steroids that is gradually destroying it but is also empowering it to do things that are outrageous and extremely entertaining to watch. 

Kabzaa’s uncanny resemblance to KGF in its storytelling, music, cinematography, color palate, performances, editing style, and culmination cannot be ignored.

However, that also doesn’t change the fact that I had an uproariously fun time with it. While the majority of the critics are hating on it and are calling it out for all that is worst about pan India reach of South Indian cinema, I seriously don’t understand where were their sensibilities and keen understanding of cinema and misappropriation of already established cinematic set pieces when they were all giving 5 out of 5 stars to the recycled snooze fest, Pathaan.

The story: –

Kabzaa tells the story of Arkeshwara (Upendra), the son of a fabled freedom fighter who is murdered by the British with the help of Indian conspirators. He grows up in the south Indian city of Amrapuram with his elder brother and mother and goes on to become a pilot in the Indian Air force. In the meantime, the city of Amrapuram becomes a hub for illegal activities and smuggling because of its strategic location and lack of law and order.

The power struggle between the ruling criminals and the opposition party headed by the royal family of yesteryears is at an all-time high. It is at this juncture that Arkeshwara’s elder brother does something extremely selfless and violent that extracts an even more violent and brutal response from the criminal underworld of the city. Arkeshwara, a staunch believer in the law and order of the country is forced to reconsider his position and faith in the law after what happens to his family. He then decides to take the law into his own hands and within a short time becomes the law of the town himself. What happens next is what the film is all about.

The storytelling of Kabzaa is on your face, relentless and ballistic: –

The storytelling of Kabzaa is practically one set piece after another. They keep coming at you with such a violent pace and urgency that it is hard to keep your composure and look at the film objectively. You either flow with its organic insanity and bask in its glory or have a terrible headache from its visual style and continuous assault on your senses by the mind-numbing action-violence and pulsating background score. The film begins a little slowly as we see a blooming romance between Arkeshwara and Madhumati (Shriya Saran).

This portion felt forced and unnecessary. Thankfully the romance takes a backseat the moment the actual stakes of the film are triggered and the protagonist starts doing what he was meant to do. The story basically jumps from one elaborate and violent set piece to another and doesn’t even take a breath in between. Each of these set pieces is complimented with Ravi Basrur’s signature background score that though feels similar to KGF’s, has its own gusto and character in the film. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the score greatly elevates the feel and atmosphere in which the action and violence are shown unfolding and also enhances the heroism of the protagonist.

Upendra is the oddest fit for the protagonist but works like a charm: –

Upendra Rao is one of the biggest names in the Kannada film industry. He is a celebrated writer, director, and actor and has had immense success over the years. However, to see him in a character like this was uncanny. This was my first Upendra film and as I sat to watch this film, within the first 10-15 minutes I felt as if I had made a mistake walking into this film. It gave the kind of vibes that I generally get from Nandamuri Balakrishna films where Balaya plays a 20-year-old version of himself. Thankfully all that changed in a jiffy as Upendra and his character quickly found their footing and realized that romance was not their forte; Stylized action violence was.

Once the character of Arkeshwara metamorphs into a killing machine, Upendra is able to bring his odd physicality and unconventional mannerisms to play and amps up every sequence with his over-the-top machismo and electric screen presence. The fact that he looks nothing like a mainstream hero and his physical build doesn’t support the things that he is shown doing only adds to the fun and entertainment quotient of watching him kick, punch and butcher the living crap out of villains who are 3 times his size. He does all this with a straight face and the director is smart enough to capture him in the most flattering of angles and poses. And then there is Basrur’s Background score that elevates his every move and takes him to a higher pedestal than an ordinary criminal out for revenge. It is a fact that if we take out Upendra’s performance from this film, very little remains in it to grab our attention.

Scintillating background score that can be played in a loop while working out: –

It would be criminal not to mention the background score of the film separately. This has been a recurring theme with South Indian music directors like Thaman S, Aniruddha Ravichandran, and Ravi Basrur. Their scores add a dash and character to scenes and performances. Films like KGFAkhanda, Krack, etc. are primary examples of this. The case is similar in Kabzaa where the heroism of the hero and the villainy of the antagonists are immensely elevated by the kind of score that is playing in the background. The hero not only gets a signature tune but also gets different variations of it depending on the situation that he is in. When the action and the editing complement the beats of the track and blink edit is used to cut to the ups and downs of the track, you understand the amount of importance that has been given to the track. Basrur’s scores don’t let down the faith that the director had in him.

Action, editing, and atmosphere: –

The action, editing, and atmosphere of the film are absolutely inspired by KGF but for me, it was done well enough to complement the over-the-top feel of the film. There is no relation to realism or real places here and hence to question the color tone and its validity in the film is pointless.

The editing however felt extremely choppy. I am not just pointing out the often and unnecessary dissolve to black and then back to light that is used throughout the film. The problem for me with the editing was that the correlation between different scenes and portions of actions was a miss in many junctures. One of the prime examples of this is the scene where Arkeshwara walks into one of the primary antagonist’s lair to kill him but is dispatched off by the antagonist and in the very next portion we see him drive into his lair again on motorcycles using a trojan horse troupe. This entire portion is so poorly edited that it drains a lot of fun out of a sequence that should have been a roaring success with the audience. Another example of this can be seen in the action bit involving Balli Afghan and Arkeshwara where Arkeshwara cuts his throat with a knife in his mouth. The knife just appears out of nowhere and made me scratch my head thinking where it came from. The editing of the film could have been a lot more lucid and intelligible. The pacing was not an issue here neither was the hyper editing. It was the shot selection and how the narrative transitioned from one shot to another.

Extremely poor visual effects: –

The VFX of the film is extremely poor. There are no two ways about it. In a lot of the scenes, it feels as if it is not even completed. I couldn’t unsee the way the names of the palaces were written on top of the CGI buildings. They looked so fake that the believability of the entire building being there was undermined if that was not already done by the poor manner in which the green screen was used in these sequences. In every scene where the VFX is entrusted with taking care of the proceedings, it fails miserably.

Realism, and believability in the storytelling: –   

This was one aspect that KGF scored heavily on. It created a world and told its story in a way that made it possible for the audiences to connect with and believe in every aspect of it. This resulted in the mass-elevation moments striking a greater chord with the audiences and the film feeling a lot more exasperating and inspiring than it would have under lesser circumstances. This is one aspect that Kabzaa misses completely. The storytelling and execution are so amateurish in many critical junctures and borrow so heavily from KGF that it becomes impossible to take seriously and hence is never able to attain the heights in entertainment, inspiration, and intrigue that KGF soared for.

Final words: –

Kabzaa is definitely a cheap rip-off of KGF but it does enough right to entertain its audiences. Upendra’s stellar performance, the short runtime, the inspiring background score, and crowd-pleasing set pieces ensure that the film isn’t a complete washout and gives forgiving audiences their dues to a certain extent.  

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.

Also Read | ’65’ review: The movie’s short runtime is its only saving grace

Trending Stories

Latest Stories

Leave a comment

Leave a comment