Kaala … More or Less!

kaala look finalThe Koboi had been developing his look after the SUPERSTAR’s image in Kaala (to will be released worldwide on June 7th) for his performance at Courtyard Hiroo, Tokyo at 7 pm on 11th May 2018 I am a fan of Rajinikanth and, as such, I relish the simple pleasure of ‘being’ the Thalaiva. I am, however, also cognizant of the aesthetic and critical connotations of my play.  What is the measure of similitude – how much ‘looking like’ does it take to ‘look like’ or signify another person or persona? What is the threshold of sufficiency? Is such similitude founded on ethnic, even ethnocentric, notions of identity? What is the inner dimension of such a representation? How does one actually form a meaningful image of another? When does homage become piracy? Is this a pastiche or a parody, and if it is a parody – what is it a parody of?  What, is the difference between a popular and a fine art image in the contemporary taxonomy of the arts?

Most pertinently, Kaala may be the last of my easy and heartfelt appropriations of the SUPERSTAR’s image as, having launched into politics in Tamil Nadu, Rajinikanth has now placed himself in a different context of signification. Unlike his long-time colleague in the Movie business, and now political co-aspirant, Kamal Haasan, who has clear secular leanings, Rajinikanth’s avowed ‘spiritual politics’ seems to be taking on the pungent saffron hues of Hindutva (the Hindu Right)!.

Image: https://wallpapers.filmibeat.com/tamil/movies/kaala/wallpapers-c5-e42999-p47913.html

https://www.ndtv.com/tamil-nadu-news/at-harvard-kamal-haasan-says-hope-rajinikanths-colour-isnt-saffron-1811209

Kaala and Caste

As we eagerly await Kaala, Rajinikanth SUPERSTAR’s first movie after his entry into Tamil Nadu politics, it is pertinent to reflect on the messages embedded in this and his last release, Kabali. Both films are the directorial works of PA Rajinth, the rising Kollywood auteur of Dalit origins who has successfully presented critical social messages with mass commercial appeal. Rajinth is vocal on Dalit issues off the screen and here is an important document evidencing his rage and articulating his core message – TAMILS ARE DIVIDED BY CASTE … ADMIT IT!  – It is a message that is steeped deep in Ambedker Blue and, incredulously, one that SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth seems to be taking upon his crisp new political mantle whose own native hue is allegedly a Hindutva Saffron.

Rajini’s Black is Blue!

The boss is back and his colour is Black but it seems a to be a Black tinted with strong hues of Blue. The eagerly awaited trailer for Kaala is out and for me, and most of the 10 million other early viewers, the thrill ain’t gone! SUPERSTAR adulation aside however, there has been a lot of talk about Rajinikanth’s colour in the context of his recent entry into Tamil Nadu politics. The concern has been, as his friend and rival in life, art and now in politics, Kamal Haasan, has put it,  that Rajinikanth’s hue is Saffron. Saffron is the colour of the Hindu nationalist (Hindutva) politics of India’s ruling BJP, with whose values Rajinikanth has shown some affinities.

In my own view the equation of nation state with religion, that Hindutva represents, is a tragic and disastrous misunderstanding and misuse of both religion and nation. Nevertheless, there is still hope that Rajinikanth is not on the Hindutva page and that his colour may not be saffron after all! Kaala is the followup to Rajni Sir’s earlier collaboration with activist director PA Rajinth. Rajinth is a ground breaking mainstream Kollywood director who is of Dalit origins, and who brings Dalit issues to the central forum of contemporary Indian cultural life. In their previous collaboration, Kabali, this dark duo addressed the caste issue both with external references and reflexive dialogue that deconstructs character roles in Tamil cinema.

In the Kaala trailer Black is presented as the colour of class resistance, but the colour of our hero’s the Mumbai ghetto is clearly blue. Blue is the dominant roof colour in an ariel shot of the ghetto. As observed in an Indiaglitz.com commentary,  it is also the colour of the hero’s ghetto flag, the colour of co-star Huma Qureshi’s dress, and also of the drapery that surrounds her in a dance sequence. Blue is the colour associated with the great Indian and Dalit leader B R Ambedkar, who always wore blue suits. Indeed, Blue is the colour of Buddhism and, symbolically speaking, the opposite of the aforementioned Saffron. Blue has become the colour of the Dalit resistance that Ambedkar set into motion at the time of Indian independence. While it must be noted that the hero’s own spouse (one presumes) is seen dressed in a saffron saree, one is not unjustified in hopefully speculating that Rajinikanth’s Black is, indeed, just the darkest shade of Blue.

https://youtu.be/hOe0U6nIrNo