King Of Kotha: Dulquer Salmaan Comes Out All Guns Blazing In This Lengthy But Gritty Gangster Drama

Gangster films are one of the most overused genres in films across the world, whether it is Francis Coppola’s Godfather, Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan, Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya and Company among others. Debut director Abhilash Joshiy takes the familiar concept of two friends turning against each other and gives it a retro touch. At 2 hours and 55 minutes King of Kotha does test the viewers’ patience.  But what powers King of Kotha are the performances led by Dulquer Salmaan and Shabeer Kallarakkal. The film is also technically brilliant particularly the cinematography and the art direction.

King of Kotha is set in a fictional town by the same name. The time period is 1980’s. Raju (Dulquer Salmaan) and Kannan (Shabeer Kallarakaal) are buddies/gangsters. They have a strong brotherly bond. What makes them different from other gangsters is that they wouldn’t deal with drugs. Tara (Aishwarya Lakshmi) is the love interest of Raju. Things take a drastic turn when the brotherly bond with Kannan breaks. Due to certain reasons Raju goes into exile and Kotha is no longer the same. Prasanna Kumar plays the police officer Shahul Hassan. Paradoxically he brings Raju back to set things right in the current time.

The strongest pillar of King of Kotha is easily the dynamics between Raju and Kannan. Abhilash Joshiy does a good job in exploring the friendship between these characters and also how things go sour between them. He manages to give some nice touches to this predictable angle. For example there is a scene in the second half when Raju and Kannan reminisce about their past days in a hotel room. In a particular moment Raju talks about his plans to set up a farm and grow apples in the future. This leads to a chuckle from Kannan.

Another angle worth mentioning here is the father and son relationship between Raju and Kotha Ravi (Shammi Thilakan). They share some good emotional moments.

Director succeeds in presenting Dulquer as a mass hero. Dulquer is presented as a feared gangster in both the past and the present but at the same time he is successful in humanizing Raju. There are occasions where Raju comes across as defeated both mentally and physically.  Dulquer Salmaan once again shows his versatility with a knockout performance.

The action sequences are raw in nature with doses of bloodshed. These sequences are not for all but still there is some thrill in seeing Dulquer delivering those punches. The background score by Jakes Bejoy is an absolute delight particularly in the scenes elevating Dulquer.

The cinematography of Nimish Ravi is another big plus for King of Kotha. He is successful in capturing the raw terrain through his lens.

Apart from Dulquer the other actor who makes a solid impression is Shabeer Kallarakal. The actor makes for a formidable opponent. In fact Dulquer shares more chemistry with Shabeer than his leading lady.

One big problem with King of Kotha is the very stretchy run time. There are passages which could have been easily chopped off. The predictable nature of things also plays a spoilsport. Some of the subplots could have been crisper.

Overall Dulquer’s performance coupled with the Visuals make this Kotha worth a visit.

Salute: A Gripping Police Procedural

Dulquer Salmaan comes out all guns blazing in this gritty gangster drama and Director Abhilash Joshiy does not reinvent the wheel but, however there is enough fodder for hardcore masses
King of Kotha (Malayalam). 3 out of 5
Starcast: Dulqer Salmaan, Shabber Kallaraakal, Prasanna and others
Director: Abhilash Joshiy
Writer: Abhilash N. Chandan
Producers: Dulqer Salmaan and Zee Studios
Production Companies: Wayfarer Films and See Studios
Music and background score: Jakes Bejoy
Genre: Action/drama
Running time: 2 hours and 54 minutes

The genre of police procedurals isn’t something new. Earlier also we have seen films which look at the inner workings of the police department. Salute directed by Roshan Andrews is a suspense drama, a murder mystery and a whodunit all rolled into one. It is a cocktail which works in spite of some familiarities. You can see the influence of last year’s critically acclaimed Nayattu. What makes Salute work is the tight script and also Dulquer Salman’s performance.

Salute tells the story of sub-inspector Aravind Karunakaran. He belongs to a family of police officers. His role model to join the force is his own brother Ajith Karunakaran (Manoj K Jayan). Aravind takes pride in working with his brother. Things take a turn when the police nab an innocent auto-driver Murali on a double murder case. An upcoming election and political pressure leads to Murali being implicated.

At the start of the film we come to know that Aravind has taken a sabbatical after realizing that his brothers had done wrong. The difference between the brothers comes out clearly from the beginning. Aravind wants to pursue the truth, his brother Ajith on the other hand mocks him and constantly says this is how the system works. The reason for Aravind reopening the case is the accidental interaction with the sister of Murali. Diana Penty plays Aravind’s girlfriend. She looks pretty but nothing more can be said about her character or performance.

Salute works best when the focus is on Dulquer and Manoj. The cat and mouse game between the brothers while living under the same roof is a delight to watch, you can see that they are keeping up appearances for the sake of the family. But at the same time they are trying to outwit each other. These scenes work really well.

The pace of the film is deliberately slow. There is no hurry to make the police catch the criminal. More often than not the film plays out as a battle between a hero who is haunted by his own conscience and a faceless villain.

Just when you think that Aravind has caught the criminal the story takes a turn every time, the best thing about Aravind’s characterization is that he is not shown to be invincible. He is as vulnerable as anyone.

The background music by Jakes Bejoy also adds to the impact. It adds a layer of intrigue and threat.

One of the areas where Salute fumbles is its last stretch. The finale of the film doesn’t quite live up to the buildup. Also none of the female characters adds much value to the film.

Dulquer Salman and Manoj K Jayan are in perfect sync with each other. Dulquer makes you empathize with Aravind’s moral dilemmas. There are no traditional hero antics but Dulquer shows that he is equally adept at serious roles. In a nutshell Salute is a gripping investigative drama that deserves to be seen.