Kaal


Director:  Soham Shah
Music: Salim-Sulaiman
Year: 2005
Running Time: Too Long

When a film is coming out that has the names Karan Johar and Shahrukh Khan associated with it, the movie viewing world rightfully goes into a deliriously frenzied tizzy like an alcoholic with his first drink in a month. Throw on top of that burning fire of hype that Shahrukh and Malaika Arora are reuniting in a dance item number for the first time since their legendary pairing on top of a moving train in "Dil Se" and you feel as lucky as a guy who gets a blind date with the school hoochy-koochy girl - what could possibly go wrong? Well, as it turns out just about everything. After sitting through this my brain needed electroshock to get it started again. It is hard to imagine that a film with so much talent in the wings and a slew of young good looking stars in front of the camera could be so embarrassingly inept. Everyone involved with this film should be forced to wear paper bags over their heads like criminals being marched out of police lock-up. The actors should sue for malpractice and damage to their careers. Now the idea behind the film isn’t a bad one, but the execution of it is another matter.

A bunch of snippy yuppies find their way deep into the Corbett jungle in India for various reasons. Krish (John Abraham) and his wife Riya (Esha Deol) seem to have something to do with either conservation or abdominal exercise machines – it is a bit difficult to tell for sure. When we are first introduced to them Krish is running shirtless with his jeans tugging very low below his waist and the camera firmly focused on his midriff like a construction worker eyeing any woman walking by. He is chasing a long boa constrictor and when he catches it he wrestles with it just to show how very cool he is – only cool people have boa constrictors as wrestling partners as we all know. Soon Riya happily joins in but it soon becomes clear that Krish has a lot more chemistry going with the snake than he does with Riya and showers his affection in that direction (I mean this is Esha Deol even after the recent hot body makeover). Tourists are supposedly being killed by a man eating tiger, but Krish is suspicious that some poachers may be behind this and so he decides to visit the jungle with Riya just as the rainy season approaches. She packs all her best short shorts and heavy eye-liner to be prepared for any camera angle that comes along.
Our other yuppies come in the form of a foursome – Dev (Vivek Oberoi), his girlfriend Ishika (Lara Dutta) and their two male friends played by Kushal Punjabi and Vishal Malhotra. They are on their way to Dev’s farmhouse when their car breaks down and they are persuaded by a guide to go along with him into the jungle to have some fun and adventure. Soon the foursome meets the twosome and they become a sixsome – but soon very bad things begin happening and they become much less than the sum of what they were. There is something out there that is killing people in horrible ways. Is it one of the group, is it a tiger, has the Predator landed in India or is it the worst villain imaginable - a mangled script? The group decides that it is time to leave (much of the audience is thinking the same thing at about this time), but the roads become closed off and their only hope to survive seems to be a mysterious guide who suddenly appears when they are surrounded by three tigers and he shushes them away like pussy cats – this is Kali (Ajay Devgan) – but can you really trust anyone called Kali who talks in echoes and corny clichés?
On the face of it this could have been a fun trashy film, but there is so little good to say about it. I could try but nothing comes to mind except Lara’s revealing outdoor wear. It has absolutely some of the worst acting I have seen in quite a while – it is so bad that Esha may have done the best by simply not being very noticeable. Vivek spends most of the time with a gaseous look on his face as if its past feeding time and he wants to cry for his mom. His dialogue basically consists of telling everyone to "cut the crap" and "I'm going to kill you" and he is so annoying that you can't imagine why Lara is in love with him. John Abraham with his typical unshaven scraggly appearance continues his series of films in which he looks to be a walking advertisement for deodorant as he exhibits all the manliness and personality of a billboard.
The two young cuties scream a lot and look great trekking around the jungle showing lots of leg and some cleavage in their short skirts and tight thrusting halters - perfect jungle wear for all occasions but for the most part they are kept in the background and only allowed to look scared or act stupid. Ajay telephones in his performance from somewhere far far away and if he had a sense of humor he should have found it impossible to keep a straight face with his idiotic dialogue or when he picked up his paycheck.
Another main issue is how unlikable they all are – whether this was the intent of the director is hard to say but they are all rude and surly and speak down to the “lower classes” in a way that should have had them lynched. If this is typical Indian yuppiedom, bring on the revolution. So every time one of them dies you want to cheer because they are so deserving of it. Speaking of scares - where were they? Most of the "scares" are of the phony variety - a dream, someone suddenly tapping you on the shoulder - but the best - a classic of sorts - is when the camera in close-up of a face shows a hand slowly reaching across and it turns out to be the hand of the person who's face we are staring at - one of the great "scare" cheats of all time. Towards the end it gets somewhat entertaining when one of the big stars gets it and you think to yourself - finally – let’s see them all die horrible deaths - the price of my ticket might not be a complete waste then - but no such luck as the movie ends so suddenly you wonder if they ran out of film or ideas.
More music might have helped the film considerably – not that good acting and an intelligent script would have hurt – but this was Karan’s attempt at doing a Ram Gopal Varma film – suspense unbroken by musical interludes. Bad idea Karan. The film has two numbers – one during the opening credits and the other during the closing credits – both with no discernible connection to the film narrative. The first song – Kaal Dhamaal – is the pairing of Shahrukh and Malaika and it is a fairly generic looking Vegas show number with lots of cute background dancers and hip movements. Malaika flashes a lot of leg – and I mean gams that are as long as that boa constrictor and probably a lot more fun to play with. Shahrukh though brings none of his personality to the number with his goofy paste on tattoos and straight faced demeanor. Any cute Vegas show boy could have done as much. The only other number (Tauba Tauba) is during the final credits and is pictured in a small box in the corner – sort of a waste though the music sounded fine.
What the film really needed was a classic wet halter scene - what's a jungle movie without the heroines falling into the water at least once or twice - check out the Bollywood version of "Tarzan" for good use of water - and a few leeches would have been nice. Instead we get white furry rabbits - not even killer rabbits – and I am sure every jungle is full of these – snack food for the wild predators. This movie may become a cult classic over time like the Ed Wood movies, but for now it’s just a stinker.

My rating for this film: 3.0

Song 1

Song 2