Kali (2016)


I’ve been looking forward to the combination of Dulquer Salmaan and Sai Pallavi onscreen in Sameer Thahir’s Kali, and thankfully they don’t disappoint. It’s an interesting film too, with a simple but effective screenplay from Rajesh Gopinadhan, following the story of a young man who cannot control his temper and the unexpected consequences of one of his episodes of rage. The first half sets the scene for a compelling thriller in the second half and with excellent performances from all the actors, Kali is definitely well worth a watch.

The film starts with a violent fight at a roadside restaurant. It’s beautifully choreographed and includes the displeasure of the restaurant’s resident cat whose meal is disrupted by the conflict. The snarling cat adds a touch of wildness and lawlessness to the fight that’s echoed later on in the film when the action returns to the restaurant. The short but vicious opening also sets the scene for another fight, although this one is less physical but equally damaging in its own way.

Siddharth (Dulquer Salmaan) is a man with a very short fuse and the simplest of things makes him lose his temper. After the fight at the restaurant, the next round is between Siddharth and his wife Anjali (Sai Pallavi). Anjali is seen leaving their house in tears and carrying a suitcase, while inside Siddharth is angrily throwing objects at the wall. It’s a scene of domestic life that rings true, particularly since Anjali isn’t staying around to accept any abuse and sensibly heads for the door. However it’s late at night and Siddharth at least doesn’t leave his wife walking down the road by herself, managing to pick her up in their car even though he’s still clearly very angry indeed.

The film moves into flashback to show how Siddharth has always been quick to lose his temper, even as a child, and how the years haven’t mellowed his reactions at all. Throughout his time as a student and even during job interviews, Siddharth shows no patience and absolutely no control over his angry reactions. He’s a man who reacts first and rarely thinks about the consequences of his behaviour. It seems strange that Anjali does stick with him and it’s hard to believe that Siddhartha hasn’t had any previous problems as a result of his behaviour. No-one ever seems to react badly to his outbursts for example. What’s good about the flashback though is that there is little about the love story between Siddharth and Anjali. Their romance is simply a fact, and the film instead shows Anjali’s struggle to cope with Siddharth’s temper outbursts and her attempts to keep him on an even keel. Many of the situations are drawn from routine day-to-day hassles and while Siddharth’s irritation is understandable it’s his inability to control his reactions that make him such a difficult person to deal with.

There is a kinder side to Siddharth too though, and he’s not all rage and temper. He does make some attempt to keep his temper and tries to control his frustration with his bank customers using a stress ball Anjali gives him, with at least some partial success. However he has an incredibly irritating colleague in Prakashan (Soubin Shahir) who is deliberately provocative and obnoxious, although Siddharth does his best to ignore him as much as possible. Dulquer Salmaan and Sai Pallavi have excellent chemistry in their scenes together which makes their relationship believable. It’s easy to see why Anjali stays with Siddharth despite his anger management issues – the two are clearly in love and outside of his temper tantrums Siddharth is a caring and attentive husband. I love the end of this song where Anjali dances with Siddharth in their living room. It seems very natural and spontaneous, plus Sai Pallavi is simply gorgeous in that red sari!

The film steps up the pace in the second half when Siddharth and Anjali find themselves in a frightening situation as a result of Siddharth losing his temper with truck driver Chakkara (Chemban Vinod Jose) on the road. The couple end up at the restaurant seen in the opening scene of the film where Siddharth’s anger puts him and Anjali in real danger and Siddharth has to curb his natural aggression to try to ensure their safety. The tension rises steadily as the situation escalates further out of control and both Gireesh Gangadharan’s cinematography and Gopi Sundar’s music work well to add further pressure.

Dulquer Salmaan does a fantastic job of conveying his rage without going too far and over dramatising his outbursts of temper. Despite his ever-present anger he manages to make Siddhartha at least a partially appealing character  and I even found myself in sympathy with him as I was just annoyed by Prakashan and the bratty child that visited Siddharth’s house! Dulquer also is excellent in the latter half of the film and allows his inner struggle to show clearly on his face as he deals with the staff and clientele at the restaurant. It’s another brilliant performance and despite the negative tones I thoroughly enjoyed his characterisation here.

After her critically acclaimed début in Premam, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Sai Pallavai but she puts in another fantastic performance in Kali.  Her frustration and disappointment with her husband come across beautifully and she gets the level of embarrassment and distress just right when Siddharth loses his temper in public.  On top of all that she still manages to have great chemistry with her co-star and makes their relationship believable too. She’s just as good in the second half and her terror and helplessness are a major factor in maintaining the tension in the latter part of the film.

The support cast are also uniformly good with Vinayakan and Chemban Vinod Jose perfectly cast as the main villains of the story. They effortlessly exude menace and both have great evil grins and good use of their expressions to help increase the tension every time they appear onscreen. Soubin Shahir is incredibly annoying as fellow bank employee Prakashan and as such manages to win Siddharth some sympathy for having to deal with such an idiot on a day-to-day basis! However thankfully Prakashan is never too over the top and Soubin Shahir doesn’t just play his character for laughs but actually makes him a more plausible character than expected.

Kali is a film of two halves. The first sets up the situation for the rest of the movie, and concentrates on the personality of Siddharth and his relationship with Anjali. It’s a well constructed observation of human interactions and the painful cost of unreasoning rage and unsociable behaviour. The second half on the other hand is an out-and-out thriller where the characters are more broadly drawn and the action tense and frightening. And yet, despite the different pace in the first and second halves the film works well as a whole story and makes for an enthralling two hours of cinema. Highly recommended.


5 thoughts on “Kali (2016)

  1. Hi Heather,

    I had been to Chennai last week to my cousin’s place. Luckily I and my Cousin managed to find a screening of the movie with subtitles. Since our Malayalam is not that good and we miss a lot without subtitles. After watching ‘Premam’ with a charming performance from Sai Paalavi, I was not going to miss out on this one. After watching this movie though I feel she has gone to the next level. I’m happy to know she has been signed by Mani Ratnam for his next directorial.

    I would say the film scores high because the sequences are believable and could happen to anyone. I completely agree with you, but I however expected more of a romance sequence considering the short tempered Dalquer in the movie. It would have made it all the more interesting to watch even though it would have been an hindrance to the flow of the movie.

    And completely agree with the Red saree, she looked awesome in it. I was like ‘Pahhhh’ and my cousin turned towards me with a smile. He was like she looked better in western attire. I did not agree that. She looked awesome in Saree and those moves were just great.

    I hope you too got to see it with subtitles. Another good review.

    Dinesh V


    • Thanks Dinesh
      Great to hear you got to see the film with subtitles. I did have subtitles in Melbourne too 🙂
      I agree with you about Sai Pallavi – she rally was amazingly good. I think a little romance would have been good, but I think coming in at the point in their marriage where the film starts helped to make it more realistic. And helps make the moment with the red sari even more effective 🙂
      Cheers, Heather


  2. Hi heather,
    Watched kali recently, i liked the first half which was kali, didn’t like the second half which was NH 10. I don’t like this torture thrillers at all. More over film had lot of flaws.
    Like she walked out / decided to go alone at the beginning but forgot to take her purse? .
    And why didn’t she drive towards the police check post which they passed before the hotel. And many many more…

    Dulquer’s next Kammatipaadam’s teaser drops today at 7pm IST. The director Rajeev Ravi’s two movies were very good. So did sameer thahir until he ran out of ideas in second half of kali. Aghhhh, why didn’t they show the second half on promotions, I was expecting movie on Anger management not this torture.


    • Hi Wondergeek,
      I haven’t seen NH10, but have seen some of Eden Lake which I think the Hindi film is based on. That was too horrible for me but I didn’t think there was too much torture in Kali – it did seem more of a thriller rather than a horror film to me. Even the violence was pretty subdued compared to recent Telugu films but I would agree that the two halves of the film are very different. I’m looking forward to Kammatipaadam too – looks good!


      • Yes you are right, i was about to write kali second half is watered down version of NH10 (interms of blood violence). I saw Eden lake after watching NH10, and i stopped it when the fun begun. Also i didn’t realize nh10 and Eden lake were related because NH10 took the genre into a whole different space in terms of motivation,location, characters and all (I guess) because i stopped watching Eden when i knew where it was going.

        Don’t you thing things are very different here because there was no rape angle in nh10/ eden, it was about violence or getting killed. But kali was all about rape the moment we saw the vidya balan picture in the truck, which made it a torture for me. Nh10/ eden we know what we are getting into and for that exact reason i watched Nh10 with the comfort of skip button. In theater letting us go through this when we were not signed up for this was pure torture especially because it was rape angle.

        Its like i went to watch a romantic movie and what i got was a documentary on Hitler. If i watched kali with skip button or just knowing what it is after second half would have been OK. You know its not just me, many many are pissed at this movie’s second half. And the reason for its sharp drop after two weeks.


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