Ko opens with an eye catching photo montage and theme music that incorporates thrashy guitars and angelic choirs. I immediately expected something a bit stylish, modern, urban with a splash of heroics and that’s what I got.
Unravelling the plot was integral to my enjoyment of Ko so I won’t discuss what happens in detail. The story focuses on two groups – journalists and politicians – and an upcoming election. The journalists are young and shiny, full of ideals. The politicians are…politicians.
Jiiva is Ashwin, a newspaper photographer. His camera is never far from hand and he is an acute observer. Spotting a bank robbery getaway in progress, he does what any ambitious journalist would do – gets their pictures. That he does it from his motorbike just makes it clear that he is the hero. I think Jiiva conveys the right blend of boyish appeal and serious drama, and he is just so likeable. He can do cutesy flirting and silly dance moves, and be blokey enough to walk into a dodgy bar and track down a witness. He delivers the action scenes with loads of energy and while Peter Hein has set the fights at the outer bounds of ordinary guy capability they are still true to the character. Ashwin has a knack for seeing what is going on in the background or on the periphery of the action. This makes him valuable as a photo-journalist and really annoying to those he targets. His first reaction to any event is to get a photo and record what is happening.
Ashwin’s observations and photos often have a touch of sarcasm or dark humour about them. But although he jokes, he is passionate about justice and dragging the truth out into the light of day.
Karthika Nair is Renuka, recently transferred to Chennai. She is an established journalist but finding herself in a new city and a new team, she is a little lost at times. Her relationship with Ashwin starts off on rocky ground due to a case of mistaken identity but soon looks like love is in the air. She and livewire movie reviewer Saro (Piaa Bajpai) become good friends despite Saro having feelings for Ashwin. While this is primarily Ashwin’s story, the girls were strong and relatable characters. I liked seeing young ladies who could be friends, rivals and colleagues without being overly silly or unpleasant.
Work was the main thing all three had in common, and the work remained in focus throughout. Despite some of the less believable incidents, that work/life balance gave them a bit of credibility. Piaa Bajpai is OTT at times, but she needs to be to act as the counterpoint to the more reserved Renuka in the mild love triangle that develops.
I liked both performances although I think a real life Saro as a friend would have me investing in ear plugs. Karthika had more complexity to work with and I think she did well in imbuing Renuka with a maturity that I rarely see in film heroines.
The politicians are represented by Prakash Raj as the statesman Yogi, and Kota Srinivasa Rao as the uncouth Alavandhan – very different men on the surface but not fundamentally different when it comes to the goal of winning office. They both do what they do so well but neither delivers a standout performance.
Tying the two groups together is Vasanthan (Ajmal Ameer) – a young idealistic politician. He and his colleagues are trying to contest elections but are struggling to create a media profile and can’t compete with the bribery and standover tactics of major parties. He is educated, ambitious and a natural leader. Ajmal Ameer played Vasanthan with sincerity and conviction.
Events bring him into the media spotlight and eventually the young Siragugal team are on the brink of success. Then a catastrophe – a bomb blast at their rally – changes the game. The story gets murkier the more Ashwin and Renu dig.
The story starts off running in several different directions before things start to link back together. The plot branches are tied in by characters identifying patterns or spotting inconsistencies in someone’s story so there are a few ‘A-Ha!’ moments. Ashwin, ever keen eyed, spots a familiar face in photos from different crime scenes and that ties a Naxalite band to a local identity. Renu follows up on another clue and Ashwin is under scrutiny. It’s really well done, and kept me thinking about what could happen next. The resolution is a bit predictable, but I was interested enough in what was happening that I didn’t really care.
This is pretty indicative of the visual style and editing. Ignore the crappy rapping and do a bit of star spotting as almost everyone in Tamil film makes an appearance:
The songs by Harris Jayraj are not unpleasant but I never really remember them without seeing the film. There’s the usual selection; the club song, the falling in love duets, the colourful ethnic costumes in the snow song, the college friendship song. The lyrics are often quite pertinent to the story so I was happy to have them subtitled on my DVD. Well, they’re not always that helpful…
Songs are used well in the first half but are a little out of place later in the film as events got more serious. I found the transition to Venpaniye a bit jarring as it is a lovey dovey duet in an ice palace just after a traumatic event. Jiiva is equal to the limited choreography and his facial expressions are often priceless. I got the impression he was having a blast doing some of the more comedic scenes and the dances. Karthika does more posing than dancing but her wardrobe often makes up for any lack of energy on her side. And the locations are sometimes breathtaking.
It’s not an issue film as such, but it does touch on many social and political ideas and problems as the plot develops. Considering some of the themes, there is a lot of product placement in Ko. There is at least a semblance of building it into the plot so while I politely jeered each new brand’s arrival, it didn’t bother me unduly. KV Anand (director and co-writer) glances at the interdependency of some media and politicians, the role of the police, celebrities in politics, freedom of the press, availability of adequate medical care and education among other things. The perspectives are offered from the various characters points of view so there is more discussion than lecturing. The commentary is often laced with humour and an acknowledgement that truth is not an absolute.
If you like the idea of a modern, urban thriller with some classic masala elements and young and likeable stars, this is well worth a look. 4 stars!
Heather says: I really enjoyed this film. Yes, the plot does have a few too many twists and turns towards the end and some of the action is rather improbable, but the story moves along at a cracking pace and the lead actors all put in excellent performances. I got this DVD based on K. V. Anand’s previous films which I also enjoyed, and thought the reference to Ayan here as a film only worth 1/2 star was very funny. I would love to know if this was an actual comment that he received about the film!
One of the best parts of the film for me is the number of strong female roles. Not only the characters of Renuka and Saro, but also the fact that there are females characters standing for election, involved in the Naxalite terrorist group and generally well represented among the various minor roles throughout. I like the characters of Renuka and Saro and both actresses brought great individuality to their roles while still keeping them believable as friends. Jiiva is excellent and his journalist, while often taking suicidal chances in his quest for a picture, brings together the right blend of charm, action and determination to make Ashwin a compelling character. Like any good journalist, I think he has all the right characteristics to be able to schmooze his way into any situation. It’s the first time I’ve seen Ajmal Ameer and I must look out for his previous Malayalam films as I think he is just as good as Jiiva in his role here. While there are one or two moments in the film that don’t work for me as they seem too unlikely in such an otherwise plausible film, there are many others which work so perfectly that I don’t mind suspending disbelief from time to time. Ko has a well written screenplay and very likeable actors which make it a film worth watching. 4 stars from me.